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by Moshe Saperstein
December 21, 2009
[Some of you complained about not getting Goodbye 24. Consider yourselves fortunate. It was mainly about the cats.
We haven't seen that much of Muffy the Magnificent lately. It is
rumored she is on a meowwwing tour, and after each purrsonal
appearance gives pawtographs.]
[More annoying than the cats, more annoying than the dogs whose poop litters the lawn now that the tzaddik wrapped in prayer shawl and phylacteries has resumed bread bombardments, are the slugs. We first noticed glowing silver streaks on our front walk but our delight turned to disgust when we discovered their source. They are the slime of slugs, as long and as thick as a Corona cigar, generally unnoticed until you've stepped on them. Yuck!]
[None of you has received Goodbye 25. It is still a work in progress, and if the Almighty is as merciful as we hope, will remain so,]
There were five of us in front of the supermarket in the north Ashkelon mall. Four were smoking cigarettes. You know what the fifth was smoking.
The 'red alert' warning had sounded and most supermarket patrons and employees had scurried to the large windowless storage room that serves as a shelter. One customer was having hysterics, but not about the incoming missile. He was furious that the girl ringing up his purchases had dropped everything a six-pack of Tuborg and run for cover.
The five, macho morons all, had rushed outside 'to see the action'. Just as a dull thud indicated the missile had fallen some distance away, another warning sounded. One of the cigarette smokers began to curse the government, declaring certain persons traitors who should be hung from lampposts. The cigar smoker was about to join in the verbal kvetch-fest when another smoker nudged him to keep silent.
Following another dull thud the situation returned to normal or about as normal as possible in this poor excuse of a falafel republic and shoppers and employees returned to their activities. The macho five began to disperse,
The cigar smoker turned to a security guard, the smoker who had nudged him to keep silent. "Moshe" the guard said with a pitying look, "you westerners are so naïve. I came from Khazakstan. I know how things work." When the look of confusion remained on my face, the guard continued, concealing his irritation by speaking slowly and carefully as one would to a child. Or an idiot.
"Moshe. Did you know the guy who was talking? Had you ever seen him before? He was a stranger to me. You don't speak freely in front of strangers. You don't criticize the government in front of strangers. You should even be careful in front of friends." And so saying, he turned to inspect an old lady's handbag.
In the early 1970's I picked up a hitch-hiker, a young soldier recently arrived from the Soviet Union. In those days, not yet the grumpy misanthrope I am today, I actually made an attempt to be sociable. The soldier's English was better than his Hebrew, and when I asked about the differences between the USSR and Israel, he stared straight ahead and said "Israel, Russia, same." When I protested, citing our open and democratic society, he sniggered. "Israel, Russia, same" 'Ungrateful wretch' I thought.
But over the years, as I came to know many Russian immigrants and, alas, to know Israel better I heard the same thing over and over. One musician, originally from Leningrad, said it best: "Once we get over the language barrier, and get used to the heat, we are perfectly at home. Israel thinks it is America, but it is the Soviet Union."
In the 1930's and 1940's it was known that whenever Stalin spoke at a public gathering there were NKVD spies in the audience whose job was to identify those who stopped applauding first. All present knew if they were so identified it was a certainty they would disappear, for 're-education' or worse, in a matter of days. So listeners would cheer til they were hoarse and applaud til their hands bled, rather than be among the first to stop.
Last month we 'celebrated' the departure of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. I use the term 'celebrate' rather than 'mark' because every November for the past thirteen years we have a countrywide orgy of public grief in which the Enlightened Left reminds the Cro-Magnon Right of how terrible we are, how ashamed we should be, etc.
Every secular school and many religious schools as well hold assemblies at which attendance is mandatory. Army bases and many workplaces hold assemblies as well. At these assemblies speakers eulogize the departed, reminding listeners that he was martyred in the cause of peace, who it was who supposedly martyred him, and why all must remember his Legacy. [In my ignorance I thought his legacy was the establishment of Happy Hour in all bars and restaurants. But I, dumb religious nationalist, may be mistaken.]
This year had an exceptional, and illuminating, occurrence. At an army base, during an address by the base commander, a soldier yawned. He was immediately arrested for showing disrespect to the departed and sentenced to twenty-one days in the stockade. His mother wrote a letter to the Chief of Staff, pleading for leniency. The family, she pointed out, is not religious. Nor is it 'nationalist'. And she had always taught her children respect for the Legacy.
Who says the Enlightened aren't merciful. The youth was released after serving only ten of the twenty-one days.
Welcome to the People's Democratic Republic of Israel!
[What the above says about the politicization of the army, and the effect of such politicization on the army's functioning, can be well imagined.]
29 December. And now for Le Grande Illusion...
Read Rachel's READY FOR WAR and GAZA WAR REACHES US. You'll have a pretty good idea of the situation here.
The alarm sounds regularly, and one rocket fell on Old Nitzan less than a kilometer away. [Our refugee camp is built on agricultural land purchased by the government from Old Nitzan.] For all the bravado of macho morons like myself, and the general air of nonchalance slathered on our faces like makeup on a clown, people here are terribly afraid.
We, Rachel and I, are getting calls from friends and relatives even from the States offering to put us up, out of harms way, until this particular action is over. I might consider going, being just a hollow shell of what I was. Or in my case, less a shell than a dirigible. But Rachel remains tough as nails so I'll keep my mouth shut.
You must remember this,
A kiss is just a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
And a lie is just a lie...
Like most everything else here, this war is a fraud.
Just as the Second Lebanon War was fought, not to free kidnapped Israeli soldiers but to establish Olmert the Shyster's credentials as a Tough Guy and permit him to expel Judea and Samaria Jews as Tough Guy Sharon had done to Gush Katif, so the present attack on Gaza aptly named "Cement Latkes" is solely a pre-election ploy to allow Barak the Deceitful Dwarf and Livni the Beak With the Botox Lips to erase their wimpish images and be seen as Tough Protectors of the People. [And Olmert the Shyster may use the hostilities to delay the elections and extend his own term as Fearless Leader.]
None of them gives a damn about the people in the south. The bombings from Gaza have gone on for years. Except for expressing pro-forma concern and indignation, did they ever do anything?
Who, after all, lives there? Poor Sephardim, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, religious people, farmers. We are the 'periphery', not only geographically but financially, ideologically and culturally. Should the sons of the Enlightened risk their lives for such as us?
I pray no soldiers are sent into action because they will die for nothing. As the government has made clear, Israel will not remain in Gaza. Which means that upon our withdrawal Hamas or Fatah or Whomever/Whatever will rebuild and terrorize us anew.
But in the meantime almost all of my myopic fellow citizens are cheering the action. Which proves Lincoln's dictum that 'you can't fool all the people all the time' doesn't apply to Israel.
This morning it was announced that all meetings, music lessons, and gatherings of any type have been cancelled. We were also told that several thousand soldiers would be arriving here to sandbag our homes, an idea so moronic that in the last few minutes it was announced that sandbags are out.
Instead, large circular cement sewage drainage pipes are being put on every street. We are supposed to crawl in when the siren sounds. Confirmation that we are, as the Enlightened believe, garbage. moshe
ps: For reasons beyond my comprehension I am repeatedly asked
a) what I think about America's president-elect,
b) do I think he will be good for the Jews,
c) do I think he will be good for Israel,
d) why did 78% of Jewish American voters vote for him.
a. American voters had to choose between someone with a lifetime of accomplishment and someone who for all his charisma and eloquence is, in terms of accomplishment, an empty suit. They chose the empty suit.
b. The president-elect certainly made American Jews feel good that they voted for him. And feeling and looking good, rather than being good, is American Jewry's primary concern.
But the economic and security situations are so dire that, however bright the aura around the president-elect, he is unlikely to succeed. And whom do you think will be blamed for his failure? Certainly not the black community. Hit them and they hit back. Hit the Jews and they apologize for having somehow inadvertently provoked you. Think Jack Abramoff, Lehman Brothers, Barney Franks, Bernard Madoff the list is endless. Good luck. You may not have an Israel to run to.
c. If you are Rahm Emanuel or Daniel Kurtzer or a member of J Street or Americans for Peace Now or the editor of Ha'aretz who famously said his "wet dream" is to have America force Israel to surrender Judea, Samaria, etc, then the president-elect will be good for Israel. If you don't share that mindset you will quickly see the wisdom of "with friends like that, you don't need enemies."
d. My guess is that half the Jews who voted for the president-elect awoke on election day and took Viagra. The other half awoke and took a strong laxative. Then they all marched off to the polling booths chanting "Yes, We Can!"
by Rachel Saperstein
Gush Katif Viewpoint 145
December 27, 2008
Friday, Dec.26. We've stocked up on dried goods: rice, pasta, lentils, wheat and barley. Canned goods are stored in another closet. Candles and bottled water are ready. We've been through past wars and know the routine. We may or may not have need of the stored food but we are getting ready.
