Last week, the Gush Katif Committee decided NOT to postpone the Kissufim Institute's long-planned and eagerly awaited annual Torah Seminar (Yom Iyun at Kissufim Midrasha). It took place as planned, and I can tell you, it was quite an event.
Granted, the location was changed. It couldn't take place in Nitzan (originally meant to be a temporary housing solution in flimsy "caravillas" for hundreds of expelled Katif Bloc families), which is within the 40 km zone from Gaza and has frequent red-alerts, so that the Civil Defense does not allow large gatherings.
This was especially necessary, since the building in Nitzan where the seminar is usually held doesn't have a protected room. Instead, the day took place at the Yad Benyamin Cultural Center which has a protected room and is a bit farther north.
Rabbi David Lau addressed the "Kissufim" women.
Impressively, over one hundred women came, despite the difficulties of red alerts, and young children at home. One woman's family was so concerned for her safety while traveling, that they insisted she wear shoes in which she could run in case there was a red alert. She only switched to high-heels once she reached the hall.
Some could only come for one lecture – just for a taste, as they put it. "A little something for the soul. To feel strengthened for the upcoming days." Many welcomed the opportunity to see friends; some of these women have barely left their homes, right on the line of rocket fire, during the past weeks.
The highlights of the day were undoubtedly Rabbi Lau - the chief rabbi of Israel; the rabbi of Modi'in and his wife; Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva; Rabbanit Leah Sherman; and Rabbanit Bracha Kapach.
Rabbi Lau had to cut his speech short in order to visit families of wounded soldiers and make shiva calls, but we were honored that he came to speak to us, women of the south, at the Kissufim Midrasha, affiliated with Gush Katif.
The topic of the seminar, "Joyous Women," does at first seem an odd one during these difficult, serious days. But as the speakers correctly pointed out, inner happiness is especially important in these days. And since the woman, according to the Talmudic Sages, is the cornerstone of the house and sets its atmosphere, she needs to have reserves of strength and joy.
It was a joyous gathering. As we sipped tea and coffee during the recess and ate chilled watermelon, we eagerly embraced each-other, and had a brief respite from the news, and our worries and fears.
But then, as the rabbi recited psalms for the safety of our soldiers, the success of the IDF operation, and the speedy recovery of our wounded – including a local lad, Ido ben Ofra – reality came flooding back.
Hopefully, we're all a bit more strengthened as we continue to face it.
Shifra Shomron is PR Assistant at The Gush Katif Committee and author of Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim (Mazo Publishers, 2007).