by Rachel Saperstein
THIS MORNING an earthquake — 5 on the Richter scale — shook Israel. For those of us living in Gush Katif, the bloc of Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip, it was barely a trembler.
Some weeks ago we suffered a 9.5 earthquake. This was not nature speaking but the Government of Israel with its edict of total destruction of our homes and communities.
We, in these thriving farming communities occupying 9 percent of the land in the Gaza Strip, were stunned. We, who have withstood three and a half years of mortar and rocket fire (3,912 projectiles as of this writing), who have seen our friends and neighbors murdered by Arab gunmen (27 civilians and 66 soldiers), who have seen our property destroyed (70 hothouses wrecked, 200 homes and hothouses damaged), who have shown unmatched steadfastness as we wake each morning after a night of terror and send our children off to school, go to our jobs, prepare meals and thank the Almighty, are to be rewarded with expulsion.
Playing a heroic role was hardly an aim in my life. My husband and I made aliyah 36 years ago. Our first 30 years were spent in Jerusalem, during which time my husband lost his right arm in the Yom Kippur War and one of our daughters was injured by a suicide bomber on a bus going to Hebrew University in 1995. When my husband was injured, he had to face more than 30 operations and years of rehabilitation. I, with three small children, had to face the struggle to keep our home together without a support system. Relatives didn’t start coming on aliyah until later.
Then came the Oslo Accords. We were outraged that our beloved land was being dismembered. Following my daughter’s injury — the murdered were called “sacrifices for peace” — I joined the militant “Women in Green” organization and became active in the struggle to save our country. My husband was active in “Zo Artzeinu.”
When the last of our three children married, we sold our apartment and moved to the Neve Dekalim community in Gush Katif. Our home is lovely, with a view of sea, sand, and palm trees. After a lifetime of city living, it took a while to get used to country ways, such as friends welcoming us with heads of insect-free lettuce rather than a bottle of wine.
Our idyllic lives changed when the Intifada attacks began on Rosh Hashanah 2000. Visits from friends and relatives outside Gaza diminished, greatly increasing our sense of isolation. Some fellow Israelis were hostile, considering us “obstacles to peace.” Even those sympathetic, unable to share our tribulations, didn’t comprehend our amazing strength.
On February 18, 2002, in a sniper attack that left a young mother and two young soldiers dead, my husband’s remaining hand and his left leg were severely injured. After his hospital stay, we returned home and were enveloped by loving care from the community. And we, in turn, gave of our strength, determination, and love of Israel.
Unlike Judea and Samaria with significant numbers of English-speakers, our area has few who are sufficiently articulate to deal with foreign journalists, many openly hostile. Of necessity my husband and I are on constant call. It is physically and emotionally exhausting, but we have always been good soldiers.
A journalist recently asked, “Why are you here?”
“We are here because it is ours. No less than Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Hebron. This is our land. Gaza is part of the portion allocated to the tribe of Judah in the bible.”
She persisted: “But it’s so dangerous. Why do you stay?”
“Because it is ours,” I answered patiently. “And danger is everywhere in the land of Israel.”
“But,” she continued, exasperation in her voice, “your own government plans to throw you out.”
“For three and a half years we have been witness to daily, incontrovertible miracles. Close to 4,000 explosives have been fired at us, yet not one has caused a fatality. Even if 10 percent were duds, and those firing had poor aim, given the small target area you would expect extensive casualties. Clearly, we have been protected….”
“But your own government…” she broke in.
“We are hopeful that He who has protected us these past three years will protect us still.”
She slammed her notebook shut and, muttering under her breath, left our home.
I looked at my husband’s wide grin. “Not bad for a 63-year-old grandmother, even if I say so myself.”email print