A family member has been told he is about to be called up for an indefinite period of army service. He packs his bag and takes leave of his wife and children, not knowing when he'll see them again.
I call my friend on a kibbutz near Gaza and repeat my offer to have her and her husband stay with us if their evacuation is ordered. Last night my piano teacher, who lives in Ashkelon, admitted she had almost taken up my offer of shelter.
I don't know how much of my hospitality is actually fair. Our caravilla is close to Ashkelon, certainly in rocket range. We have no 'safe room' and there are no shelters or fortified structures here.
Last week my friend and hairdresser began to reminisce about our lives under fire in Gush Katif. "Remember when..." was the opening for every horror story of miraculous escapes as mortar shells and rockets rained down on us.
"Do you know they put up a loudspeaker system near my caravilla." she remarked. "In case of an attack we'll hear the 'Red Alert'."
"And what are we supposed to do?" I asked naively.
"Well, it would be dangerous to stay inside because the building might collapse on you. So we'll have to go outside."
"And do what?"
"Run around in circles!"
We both laughed at the absurdity of our situation. We pictured families running in circles to avoid the rockets as they landed.
I thought of the thick concrete roofs built over the kindergartens and schools in Sderot, Kibbutz Alumim and Kibbutz Sa'ad. Our own children have no such protection. Sderot is dotted with mini-shelters but the walk to the supermarket a mundane act in ordinary times is a journey into a combat zone. The supermarket, repeatedly hit, is a scene of broken glass and traumatized people. The shelves go bare as suppliers fear making deliveries. People have learned as we have to stock up.
Shabbat afternoon. The planes flew over our house at 11:30. Our friends from Holland had joined us for lunch. "I think the war has started" I said.
"Don't be ridiculous" my husband smirked. "It's just noise. It means nothing."
"Not on Shabbat!" I countered.
We eat, and chat, and pause from time to time as more planes fly over.
At 1:30 the siren sounds. We rush into the street. Neighbors step warily out of their homes. Others are running toward their flimsy caravillas.
"What are we supposed to do?" asks a neighbor.
"Run around in circles" I reply.
We hear the 'boom' as the missile explodes in the distance.
Saturday night. After lighting Channuka candles we turn on the tv. We hear the news. The air force is bombing Gaza. The army is preparing to enter. We know we face difficult days ahead. Hamas must go and go completely. Our expulsion from Gaza has proven a failure.
by Moshe Saperstein
January 1, 2009
[Yes, I wrote yesterday and the day before, and I'm becoming a pain in the posterior, and you're starting to hope that my wish for an heroic death is fulfilled...
Until then, use the delete button or suffer.]
[Many have complained that mail sent here is not being delivered. That is because the young mother who runs the post office has decamped, with her children, for parts unknown. The postal van delivers sacks of mail every weekday. These are crammed into our one room post office and will have to wait for hostilities to end before distribution resumes.]
Our sewervillas have tombstones. Early this morning workers put up eight-foot-high obelisks, three each at the entrances to our sewervillas. The purpose, to protect the sewervilla entrances from shrapnel.
They look like giant tombstones.
And when a representative of Home Front Command asked if I felt more secure I just stared at him and kept puffing away on my stogie. Then I violated my resolution not to talk to any of these people, and said: "First you provide us with a mass grave, then you put up tombstones."
He started to laugh. "If these are tombstones, why are there no inscriptions?"
"You're waiting til the bodies are identified. Then you'll spray paint our names on the stones."
Moshe's Law: Whatever line I am on bank, supermarket, clinic will move more slowly than other lines.
It was about 10am and I had just finished filling the supermarket shopping cart with essentials cat food, pickled herring and was contemplating which check-out line to stand on. This is an art, if not a science. I know most of the clerks and many of the customers. I choose to stand behind men rather than women as men always feel some slight discomfort, make their purchases from a list so have no need to dither over what they might have forgotten, are less likely than the fair sex to have long discussions with the clerks, and just want to escape as quickly as possible.
There were eight working check-out counters. Seven had lines. One had a woman who appeared to have already checked out more than half of her purchases. Every alarm bell should have gone off in my dysfunctional brain: Don't get behind her! Yet that is what I did, and immediately realized my mistake as people all around were shaking their heads in pity. A supervisor came by and started to move my purchases from my cart to the counter, thereby ending, at least in my own mind, the chance of escape to another line. Rachel has warned me that the tension has befuddled me. It certainly has calcified my fatalism, my sense of the inexorable.
I decided that, no matter what, this was the line I would stay on. My resolve was sorely tested.
The woman in front of me was old, certainly older than me, and I aint no spring rooster. The lines in her face were so creased you could hear them screaming "Botox, please, Botox!" Her jowls hung as low as her sagging breasts. Most striking, she had dyed her thinning hair a bright, fiery red. I was mesmerized.
After every three items checked past the register she would run off, returning a few minutes later with something she had forgotten. The checkout clerk would glance at me, raise her eyebrows as if apologizing for the delay, then stare straight ahead. Various other customers offered to help put my purchases back in the cart. Two even offered their place on other lines. I just shook my head.
When all her items had been checked through, and I permitted myself to believe she would soon leave for the Gargoyle Nursing Home, she produced a garbage bag filled with coupons which the clerk had to count and authenticate by running each over an electronic reader. Every fourth coupon was rejected, long arguments followed, a supervisor was called to adjudicate. I remained resolute.
With the coupons almost done I let out a long sigh. Little did I realize I was being set up. The worst was yet to come. A couple at the next counter, both adorned with outsized hearing aids, were talking. Shouting would be more accurate. The male yelled "Thank heaven there was no Red Alert warning,"
"Red Alert?" screamed the old lady and, despite the attempt of bystanders to calm her, raced off to the storage room shelter.
I don't know how long I stood there. Stars were born, and died. Galaxies collided in spectacular cataclysm. I didn't move.
At last the old lady returned, slowly bagged her purchases, and departed. The clerk, a girl when this tale began but now approaching retirement, processed my items. As I was about to leave she said "Thank you for your patience" and handed me a sealed box of six 'sufganiyot', the Hannuka crullers. A gift from the management,
After putting my purchases in the trunk I got behind the wheel and, unable to control myself, pulled the wrapping off the box. Each sufganiya was the size and consistency of a hand grenade, the jelly core already died out. A perfect end to a perfect outing.
Rachel and I had just begun lunch when the siren sounded. "Let's get to the shelter," she said.
"You go" I said.
"I'm not going unless you go" she said.
We got up and she ran ahead of me as I paused to light a cigar. Just then three vans pulled up and about a dozen Arabs Bedouins working on installing sewervillas jumped out and entered the shelter. I and two other gentlemen stayed outside. Seconds passed, the thud of an explosion sounded in the distance, the shelter emptied.
"Have a good time with the guests?" I asked.
"!@#$%^&" she replied, adding "&*()_+".
It is difficult to assess how badly stressed we are. Rachel has chest pains, which disappear if we travel north of Ashdod and out of missile range. I have bad headaches, weep at everything and nothing, and am befuddled. As I weep at everything and nothing in any case since the expulsion, and have been befuddled since studying for my bar-mitzvah, I suppose it's the headaches that reflect my stress.
One stress-inducing effect of the sewervillas is that they eliminate several parking spaces in each cul de sac. What was once sufficient parking for all vehicles is now insufficient, and there is much tension of the 'you are parking in my place' variety.
On the other hand why must there always be an 'on the other hand'? Rachel informs me that many sewervillas are sprouting very attractive graffiti.
I understand that all reporting on the war, from both sides, is both reporting and psychological warfare and God knows what else. But when we are led to believe that everything landing in Israel is covered, even when the exact location is not revealed, I can't help but feeling we are being conned. I hear dozens of explosions, day and night, and have even seen the flash of an explosion prior to hearing the thud. Yet few of these are reported.
Worse, we are fed such patently false 'facts' as "50% of the Hamas rockets were destroyed on the first day of bombing". Really? We know how many rockets they have? We have special counters on the ground reporting on the number of rockets destroyed?
