Sunday, February 7, 2010

Transformation of Ruins- A Gush Katif Wedding

Transformation of Ruins- A Gush Katif Wedding

The pinnacle of the wedding celebration comes not at the end of the party, rather at the beginning
Those of you who’ve been reading my postings over the years might remember my strong bonds to Gush Katif, and particularly to Kfar Darom. Every once in a while, for one reason or another, I find myself flipping through photos that I took, prior to its destruction. It is very difficult to view the pictures; my guts begin churning and sometimes it’s even worse. The displacement of so many people, the abandonment of our land, and the catastrophic consequences, culminating in 8,000 rockets fired into Israel, the Gaza War, and of course, the present challenges of Goldstone were so totally unnecessary. All of these results were predicted, time and time again, before the expulsion, but were totally ignored by Sharon and Co. It is still beyond comprehension.
Our best friends at that time at Kfar Darom, then like family (and today with an actual family connection), was the Sudri family. We met Noam and Tali Sudri about 12 years ago, when our oldest daughter Bat-Tzion fulfilled her year of Sherut Leumi, National Service, at Kfar Darom, as a volunteer, working at the Agricultural Institute and also with the children in the community. The Sudris became Bat-Tzion’s adopted family, and they became very close. We too met them and their children, and began spending summer vacations in that “Garden of Eden,” and also Shabbat weekends with the Sudris.

A few years later they introduced another one of our daughters, also doing her volunteer service at Kfar Darom, to Tali’s younger cousin. Not too long after meeting they became engaged and married, making us ‘one of the family.’

Amost five years ago I spent Kfar Darom’s last Shabbat with Noam and Tali, their family, and everyone else who showed up. It was a Shabbat, just like any other Shabbat, but really it wasn’t. We all dined together, sang Shabbat songs, spoke Torah; but during Shabbat morning worship, prayers not normally recited on Shabbat were said; no they weren’t said, they were heart-wrenching pleas to G-d to somehow prevent the annihilation. On Shabbat a person is not permitted to mourn, yet I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the packed synagogue. Kfar Darom’s Rabbi, Avraham Schrieber, (now dean of the Yeshiva High School where my son studies, in Ashdod) spoke, saying ‘none of us know where we’ll be next Shabbat…’. Yet his voice did not quiver, rather it was filled with conviction and faith.

The next Shabbat Kfar Darom’s refugees filled a hotel in Beer Sheva.

Of course we’ve remained in contact with Noam and Tali and their family over the years. Since the expulsion they’ve lived in a temporary Kfar Darom, in a large apartment building in Ashkelon. Not quite the house they lived in, but at least it’s a roof over their heads. They’ve only been waiting almost five years for commencement of construction of their new ‘permanent homes’ in Nir Akiva, in southern Israel. Despite a multitude of promises, the deal still hasn’t been finalized. So they are forced to spend the ‘reparations’ received following the expulsion on rent in Ashkelon.

Their oldest daughter Tamar was the subject of at least one article I wrote following the expulsion. I also have an interesting photo of her, dressed all in orange. Last year, Tamar was a tour guide for Midreshet Hevron in Kiryat Arba, carrying out her year of national service.

And now I have another photo of Tamar, dressed all in white. Last night she married a wonderful man named Oneg, who studies Torah in Kiryat Gat.

The wedding was a particularly emotional event. Of course all weddings are. But this one even more so. Firstly due to the bond we have with the family of the Kalah, the bride. But on another level, also. Much of Kfar Darom’s residents were present, many of whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Knowing that they are still suffering because of the inconceivable stupidity of the Israeli government and the continuing turtle-speed saga of resettlement is extremely distressing.

The pinnacle of the wedding celebration comes not at the end of the party, rather at the beginning. Under the chupa, the wedding canopy, the chatan, the groom, places the ring on his new wife’s finger and then the Sheva Brachot, the seven blessings traditionally recited, accompanied by joyous singing by those present, almost completes the ceremony. But Jewish smachot, festivities, do no not end there. At each and every wedding the chatan repeats the age-old verse: If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate, If I do not remember you, If I do not place Jerusalem above my highest joy. (Psalms 137:5-7) The chatan, in symbolic remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, then breaks a glass, stomping his leg down on it.

It is also customary to place ashes removed from Temple Mount, remnants from the ruins of the Beit HaMikdash, on the Chatan’s forehead. Last night the officiating Rabbi put ashes on Oneg’s forehead from the ruins of Jerusalem, and also remains from the ruins of Kfar Darom in Gush Katif.

Despite the elation of the wedding ceremony, the poignancy of the moment was heartbreaking. At most chupas the only emotion expressed is bliss. Last night, as those vestiges from Kfar Darom were placed under Oneg’s kippah, and the audience recited, together with the Chatan – ‘Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim’ – ‘If I forget thee O Jerusalem,’ I believe that even the Kallah was silently weeping. It was hard not to.

But then, with the breaking of the glass, and the resounding Mazal Tov echoing through the hall, happiness prevailed. The singing and dancing erased those few melancholy moments.
Tamar and Oneg will undoubtedly continue the tradition of building a “new house in Israel.” It is said that he who brings joy to a Chatan and Kallah is as if he were adding one stone to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Last night, all those present, and most especially, the Chatan and Kallah, did not only begin the renewal of Jerusalem; they also commenced on a journey which will, with G-d’s help, lead them back to Gush Katif, to Kfar Darom and to the transformation of the ruins left in the sand to a beautiful, thriving, community, atoning for the horrid transgression committed by Israel almost five years ago.

Mazal Tov!

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