By Anita Tucker
Constructing a community ,a public building, a home all demand defining goals, identifying a location ,planning , permits, financial backing ,building , then planning and filling the structures with functional and aesthetic furnishings.
Most important and most difficult is filling it with people, content, meaning, then evaluating its success in meeting the original goals.
It is a big team effort that can take years. Destroying it all takes only minutes.
I lived in Netzer Hazani for thirty years –we built this town on bare sand dunes that were not inhabited since Abraham and Isaac, our forefathers, who lived there.
We built from scratch. We built synagogues, mikvahs, schools, community centers, youth centers, homes, businesses, playgrounds sports fields and swimming pools, agro-businesses, community based businesses, light industry.
Most important and challenging, we succeeded in filling them all with meaningful contents.
These communities became known as Gush Katif
When it was decided by the Knesset of Israel that bulldozers would destroy it all, piles of rubble remained of the flourishing community.
Soon the shifting winds of the renewed desert-like area again covered the rubble with sand. This once blossoming oasis is again empty sand dunes as they were after our patriarchs moved.
We were careful to take out with us the Torah scrolls and the pictures and writings of our Rabbi, the renowned scholar Rabbi Yitzhak Arama, murdered by Arab terrorists two years prior.
Our youth carried out the heavy Torah scrolls that sat safely in the sanctuary read and reread year after year, generation after generation.
Many of the scrolls were covered by the traditional Sephardic wood and metal coverings , our youth hugging them with great love, aware that this was what they still had left of the town where they were born, grew up ,loved and had hoped to live.
The traditions, the spirit, the learning, the vision that are the contents of those beloved Torah scrolls hugged and protected our families as they left Gush Katif . We struggled to look forward, yet we could not easily forget the pain of destruction.
The families wondered from tents to hotel rooms to interim caravan type living quarters, struggling for survival as humans, as families as communities, as Jews at home in the State if Israel, as soldiers in our Israel Defense Force
All this interim period, we were, as well, dealing with the drawn out bureaucratic procedure and negotiations to try and receive appropriate compensation for our businesses and homes. This has been a very very trying and frustrating challenge and in most cases is not yet near completion as appeals are yet in procedure.
The communities were spread out in every direction. However each community made super human efforts to keep together.
Our community leadership wisely utilized those eternal values and spirit carried out of Gush Katif to give strength to the community. The community in turn gave strength to the families and the families to their members.
With the eternal Torah values and spirit keeping the community together we hoped and expected to build anew as a community as defined by the Disengagement –Compensation Law
Two and a half years later, having easily defined our goals we suddenly discovered how much more difficult was to be identifying locations, planning, applying for approvals, etc. However, my community has accomplished this in cooperation with the Government Ministries.
We now seek to define our financial backing which, not by chance, connects with our long-term goals.
For my town, Netzer Hazani, the first town built in Gush Katif in 1976, we will be receiving a government budget for building anew and we will invest all our compensations and additional loans we will have to take, in building anew.
Yet still we can’t begin construction in lieu of destruction as we had so hoped!
According to the latest adjusted government figures required for payment prior to signing contract there are still some gaps in the financing. Our experiences have taught us to seek the solution in the challenge.
Our big challenge today in building a new town in Israel is how to connect to Am Yisrael, the People of Israel.
There was a terrible lack of dialogue, a lack of identification, a lack of brotherhood between Jews of different thinking and background during and after the disengagement-expulsion from Gush Katif, Gaza.
The position of Jewry around the world, the position of Jewry in Israel all point to a screaming need for dialogue and rallying around the eternal Jewish values of those Torah scrolls that our youth hugged, as carrying them out of the ruins of our communities.
Our beloved Jerusalem, more than ever, prays to us for unity around these values and spirit. I feel this intensely each time I pray at the Kotel, in Jerusalem, each time I word Jerusalem in my prayers. I am certain you feel this with me.
In building these communities anew, those that rally with us around these values will surely choose to enable construction in lieu of destruction, filling the structures with the meaningful content of these values and this spirit of the People of the Torah through the generations.
We yearn that Am Yisrael will connect and partner with us in our efforts to build anew.
Netzer Hazani (May it be rebuilt), temporarily in Ein Tzurim