Please, I do understand the need for obfuscation, but be reasonable.
It has been pointed out that if terror victims are entitled to VIP
sewers, then I as a terror victim should also demand my very own
sewervilla. What keeps me from making such a demand surprising
in that a VIP sewer would be perfect for a misanthrope like myself
is the sure and certain knowledge that La Passionara would
immediately consult 'Better Sewers and Gardens' and 'Sewer Beautiful'
for decorating ideas.
January 4. Rachel has already written about Shabbat, so I'll be brief. It started badly when, seconds before she had to light candles on Friday, there was a news flash that a home in Ashkelon had been hit and there were many casualties. We had to wait until after Shabbat to learn that the initial report was much exaggerated.
Our various shuls were seriously depopulated. Many had gone away for Shabbat. Many had simply gone away. The Sephardi shul had fourteen congregants out of the usual fifty, and my Ashkenazi shul was less than half full. There was a peculiar atmosphere, a mix of excitement and anxiety, and I enjoyed myself enormously because there were no speeches and the gallows humor I love was everywhere.
Just as we started Shabbat lunch the siren sounded. Rachel did her "I'm not going if you aren't" routine and, grumbling, I followed her out. Half an hour later the siren sounded again. We were in the midst of singing zemirot. I continued singing. Rachel went into her "I'm not going if..."
"Wonderful" I said, "I don't want to die here alone."
We resumed singing.
The army has gone in and I am sick at heart. I am sick at heart because our so-called leaders don't have a clue as to what they are doing. They do know why they sent the troops in, and that is to boost their popularity. And as casualties mount and their popularity drops they will simply declare victory and pull out. And our troops will have died or been maimed so that Labor and Kadima can form a coalition and continue to rule.
We hear, endlessly, that the lessons of the 2nd Lebanon War have been learned. Politicians say it. Journalists, both local and foreign, say it.
But it is a lie.
Soldiers in the 2nd Lebanon War lacked the basics. And despite propaganda to the contrary, they still lack basics now.
A dear friend in the States informed me that her organization just sent two thousand pairs of gloves to soldiers at the front. Shouldn't the army have done that? She further told me that her organization received a request for keflar flak jackets. Shouldn't the army be supplying these?
Dear G-d, please prove me wrong!
We've decided to redecorate.
Wars force you to look at your home and rearrange those awkwardly placed pieces that might cause a second in delay in going to our shelter. A large black candelabra that juts out to the passageway to the front door has been moved to a small table on the other side of the room. Our winter jackets, generally kept in a closet , are hanging close to the front door, ready for use as we make our way in the bitter cold to the sewer pipe cum shelter.
A Sabbath floral arrangement brightens the foyer, a bit of cheer in a dismal setting.
The siren wails. We hear the explosion in the distance.
The three cylindrical pipes are laid out at the end of the cul-de-sac. Great slabs of concrete are close to the two entrances giving added protection from shrapnel. The pipes will not withstand a direct hit, but will protect us from shrapnel. The Home Front Command repeats the message over and over on radio and tv shelter will save your life. My misgivings of the concrete sewer pipes have turned to respect. For a shelterless communty, this was an innovative quick solution to a wartime dilemma. Other communities are asking to have pipes put in as well.
The pipes are large enough to stand in. Children are using them as play areas. In time, artistic graffiti will decorate the cylinders.
They will not be removed after the war but will remain either as a reminder of the Gaza War or to be used over and over again as future rockets rain down on us.
Friday night we slept in heavy sweat socks, slippers ready at the bedside. Lights are kept on.
Friends called and asked us to join them for Shabbat. We feel we cannot leave. Others wanted to join us. We cannot allow them to expose themselves to the danger. Tension increases. Women talk of head and chest pains. We discuss relaxation techniques.
Saturday night. The sirens wailed several times today. They wailed after starting lunch. We walked to the shelter and met our neighbors, some carrying babies and smaller children. "Shabbat Shalom" we called to one another. Some of the men refused to go. The women are furious at their risk-taking.
On my power walk I stopped to admire the cylinders near our Chabad House. The word "Moshiach" was printed on the pipe. But most prominent were the words 'men' and 'women' printed on either entrance. Clearly there will be no mixing of the sexes in this sewer pipe.
The holy Sabbath has ended, and we wish you a good week. And may our troops, now reported to be entering Gaza, stay safe.
Our people cannot get to their places of work, and their needs will grow. Help us to help our people in the line of fire in this war zone.
Please make your checks payable to Central Fund for Israel, earmarked for OPERATION DIGNITY. Send them to
Central Fund for Israel, 980 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA
Central Fund for Israel, 13 Hagoel Street, Efrat 90435, Israel
Shekel checks should be sent to
Operation Dignity, POB 445, Nitzan 79287, Israel
by Moshe Saperstein
January 7, 2009
[Today is La Passionara's birthday. As is traditional, she has been reminding me since last June. We are supposed to go out to a restaurant but everything in Ashkelon is closed. Ditto for Ashdod. I'll have to think of something. What's left of my manhood is at risk.]
One of the reasons men, most men, love being called up for reserve duty or even active service is that one is, of necessity, detached from the cares of every day life. A nagging wife? A sick child? A boring job? Unpaid bills? The list is endless. In uniform, kitbag on your shoulder, you wave and say "I'll take care of it when I get back in thirty days/forty days/whenever" and off you go to have fun with the guys. You may be crippled or killed or shell-shocked for life but the odds are in your favor and the risk makes your activity that much more pleasurable.
Even in a miniature country like this, where you needn't cross oceans or continents to get to the action, where the front may be twenty minutes from your home, walking out the door in your uniform is like stepping into another world.
Having played most of the different male roles I am currently doing a COG, Cantankerous Old Grump I have come to the conclusion that the true heroes are the LLBs, the Ladies Left Behind. This is not to take anything away from the troops. I know what they are going through. Several, including one in critical condition, are from Gush Katif. And my daughter Tamar just called to say she is on the way to the funeral of another who was from her settlement.
Still, everyone is praying for the troops, concerned for them, while civilians largely Les Girls are on their own. Which isn't really true. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support, for people in the south generally, for Gush Katifers in particular. Free this, free that, home hospitality, you name it.
Three consecutive sirens just sounded [8am, Jan.7] and the effect was quite beautiful. The thud of the first explosion was heard simultaneous with the second siren, the thud of the second with the third siren. Alas, the third thud was unadorned by appropriate background music.
I puffed away no smoking in the sewervilla! and stroked Cholera while watching a crowd enter and exit the sewervilla as if it were the F train on Delancey Street.
An interesting phenomenon is that a lot of people are noticeably putting on weight. Comfort food is what helps you get through the tension. And comfort food is, by definition, fattening. No one says 'I'm so nervous, I'll have a green salad to calm me down'. And even if, by superhuman effort, you keep meals more or less consistent with proper eating, how do you get through the hours and hours of televised war reporting without varieties of nuts and chocolates? You don't survive a half hour of al-Jazeera chewing on a carrot. Nothing less than a cheesecake will do.
Added weight on a gelatinous blob like me goes unnoticed. On most people it can't be unnoticed. So my particular problem is less overeating than hyper-tobacco-incineration.
I'm going through my cigars at a scary rate. And they'll soon be finished. If you think I'm weird now, watch me then. And don't be surprised to read that seventy flatbed trucks loaded with stogies are being delivered to me, under UN auspices of course, to solve my humanitarian crisis.
If we can expand the definition of graffiti, there is a Graffiti War going on here, an echo of the Gaza War. And the battlefield is each sewervilla. Printed posters have gone up on sewervillas and tombstones saying "We are returning to Gush Katif... An historic injustice will be made right... We will again be Israel's first line of defense..." Most of you think the very idea is absurd, or impossible given geopolitical realities. Be that as it may, many of us think of little else. Yesterday, when it was reported that our troops were in the former settlement of Netzarim, some here wept openly.
At the same time, government crews race from sewervilla to sewervilla spray-painting "Defense Ministry Home Front Command cares about you." They don't do it if people are around as our reaction has been less than enthusiastic.
Another siren, another thud. This one landed two kilometers down the road in a farming community called Beit Ezra. No one hurt, thank G-d, and no serious damage, but lots of soiled underwear.
later La Passionara got her way, and it was wonderful. She had read a review of a restaurant in a rural community out of rocket range not far from Rehovot, and off we went. Everything was picturesque, including the food, and we walked and walked and walked around the village, oohing and aahing about things like a well dug in 1870 and crystallized dog poop from 1893. As we were about to leave La P saw a museum devoted to the community's history. The door was open but as we entered a woman said "Sorry, I'm closing up". She then asked Rachel where were we from, Rachel said 'Gush Katif', the woman appeared genuinely excited and took Rachel on a private tour while I o' Joy! sat on a bench outside and billowed clouds of cigar smoke into the ionosphere. A happy birthday, indeed. And I can relax for half a year, at least.
