Bnei Dekalim - Commemoration, building, and Unity

Evacuees from Gush Katif in Bnei Dekalim remember what they have lost while working tirelessly to build their new community.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Shlomo Yulis in Bnei Dekalim synagogue
Shlomo Yulis in Bnei Dekalim synagogue
Yoni Kempinski

We met Shlomo Yulis in the town of Bnei Dekalim, a town that was built for expelled Gush Katif residents. Bnei Dekalim is currently home to some 150 families, but is planned to grow to roughly 500 families, including both former Gush Katif residents and Israelis from across the country. One of the major Gush Katif communities was called Neve Dekalim, and Bnei Dekalim means "Sons of Dekalim."

A work in progress, Bnei Dekalim still lacks a proper synagogue. In the interim, residents have used a community center for prayer services.

Shlomo: "For now, this is the synagogue. During the week, everyone prays here. On Shabbat there simply is no room. With guests for [a town of] 150 families there's just no room. For Shabbat evening and morning [prayer services] we divide it up; the Ashkenazim pray here, and downstairs the Sfardim and Yemenites pray."

From the synagogue, we continue on to the highest point in the area, the spot which will eventually be the center of Bnei Dekalim, once all of the neighborhoods have been completed. Its also the perfect place to build the town synagogue.

Shlomo: "In this town, which is going to have 500 families in four neighborhoods, this will be the center."

When Shlomo and others visit the construction site where the synagogue is being built, they see past all of the cement and building materials, and imagine the vibrant community life that will bring the space to life once it is complete.

Shlomo: "It will be filled with a vibrant spirit, the same way it was in Neve Dekalim [before the expulsion]".

"I always say," quoting from the Talmud, "'the world stands on three things, Torah, [the Temple] services, and kindness' - that was Neve Dekalim".

Many remember Shlomo Yulis for the annual basketball tournament in Gush Katif held in honor of his son, Itai Rafael.

The most memorable tournament was held 11 years ago - on the 10th of Av - the day the evacuation of Gush Katif began.

Shlomo: "It was an amazing evening. People who saw it didn't understand - the next day they were going to be expelled, and they're here singing and dancing in a display of unity and faith. I went out and spoke - I hadn't planned to - and told them 'You've proven that while we may have lost the battle, we haven't lost the war."

This year, Shlomo established another commemorative event - a contest testing participants' knowledge of the the religious laws regarding Lashon Hara [slander]. Shlomo established the contest in memory of his wife, who passed away this year.

Shlomo: "Every morning before breakfast my wife studied the laws of Lashon Hara (refraining from gossip, ed.) I decided to keep her memory going through the children of Bnei Dekalim - there are 120 children currently living here - who during their summer vacation learn the book [on Lashon Hara]. The reason I scheduled it for the 9 Days [of mourning leading to Tisha B'Av], is because Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook said the Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred - and with it the whole world, and he believed that through baseless love we'll merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple and the Final Redemption. If this project succeeds here in Bnei Dekalim, I hope that the idea will spread to many other communities.

During these days of mourning for the Temple, Shlomo delivers a message of commemoration, building, and unity.

During these days, under the title "From Rubble to Holiness", Arutz Sheva has joined forces with the Committee of Gush Katif Residents to help rebuild the Gush Katif synagogues. Click here for more.