Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Love Story

Meet Karni Eldad, a woman in love...

"I've moved many times in my life. My father was a career army officer, so throughout my childhood we followed him around the country. I hated these moves - the packing and unpacking, the feeling of temporariness, the loneliness, the foreignness. So after I finished my army service, I swore that insofar as it depended on me, I would never move again. And indeed, I lived for years in the same apartment in Jerusalem, breathing the mountain air and clinging to everything that was permanent, a rock, a home, an anchor.

"Then, suddenly, I met the love of my life, and everything turned upside down. That, apparently, is what love does. My love grew up in Gush Katif in Gaza, and since the Jews were expelled from there, he hasn't had a home. He's a refugee. So ever since our marriage, we've been searching for a bit of land that would be ours - not mine alone - on which to build a house, a life and a family.

"There were many options. But we naturally wanted to move to a small, closeknit community, and we wanted a place where we could help reinforce the Israeli peoples hold on its land. In other words, we looked for a settlement.

"We visited many different hilltops, spent a lot of Shabbats being hosted at different places and talked to a lot of community admission committees. Some settlements deemed us too religious, others deemed us too secular. Perhaps this sounds like a children's story, where the moral is that we must accept everyone. But our story ended with the settlement of Tekoah.

"Tekoah is a mixed community of religious and secular Jews located in the eastern part of the Gush Etzion settlement block. Some 670 families live there. It has organic farms, a winery, an olive press. It also has the nicest people I have ever met. Not just affable, but really nice. They go out of their way to be nice.

"And it's lovely in Tekoah. It's quiet. The birds twitter amongst the pine and eucalyptus trees. From the window of our caravan you can see Herodian.

"It was very hard to leave Jerusalem. The move itself was very hard for me, and especially the fact that I was leaving the city I loved so much. I felt like a traitor. But on my last night, as the city's lights were blurred by my tears, I realised that Jerusalem didn't care. She has seen people like me coming and going for thousands of years. Who am I that I could betray her?

"We moved from a huge apartment to a tiny caravan, all of 45 square metres. Yet it is now our entire world, until we build our permanent home. We soon had it organised. Boxes annoy me. I needed to put down roots quickly, to call this place home quickly, to become attached, to settle.

"Tekoah's hometown prophet is Amos, who, according to the Bible, 'was among the herdsmen of Tekoah'. His prophecy of consolation, which comes at the end of his book, so precisely describes our situation, that when we read it, we realised we were in the right place.

"His words were uttered from these hills, from this land. And Amos said: 'And I will return my people Israel from captivity, and they shall build the abandoned cities and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof, and make gardens and eat the fruit thereof. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be uprooted from their land which I have given them, said the Lord thy God'.

"We have indeed returned to the abandoned cities where Amos once walked, and they are no longer desolate. Hundreds of children run along Tekoah's paths - some with sidelocks, some without, some with skullcaps, some without. They run to houses with gardens that contain vegetables and fruit, and they eat the fruit thereof.

"These children have roots. Those who planted them here planted them like fruit trees, for the long term. And we shall no more be uprooted from our land. We shall not be expelled, we shall not pack, we shall not leave. for thus God has promised us." (We were evicted from Gaza - we'll never leave Gush Etzion, Haaretz, 10/11/10)

Don't you just want to pinch her rosy cheeks?

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