There have been numerous articles, learned and not so learned, decrying the use of the term 'disproportionate' in describing Israel's response to eight years of missile attacks from Gaza. My own feeling is that 'inadequate' would be a better word, especially in light of today's news about a three-hour cease fire which is clearly the precursor to leaving before the job is done.
Proper use of the term would be, say, "French President Sarcasti's marriage to a super-model after dumping a plain wife is clearly a disproportionate act."
Keeping in mind that the killers of Jews in Mumbai were Pakistanis and not Palestinians, and those who blew up the Buenos Aires Jewish Center were Iranians and not Palestinians, it is clear the war is not between Israelis and Palestinians but between Jews and Muslims. Given that there are some ten million Jews and one billion Muslims, proportionality would call for one thousand Muslim deaths for every Jew killed.
Several of you have criticized me fiercely for expressing bewilderment that so high a percentage of Jews had voted for Obama despite paying lip-service to being supporters of Israel. I have just seen a poll indicating 70% of Republicans support Israel, while 55% of Democrats support Israel. Is it any wonder I have become disillusioned with my co-religionists in my old age when Christian believers are more steadfast in support of Israel than Jews?
We just had a call from someone who identified himself as a journalist. I think he said not kidding Borat from Kazakhstan. I wanted to pass him off to Rachel, but she was out for a walk. I told him to call back later but he pleaded, "Just one question..." "Just one" I said.
"How do you feel about Palestinians suffering so cruelly in Gaza?" he asked.
"Hamas leader Khaled Maashal said 'We Palestinians will defeat you Jews because we wish for death as you wish for life'."
"So, may they get what they wish for."
by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
Gush Katif Viewpoint 148
January 9, 2009
We woke to the wail of sirens. Another day begins with the sounds of war. We hear the explosions in the distance. I have had no time to run out to our sewer pipe cum shelter. I open my front door to see my neighbors exit from the pipe.
"Rachel, why didn't you come out to join us" someone shouts.
"I'm moving a bit late" I answer.
I see my Bnei Menashe neighbor carrying her new baby wrapped in a blanket on her back. An older daughter carries a younger brother in her arms.
We have been busy during the day. Media people are arriving to see how we, the evicted from Gaza, are faring.
"How do you feel watching the war? You were removed from Gaza to bring peace to the area and now there is war. Do you think the government is waking up to the reality of the disengagement?"
I sigh. "We warned them. We actually described the scenario: Hamas
shooting from Gaza; Now Hezbollah's shooting from Lebanon; and shortly
our peace partners will shoot into Tel Aviv. We were removed from our
homes and the scenario is taking place."
I spent an hour sitting in the Community Center. The Ministry of Defense had set up an office there while the sewer shelters were being put in to place. Their sign, as well as their presence, has disappeared.
Instead, Miriam and Aliza are in the Center answering calls from factories, kibbutzim, zoos, city councils and private people from all parts of Israel, all calling to invite our people to a day's outing. I am impressed by their efficiency and enthusiasm. Every day our children and their moms are loaded onto buses and whisked away for a day out of harm's way.
The Israeli public are all too aware that this kindness will be repaid when their areas come under attack and they will need us as places of refuge.
A group of art students from the Shenkar Art School show up in our cul de sac with paints and brushes.
"We volunteered to come here and paint your sewer pipes to make
them more attractive" said one. Neighbor's children came out to help
and their handprints were placed on the painted cylinders. The results
resembled a flower garden similar to a Monet painting. We thanked
them, brought out drinks, and complimented them on their lovely
The kindergartens are now being reinforced. A concrete wall is
being built halfway up the outer wall of each building. They have put
some concrete on the roofs as well. I'm not sure this makes any sense
as rockets tend to hit the upper part of a building. But I'm not a
rocket scientist, merely a skeptical onlooker.
There is a pulling together in the community. The Emergency Committee that functioned in Gush Katif has been reinstated. Our people have once again taken charge of their lives. We have many strong people here. We are doing rather than having others do for us. This is a sign of health.
Shabbat ended as it began, with multiple warning sirens.
This war has been our wake-up call. A call to action.
We see the Gush Katif community rising from its ashes. Many still need our help. And we of Operation Dignity are there for them. We live here and can offer immediate financial aid as needed.
Please make your checks, earmarked for Operation Dignity, payable to Central Fund for Israel. Send them to
Central Fund for Israel, 980 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA
Central Fund for Israel, 13 Hagoel Street, Efrat 90435, Israel
Shekel checks should be sent to
Operation Dignity, POB 445,
by Moshe Saperstein
January 11, 2009
This war is all a fake. All show business. True, people are dying. But they aren't important people. They are, Jews and Arabs, the cannon fodder of history. Or, if you will, the dispensable extras.
If the war can't be as carefully scripted as a Broadway play because there is no way to totally control the unexpected, then at least it is Improvisation Theatre. And, as in most improvisation, the outline and major points are set beforehand.
The incompetents who lead us, facing electoral defeat, have
established their Tough Guys and Dolls credentials by responding to
those who have been attacking us with impunity for years. Now they add
to their macho [b]luster by apparently defying The Whole Civilized
World demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities. They will preen
and pose, and when convinced that the lumpenproletariat will vote them
back into office, will accept a 'cease fire' that will last until they
are again safely in the seats of power. And a day, a week, a month, a
year later, the attacks will begin again. And our people,
shell-shocked and punch drunk, will be amenable to whatever
'solutions' are offered.
What drives me crazy is how my people, the national religious public, high on fantasies of optimism, fail to understand what is happening. Even Gush Katif has taught us nothing.
In 1917 the Soviets closed the churches, persecuted the priests, made religion an object of contempt, and declared nationalism irrelevant to the great march of World Socialism. When the Germans attacked in 1939 the Soviets realized that the Russian people would not lay down their lives for World Socialism. So the churches were reopened, priests reinstated, and the Russian masses fought the Germans for God and Mother Russia. And when the war was won, the Soviets reverted to repression instead of expression.
So it is today. The Enlightened Ones, who despise us with no less vehemence than did the Soviets, are allowing religion to appear in formerly 'no go' areas like the electronic media. Newsreaders, displaying enough cleavage to embarrass a prostitute, are using terms like "God willing", "With God's help", etc. Soldiers are often shown at prayer, being blessed by rabbis, expressing their hope that the Almighty will protect them. Even Chabad, banned for years from army bases, is allowed to approach soldiers once again. And my people, both here and abroad, are ecstatic at what they see as a religious revival portending wonderful things to come.
Beautiful fools. Wonderful fools. Holy fools. But fools,
nevertheless. When things quiet down the Enlightened Ones will again
declare manifestations of belief as regressive primitivism and force
faith back to its 'out of sight, out of mind' status.
I am doubtless too far gone in my misery to share Rachel's optimism as expressed in her latest, GKV 148, sent off hours ago. It is not that I don't see, or appreciate, the outpouring of sympathy and affection from many ordinary Israelis.
The problem is that all these acts of kindness are insignificant in light of the immediate threat to our very existence.
Yet Rachel is not a fool, and it may well be that these acts of kindness are vastly more significant than what I perceive as the overall threat.
May she be right, and I wrong.
We were visited by journalists on Thursday. Rachel was brilliant in presenting our position. La Passionara at her best. The program will be shown on "Dan Rather Reports" on HD Net, whatever that is. It airs on Tuesday, the 13th, at 8pm NY time and is re-shown throughout the week at various times. It can also be downloaded as a podcast, whatever that is, from "i Tunes".
Their visit, for all Rachel's brilliance, left me in despair. Here were three Jews, two Americans and an Israeli, and they might as well have been Martians in their inability and unwillingness to understand us. I have no doubt we will be written off as right wing fanatics, and our appearance balanced by a 'Death to the Jews'-spouting Imam to show extremists from both sides.
When, in conversation, I stated that we have seen many miracles, and gave the example of forty Iraqi scuds killing over two thousand Iranians in Teheran while thirty-nine Iraqi scuds killed only one person in Tel Aviv, I was met with blank stares. The producer, an Israeli woman, said "That was no miracle. Most Tel Aviv residents had left the city for Eilat." Who was it who said 'there are none so blind as those who will not see'?
However educated, intelligent and charming these people are, there is no chance of their understanding us, much less sympathizing with us. Though Rachel disagrees, I no longer see the point in even trying.
We have always been hated, and we have always tried ingratiating ourselves with those who hate us. Whatever we try, be it fawning, begging, bribing, identifying with them against our own, has not worked. Worse, such behavior has added contempt to the hatred. When hatred combines with contempt, we are at our most vulnerable. When hatred combines with fear, we are least vulnerable.
Note how from 1948 until the Oslo Accords in 1992, when there was no 'peace process', we were feared. And there were few deaths from terrorism. From Oslo to the present, during a continual 'peace process', we have been killed in the thousands.
Since we cannot avoid being hated, let us at least be feared as well. It's safer.
Read: Barry Rubin, "The Rules of War and The Rules of Logic"
January 4, 2008
[One morning last week I came back from early services to find an
avalanche of bread on our front walk and lawn. Clearly the Holy Hurler
is back at work. The rear of our place doesn't have a square foot
without a pyramid of canine excrescence, and now he is determined to
get the front of the house decorated as well. Will I have to install
security cameras to catch him in the act?]
[Muffy, bored with her role as heroine, is back to being Muffy the Slut. Whenever a prospective male is in sight she raises her tail to display the merchandise.
Two kittens, now almost fully grown, from her first litter are around, as is one from her second litter. A new visitor is a scraggly skin-and-bones one-eyed cat I've named The Pirate. The coloring seems to be Muffy's but this pirate is so filthy it's hard to be certain.
Since the onset of winter, and particularly since the 'war' began three weeks ago, we have been going through cat vittles at an amazing rate. I thought it has to do with cold weather, and the felines' need to burn calories to stay warm. But a neighbor says all the animals are affected by the anxiety vibes adults and children are giving off. The animals need, she says, comfort food as much as we do.]
January 17/18, 2009
One of the problems with being a politician is that you lie with such regularity no one believes you on those rare occasions when you tell the truth.
Barak and Livni are saying the operation in Gaza has achieved its goal, but the public can't accept it as the rockets keep falling. Naive Israelis. They thought the goal was to stop the attacks when, in fact, the goal was to increase the electoral prospects of Barak and Livni.
These prospects having increased quite dramatically in the case of Barak the curtain can be lowered on the Gaza Follies. It is midnight as I write this. At 2am a unilateral cease fire goes into effect. And if the bad guys keep shooting? We will complain to our friends, the Egyptians. And we will get really, really, really annoyed.
Another factor leading to the Unilateral Surrender, sorry, Unilateral Cease Fire, is that the Enlightened Ones have been taken aback by the degree of religious fervor the war has unleashed. Miracle stories abound, starting with the one in which two soldiers are directed away from a building by a woman in black who identifies herself as the Matriarch Rachel. Moments later the booby-trapped building explodes.
It would be easy to mock this tale with a pitying and condescending smile. As a veteran of Gush Katif where I witnessed numerous miracles, and as a recipient of bombs and bullets that should have sent me to Valhalla but which I survived, I know better than to dismiss this and all the other tales.
What must infuriate the Enlightened Ones are the pictures of secular soldiers putting on ritual fringes, kissing Torahs and asking religious people to pray for their safety.
Definitely not in keeping with their view of Israel as a secular, progressive state.
Last Monday some forty-three Women in Green members and friends showed up. We had been expecting twenty, and were set up for that number. With the overflow we had to use our front lawn, smelling to my shame of fresh dog poop. It was wonderful seeing these people, dear friends, valued friends, true comrades in arms. It was less wonderful seeing that they were accompanied by a crew from Israel television Channel 1.
I had promised myself to do no more interviews, and tried to ignore the tv crew who intruded on the hugging/kissing/reminiscing and nagged for 'just a few words'. With some Women in Greeners saying 'talk to them, Moshe' I agreed.
Looking around to see if Rachel was in the vicinity, and finding the coast clear, I did one of my trademark shticks, one that Rachel hates. I turned to the cameraman and stuck my cigar up one nostril. "Why are you doing that?" said the interviewer, taken aback.
"This way I can continue to smoke while talking to you."
We never did see our segment on television, but have been told that
Rachel was very effective.
By the time Women in Green departed Rachel was near collapse. We put the house back in order and, just as Rachel was about to lie down we were informed that reporters from Sweden, Norway and Canada were on the way. Rachel pleaded with me to deal with them and I, on a role from my earlier shtick, agreed.
The Swedes and Norwegians arrived simultaneously, though in separate cars. I recognized the Norwegian as one who had done a hatchet job on us in Gush Katif. When told that I wouldn't see her until the Swedes left she got huffy and demanded to see Rachel. Rachel, I told her, was busy with a representative of Morpheus Magazine. In compensation I directed her to a gentleman whose English was already passé in the time of Chaucer and who spoke in such a slow and convoluted manner listeners were rumored to have slit their wrists while listening to him.
The Swede was a delight, and not just because she was beautiful. Most of the time was spent discussing Scandinavian composers, about whom she was very knowledgeable, so I was in heaven. For all I know she will do a piece like 'Hitler loved Wagner, Moshe loves Lars-Erik Larsson'. I really don't care. A wonderful hour.
That left the Canadian, who never showed up. Rumor has it his
dogsled overturned, he was pissed on by a penguin, mauled by a moose,
and turned into blubber by a bear.
We had a houseguest for several days, a dear old friend from Brooklyn. Desperate to escape from here, even if only for a few hours after yesterday, we took him to the village near Rehovot where we had celebrated Rachel's birthday. Everything was fine until we were ready to leave. I couldn't start the car. The alarm went off and would not stop. Pressing the code didn't help. Finally we managed to get it going, and assumed the problem was a weak battery in our car starter.
The next day, Wednesday, I took Rachel to Ashkelon for an appointment, and the car wouldn't start when we were ready to return. The alarm was going off, and when a woman approached I apologized for the noise.
"Don't apologize" she said, "I have the same problem. It's the army..."
She proceeded to explain that our Peace Partners in Gaza planted many mines and booby traps that are set off by a remote car starter, and to neutralize these the army has equipment that renders many frequencies unusable. I have since learned that thousands of our cars are affected.
The inconvenience is a small price to pay for keeping our boys safe
in the war effort, but infuriatingly large if the war effort exists
solely to boost Barak and Livni.
2am. I suspect the bad guys will honor the cease fire, violating it just enough to show they are still in charge, but not enough to force genuine retaliation. Then, when the elections are over, and a government of snivelers is formed, they will resume full scale shooting. If I were a betting man, and had something to bet with, I would wager that we will have a coalition government with Netanyahu the Spineless as Prime Munster, and Barak and Livni reprising their current roles as Virtual Defense Minister and Brain-Dead Foreign Secretary. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
9am Two rockets have just fallen on Sderot. Does that upset us? Of
course not! We are opening all the crossings so that humanitarian aid
can flow in, and are opening field hospitals at certain crossings so
that injured Peace Partners can receive first aid before being
transferred to hospitals in Israel. [short pause while I mop up my
Rhetorical questions. Will the world love us now? Will they at least hate us less?
2pm Sirens sounded here and everyone, except you know who, raced to
the sewervilla. I stood outside, puffing away, a laundry basket on my
head for protection. Those emerging from the sewervilla after the
explosion looked, laughed, and applauded. My reputation as Resident
Lunatic is secure.
Sirens go off several times each day, but the one that disturbed me most was the siren set off in Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh by a malfunction. My mother and her neighbors were panic stricken.
On Thursday consecutive sirens were heard late afternoon. Rachel hurried out and I promised to follow, but stayed glued to the tv. It was the last scene of Karl Marx's 'A Night at the Opera' and Kitty Carlisle was singing an aria from Puccini's "Muppets In Outer Space". I couldn't help noting that the siren was more on key than the soprano.
Friday afternoon we had four consecutive sirens, the last just as Shabbat began. This last had the loudest explosion and all through Shabbat rumors spread about where the missile had landed. None of the rumors has been confirmed.
As Shabbat ended a siren was heard, but few responded. In our case
we could hardly waddle. A neighbor the wife of the Holy Hurler!
had brought us her home-baked bread, a genuine Yemenite
delight, consisting of one part zaatar, one part cumin, and eight
Now we can only watch as the homunculi who rule boast of their
glorious triumph, while we weep at how they have once again snatched
defeat from the jaws of victory.
When the Almighty punished serpents for tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He made them crawl. But in His wisdom, He allowed them to remain dangerous. Snakes may crawl, but they also bite. You may find a snake loathsome, but at least you treat it with caution if not respect.
When the Almighty made us His people loathsome crawlers couldn't He have left us with something that would have made the world treat us with caution rather than contempt?
by Moshe Saperstein
[I owe a debt of gratitude to Muffy-the-Slut's paramour, The
Impregnator. I hate this creature so passionately that when he appears
I forget my aches, pains, physical limitations and try and harm the
I, who won't bend down to pick up a coin lest I have a stroke from the exertion, am bending for stones though I turn red and the blood rushes to my head.
I, who have torn ligaments in my arm, am hurling these stones though I barely have strength to pick my nose.
I, who can barely move on two mangled legs, run after a creature who flies on four legs.
So thank you, you furry feces, for providing me with the only exercise I get.]
[Our car alarms are working once again. But for the period that thousands of car alarms were disconnected we had a bright and shining example of co-existence as Jewish and Arab car thieves worked together in harmony. May this heartwarming occurrence inspire us to even greater cooperation in future.]
[I fear the natural world is turning against me. We occasionally
see a lizard on an outside wall. Suddenly dead lizards litter our
lawn. Worse, flying rats a.k.a. pigeons, are dive-bombing our laundry
whenever I hang it out. Do I have to perform some sacrifice to appease
the deities? Serious suggestions gratefully accepted.]
Hardly. The sirens may be silent but planes streak over at low levels almost hourly. What a waste of expensive aviation gasoline. And if the reporters no longer call or visit praise be to Allah! the shnorrers have returned en masse. The former, at least, limited their depredations to daylight. The latter work from dawn to midnight.
Not one person I have spoken to okay, you know I hardly talk to anyone these days believes the quiet will last very long. The most optimistic think it may last several weeks. So, what did we achieve?
The outpouring of hatred against us during the war has neither
surprised nor upset me. The Palestinian Narrative, that they are an
ancient people dispossessed by interloper Jews, has achieved a level
of acceptance everywhere, aided and abetted by self-hating Jews. It
is, like Global Warming, a religious belief that cannot be argued
against. What has thrown me for a loop is the degree of Jewish
participation in the anti-Jewish demonstrations. To see a young woman
holding a sign "Queer Jews for Palestine" in a California
demonstration has upset me far more than it should have amused me. It
simply buttresses my own anti-Semitism.
[Rachel is always reminding me that I'm less an anti-Semite than an anti-everything. And she's right. I don't discriminate. I hate almost everybody equally.] 4
We attended a meeting of people who want to return to Gush Katif. I always say, whoever is first, I'll be second. It is the triumph of hope against realism. There were about thirty people, the usual suspects, my kind of people. The meeting had been called by Daniella Weiss, a founder of Gush Emunim and a very great lady. That there are as many Jews as there are today in Judea and Samaria is largely due to her pioneering efforts after the Six Day War.
The meeting itself was less than satisfactory. Lots of well-meaning
chatter. Perhaps I'm being unfair. All beginnings are difficult. I
suspect that I am terrified of being disappointed. Losing the paradise
of Gush Katif just over three years ago almost killed me. To lose it
again... would certainly finish me.
4 February. Just when you think it can't get worse, that we have hit bottom and the only way is up, our Fearless Leaders pull out their picks, axes and shovels and dig us even deeper.
Who would have thought they were devotees of "The Howdy Doody Show" and had modeled themselves on Phineas T. Bluster?
A soldier is killed by a roadside bomb? Our response: bluster.
Kassam rockets hit Sderot, including one next to a kindergarten? Bluster, bluster. A Grad missile, yesterday, in the center of Ashkelon? Bluster, bluster, bluster.
Of course the air force bombs empty buildings, empty because their occupants have been forewarned. How humane. How stupid. How Jewish.
It's Groundhog Day. Was there a war? Soldiers killed? Great heroism? Miracles? Spiritual awakening? Victory declared? Fearless Leaders preening over their 'accomplishments'?
Elections, seven days away, are often given as the reason we don't respond. Nonsense! Our politicians took us into this war solely because of imminent elections. And don't be surprised if, in a day or two, we see the March of the Murderers as thousands of imprisoned 'militants', their hands forever stained with our blood, walk free in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Whether Schalit is vertical or horizontal is immaterial. "We got him back!" our Fearless Leaders will exclaim. "Give us your votes!"
The real problem is that Jews talk. And talk. And talk. Our propensity for verbosity guarantees paralysis. We never act. We barely react. It is a sometimes loveable, sometimes annoying flaw in the Western Jewish Diaspora. In the Middle Eastern jungle in which we live, it is a fatal flaw.
[Apropos elections... I'll be voting for the National Union because I
love and trust their number three, Dr. Arye Eldad. Otherwise I
wouldn't bother voting.
Ah, for the days of the Roman Senate, when a horse could be elected Senator. Imagine, a noble steed... In our Knesset we are already inundated with chickens, snakes and swine.]
by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
Gush Katif Viewpoint 149
January 29, 2009
This is the talk I gave at the Jerusalem Conference on Tuesday January 27th. I wanted to share these thoughts with you. The talk was well-received.
MY NAME IS RACHEL SAPERSTEIN. I AM 68 YEARS OLD AND I LIVE WITH MY HUSBAND...A DISABLED VETERAN AND TERROR VICTIM...IN A REFUGEE CAMP.
FROM THE HEART OF BROOKLYN...TO JERUSALEM...TO GUSH KATIF... TO A REFUSE-STREWN SHANTY-TOWN REFUGEE CAMP CROWDED WITH PLASTERBOARD CARAVANS CALLED CARAVILLAS...
FIVE HUNDRED FAMILIES ARE CROWDED INTO THIS SITE...MANY ARE UNEMPLOYED.
THE SIRENS WAILED IN OUR REFUGEE CAMP DURING THE 'CAST LEAD' WAR...BRINGING THE TRAUMA OF BOMBARDMENT ONCE AGAIN INTO OUR LIVES.
THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE BROUGHT US SEWER PIPES AS PROTECTIVE SHELTER. SOME OF OUR CREATIVE PEOPLE PAINTED THE SEWER PIPES WITH DRAWINGS OF THE SEA, SAND, PALM TREES AND WHITE HOUSES WITH RED ROOFS... THE SCENERY OF OUR ONCE BEAUTIFUL GUSH KATIF.
GUSH KATIF WAS A SMALL BIT OF PARADISE IN THE HEART OF ONE OF THE MOST VOLATILE SPACES IN THE WORLD...THE GAZA STRIP.
LET'S GO BACK THIRTY-FIVE YEARS TO 1967...THE SIX-DAY WAR BROUGHT THE STRIP UNDER ISRAELI CONTROL...PRIME MINISTER YITZCHAK RABIN... A MAN NOT KNOWN FOR HIS LOVE OF RELIGIOUS JEWS AND SETTLERS...KNEW THAT GAZA NEEDED TO BE POPULATED BY BOTH A CIVILIAN JEWISH PRESENCE AND AN IDF PRESENCE...IN 1977 HE FORMALLY LEGALIZED THE SETTLEMENTS BEGUN IN 1968: THE THREE SETTLEMENTS IN NORTHERN GAZA NEAR THE BORDER WITH ASHKELON...NETZARIM IN THE CENTER WITH A STRONG IDF GARRISON NEARBY...SEVENTEEN SETTLEMENTS IN THE SOUTH.
THE STRATEGIC PLANNING WAS TO DIVIDE GAZA INTO THREE ZONES PREVENTIMG THE UNIFICATION OF GAZA INTO A SINGLE ENTITY THAT COULD THREATEN ISRAEL. ..MOVEMENT BETWEEN THE ZONES COULD BE MONITORED BY IDF FORCES AND THE PHILADELPHI CORRIDOR COULD PREVENT SMUGGLING BETWEEN EGYPT AND GAZA. AND IN LARGE PART THE PLAN WORKED.
THEN THE HANDSHAKE ON THE WHITEHOUSE LAWN BROUGHT YASSER ARAFAT AND HIS THUGS INTO GAZA...THE SECOND INTIFADA IN 2000 BROUGHT DEADLY ATTACKS ON OUR SETTLEMENTS.
A MONTH BEFORE CAMP DAVID WE BEGAN READYING OUR SHELTERS. FOOD WAS STOCKPILED AND A SETTLEMENT EMERGENCY COMMITTEE WAS ERECTED TO DEAL WITH EMERGENCIES...
WE WERE READING THE TORAH SCROLL ON ROSH HASHANA WHEN A SECURITY OFFICER ENTERED THE SYNAGOGUE AND TOLD US TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY FOR OUR HOMES... I RAN TO GET MY DAUGHTER AND GRANDDAUGHTER...I REMEMBER RUNNING WITH HER TO OUR HOME ON THE OTHER SIDE OF OUR SETTLEMENT. .. THE ARABS WERE SCREAMING "ITBACH AL YAHUD"...DEATH TO THE JEWS. MY MOTHER'S STORIES OF POGROMS IN HER VILLAGE IN RUMANIA CAME BACK TO ME AS I TRIED TO PROTECT MY CHILD AND HER CHILD FROM AN ONSLAUGHT.
FOR FIVE YEARS WE LIVED UNDER DAILY BOMBARDMENT. AT FIRST WE WERE HEROES...THEN WE WERE CALLED 'A DRAIN ON THE ECONOMY' BECAUSE OF THE COST OF THE IDF...WE WERE CALLED AN OBSTACLE TO PEACE...
WE...WHO HAD TURNED SAND DUNES INTO FERTILE FARMLAND...WHOSE INSECT-FREE VEGETABLES WERE SOLD WORLD-WIDE...WHOSE FLOWERS BRIGHTENED EUROPES WINTERS... WE, THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISE IN ALL OF ISRAEL, BRINGING MILLIONS INTO THE TREASURY...WE WERE A DRAIN ON THE ECONOMY.
WE HAD BECOME THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE FOR SOUTHERN ISRAEL WHEN THE MORTARS AND ROCKETS RAINED DOWN ON US...THE COHEN CHILDREN LOST THEIR LEGS...MIRI AMITAI AND RAV BITON WERE BLOWN UP ON THEIR SCHOOL BUS...TALI HATUEL AND HER FOUR DAUGHTERS WERE SLAUGHTERED...OUR PEOPLE MURDERED...OUR CHILDREN TRAUMATIZED...SNIPERS FROM KHAN YUNIS FIRED AT SCHOOLCHILDREN AT BUS STOPS...
FIVE YEARS...FIVE YEARS OF INCESSANT WARFARE. YET EACH DAY WE GREW OUR CROPS AND OUR CHILDREN WENT TO SCHOOL. EACH DAY WE LIVED A NORMAL LIFE IN AN ABNORMAL SITUATION.
THE ARMY WOULD SHOOT BACK, USUALLY INTO SAND DUNES, TO AVOID CIVILIAN CASUALTIES AMONG THOSE WHO WERE TRYING TO KILL US. .. WE KNEW...WE KNEW THAT WE...THE PEOPLE OF GUSH KATIF...WERE EXPENDABLE.
THEN CAME THE LAST BLOW... ARIEL SHARON, THE MAN WHO SAID "THE FATE OF NETZARIM IS THE FATE OF TEL AVIV"... THE MAN WE TRUSTED AND SUPPORTED...DECLARED THAT WE WERE TO BE EXPELLED FROM GUSH KATIF.
WE WARNED YOU! WE TOLD YOU EXACTLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. YOU MOCKED US. YOU TOLD US WE ARE ENEMIES OF PEACE.
UNTIL THE VERY LAST MOMENT WE DID NOT BELIEVE IT WAS POSSIBLE... COULD JEWISH SOLDIERS...JEWISH POLICEMAN...JEWISH KNESSET MEMBERS...JEWISH SUPREME COURT JUSTICES...THE HEADS OF MAJOR JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS...ALL AGREE THAT TEN THOUSAND JEWS COULD BE DRAGGED FROM THEIR HOMES?
COULD THE HEAD OF THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE...WHO WOULD PROTEST BITTERLY OVER ANY ACT OF ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE WORLD...AGREE TO SEE SYNAGOGUES BURNED?... AGREE TO SEE JEWS DISINTERRED FROM THEIR GRAVES?...AGREE TO SEE JEWS DRAGGED FROM THEIR HOMES AND THEIR COMMUNTIES DESTROYED?
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO US... TO ME... TO MY DISABLED HUSBAND...TO THE CRIPPLED COHEN CHILDREN...TO DAVID HATUEL WHOSE PREGNANT WIFE AND FOUR DAUGHTERS HAD BEEN SLAUGHTERED...
BECAUSE WE WOULD NOT COOPERATE IN OUR OWN DESTRUCTION WE WERE DRAGGED TO BUSES ...WITH ARMED POLICE GUARDING THE ENTRANCE AND EXITS...AND DRIVEN TO WAITING HOTEL ROOMS. NO ONE HAD WORK. BANK ACCOUNTS WERE FROZEN SO THAT THE BANKS COULD COLLECT THE MORTGAGES ON OUR DESTROYED HOMES.
MONTHS WENT BY...A SUPREME COURT RULING FORCED THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY US A FRACTION OF THE COMPENSATION WE WERE ENTITLED TO... ONLY THRU THE KINDNESS OF OUR PEOPLE IN ISRAEL...AND JEWS AND CHRISTIANS ABROAD...DID A FEW SHEKELS REACH OUR HANDS.
ONLY WHEN I SPOKE TO THE UNITED JEWISH APPEAL IN CANADA AND TOLD THEM OF OUR PLIGHT DID THEY UNDERSTAND THE ENORMITY OF THE CRUELTY PERPETRATED ON US... BECAUSE A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM HIRED BY THE ISRAEL GOVERNMENT HAD SPREAD THE LIE THAT WE HAD BEEN FULLY AND GENEROUSLY COMPENSATED...
PEOPLE CAME TO OUR HOTEL WITH WINTER CLOTHING WE HAD BEEN DRAGGED OUT WITH CLOTHES ON OUR BACKS AND SHOES FOR OUR CHILDREN. TO THIS DAY OUR BELONGINGS ARE LOCKED IN SHIP CONTAINERS...FOR WHICH WE PAY YEARLY STORAGE RATES.
IT TOOK A MAN LIKE RAV YOSEF TZVI RIMON...FOUNDER OF JOB KATIF...TO HELP SOME OF OUR PEOPLE GET BACK TO WORK.
WE HAVE HAD TO BEG...TO PLEAD...FOR EVERY BIT OF COMPENSATION DUE US. ..TO THIS VERY DAY OUR PEOPLE ARE BEGGING FOR WHAT WE ARE ENTITLED TO RECEIVE.
I HAVE NO HOPE OF EVER REBUILDING MY HOME...I SIMPLY DON'T HAVE THE MONEY...ONLY THIRTY FAMILIES...THIRTY OUT OF ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED...HAVE BUILT HOMES.
EVEN THOSE WHO HAVE BANDED TOGETHER TO REBUILD FIND GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY THWARTING THEM AT EVERY TURN. IT IS AS IF THE GOVERNMENT IS DETERMINED TO DESTROY ANY REMNANT OF GUSH KATIF.
THE RECENT WAR HAS GIVEN US THE DIRECTION TO WHERE OUR FUTURE REALLY LIES... IT IS NOW OBVIOUS TO ME AND TO OTHERS THAT THE ARMY AND CIVILIANS MUST RETURN TO THE GAZA STRIP AND REBUILD GUSH KATIF... THERE WILL BE CONTINUOUS AGRESSION FROM HAMAS...GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS EVEN THOSE FROM THE SO-CALLED RIGHT TALK OF A PERMANENT 'LOW INTENSITY' WAR SITUATION...AND THAT WE'LL JUST HAVE TO GET USED TO IT.
AND I SAY NO! A VERY DEFIANT AND RESOUNDING NO! WE HAVE TO RETURN TO GAZA...AND TO STAY!
DESPITE MEDIA PROPAGANDA...THE GREAT MAJORITY OF GAZAN ARABS WOULD WELCOME US... THEY WANT US BACK...THEY WANT THEIR JOBS BACK...THEY WANT STABILITY...THEY WANT TO RESUME THE PROSPEROUS LIVES THEY HAD BEFORE THE EXPULSION.
NOT A THING GROWS IN GUSH KATIF TODAY...THE ARABS WHO RECEIVED THE GREENHOUSES CALL THEIR FORMER EMPLOYERS AND WEEP...NOTHING GROWS, THEY SAY. WE PLANT AND WE WATER BUT THE PLANTS DIE OR ARE INFECTED BY INSECTS. WHY, THEY ASK, WHY?
WE KNOW THE REASON. ..THE JEW MUST RETURN TO HIS LAND...ONLY WHEN THE JEW INHABITS THE LAND OF ISRAEL WILL THE LAND BRING FORTH ITS BOUNTY. NO GOVERNMENT IS TO GIVE WAY ANY OF OUR LAND EVER AGAIN. THIS IS MY MESSAGE...LOUD AND CLEAR.
WE READ IN THE TORAH THAT OUR FATHER YITZCHAK DUG WELLS IN GERAR, WHICH IS GAZA...AND WHEN HIS LAND FLOURISHED THE PHILISTINES SAID 'THIS LAND IS OURS' AND DESTROYED THE WELLS. .. AND YITZCHAK DUG ANOTHER WELL.
LET US RETURN TO OUR LAND...AND DIG ANOTHER WELL...AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL WILL FLOURISH.
I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE ALMIGHTY HAS SENT US A CLEAR MESSAGE...RETURN TO YOUR LAND!...DO NOT FEAR THE ENEMY. RETURN TO YOUR LAND AND ALL OF ISRAEL WILL FLOURISH!
by Moshe Saperstein
february 7, 2009
[ Writing now is an exercise in futility. The computer
has crashed. I cannot send or receive, and most terrifying, all
addresses have disappeared. Nothing has come in since the 9th.
Apologies to those of you whose emails were unanswered.
There might be some grim satisfaction in knowing someone thought me important enough to attack with a virus. Alas, it is my own incompetence that's to blame. Nobody around here seems able to fix it. My son has promised to take a crack at it, but no date is set.]
[Lord of the Challahs: The Last Stand. Yes, this sounds like one of those sagas that go on forever. Hopefully this will be the last chapter, for a while.
One morning last week Rachel found six or seven chunks of bread on our front lawn. I took this as a declaration of war and planned to retaliate. Fantasies about hidden cameras catching him in the act were quickly abandoned. Costly and pointless. The Hurler is a Yemenite revered for his piety, I a crippled curmudgeon avoided for my nastiness. Even if caught in the act he would get the sympathy of most.
But I had to retaliate, if only to secure my reputation as Le Misanthrope. The opportunity presented itself when the Shas party, in which the Hurling Tzaddik is an active member, left plastic bags filled with election material photos of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef modeling a selection of beachwear, a DVD guaranteeing a place in Paradise with numberless modestly attired virgins for every Shas voter, etc at each resident's door.
I filled the bag with the chunks of bread and hurled it on to the
No agonizing over how to retaliate for the Tzaddik: The following morning our parking lot looked as if a bread delivery van had overturned during the night.
Comforting myself that the bread wasn't on our lawn, I haven't responded. So far, all quiet on the refugee camp front.]
It is February 8, two days to the election. By law there are no election ads or polling results allowed. But the media, pretending to simply report the news, are working overtime to boost Livni. She is shown smiling, dancing, confident, accepting the cheers of young supporters. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is shown frowning, nervous, clearly in distress. Barak is seldom seen, and Lieberman is demonized by constantly showing "moderate Arabs" concerned about his supposed racism.
I fear that Livni, expected to do badly, is being given a boost among the reported 20% of undecided voters. You in the States elected an empty suit who is at least articulate. We may elect an empty dress who has the intelligence of a gnat, the personality of a nit, the ideology of a newt.
Here in the refugee camp there will be a few votes for Lieberman
from former Russians, a few for Shas [see above], a handful for
Netanyahu. The majority will be divided between the National Union and
the National Religious Party/Jewish Home. Just as the most savage
fighting during the Russian Revolution took place between the
Communists and Mensheviks and Social Democrats, all ostensibly in the
same camp, so here among the refugees it is the NU and the NRP who are
at each other's throats. We tear down each other's posters before the
glue is dry. I am grateful for the entertainment.
Rachel's voting card arrived in today's mail. Mine hasn't. A voting card is not a requirement your ID is all you need but it tells you at which polling station you are registered. There are three polling stations in the refugee camp.
During Local Council elections last year I was sent from polling station to station, finally voting at the lone station in the Nitzan settlement on whose cherry tomato and watermelon fields the refugee camp is located.
Yes, there are telephone numbers to call to determine where you
vote, but these in my case, at least invariably give out the wrong
What a glorious day for the charade of elections! Torrential rain, thunder and lightning all morning. It cleared until the evening, when the good stuff returned.
Rachel had no difficulty voting. Yours truly, as is traditional and I am nothing if not traditional was turned away at all three refugee camp stations, with the added indignity of having to suffer the smirks and pitying "pathetic bastard" smiles of the election workers. Humble Moshe is satisfied with having been able to provide them with some amusement.
Many calls, tears, arguments later rumor has it my tale of woe finally elicited a papal dispensation from Pope Benedict I voted in the Nitzan settlement. And that wasn't simple, either. The polling station was located on a basketball court surrounded by open fields. The rains had turned the ground into a swamp here, a lake there. Locals were using canoes for the lake, stilts for the swamp. I simply slogged through, feeling like Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen" the leeches attaching themselves to my skin. The physical embodiment of my emotional life here...
Of course we stayed up for the results. That the Empty Dress outpolled Netanyahu is being described as a personal victory for her. Nonsense. It is simply the triumph of the media steamroller.
Even more nonsensical, the analysts [really, talking heads, as there is no analysis here] claim that Right wing parties netted 65 seats to 55 for the Left.
The so-called Right:
The Likud is headed by the invertebrate Netanyahu who has long declared his desire for a wide centrist coalition.
Shas and United Torah Judaism are for sale to the highest bidder. I would describe them as prostitutes but that would be unseemly given they do everything, as they see it, for the greater glory of the Almighty.
Israel Beitenu... A dear friend in Los Angeles asked me to compare Natan Sharansky and the Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Leiberman. Both are tough Jews and former Russians. That ends the similarities. Sharansky is a thinker, a humanist, too honest and straightforward to succeed in Israeli politics. Leiberman is shrewd, ruthless, an 'operator' unencumbered by any ideology, perfectly suited to succeed here. He is a thug, but we thought of him as 'our thug'. Just as we thought of Ariel Sharon as 'our thug'...
National Religious Party/ Jewish Home. Despite the nationalistic patina, no different from Shas and United Torah Judaism. Actually they are different. They can be bribed for far less than Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Which leaves the National Union. Four seats, four lousy seats for the sole party ideologically and emotionally committed to The Land of Israel.
Rachel, ever optimistic, believes that most Israelis have been awakened by our expulsion from Gush Katif and the subsequent horrors that have befallen the country. I disagree. They are still sleepwalking, as the election results show. They remain uncommitted to anything other than a trouble-free existence. Can this be what our long and tortuous history has come down to?
After all the tough talk and conciliatory talk and preening and posing that pass for forming a coalition, we will end up with a government of the Practical Right, Practical Left, Practical Center. A government for which the demands of America, Europe, the UN, etc, are far more relevant than the demands of God. More or less what we had before: A government of national suicide.
See why I referred to the 'charade' of elections?
Rachel's old school, the Ulpana, put on a play this evening, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". The venue was the auditorium in Bat Hadar, a community south of Ashkelon that serves as the administrative center for local farming communities.
Fortunately the performance was for women only, so I was able to smoke my brains out outside. It was a cold evening and I had done enough to destroy the ozone layer, so I went inside and sat down on a chair in a hallway.
After a while a scrawny black kitten approached. 'Scrawny' hardly does it justice. Like calling a skeleton 'very slender'. The kitten was skin and bones, almost bald of fur, scarred, limping, her right eye a pink gash. For me it was love at first sight.
Even when she climbed on to my lap and leaked on my jeans, I remained exhilarated. We even share a weak bladder!
I found some milk among the intermission refreshments and petted her while she lapped it up. So passed one of the happiest hours in a very long time.
When the play ended and the crowd poured out of the auditorium the kitten disappeared.
February 16. My voting card arrived in today's mail. The polling station listed is not the one in which I voted...
Is there no limit to our capacity for self-deception? Headlines today said "President Peres admits disengagement was a mistake", and some here were relieved that one of the most prominent supporters of the expulsion acknowledged the injustice done to us.
But examining the text of his statement, we get an altogether different message. What he said was, there were mistakes made in the execution, and he concludes with "We should have done it differently".
This afternoon I was asked to drive a neighbor to Bat Hadar, and wait while she dealt with some bureaucratic nonsense. I jumped at the chance, and used my time there looking for 'my' kitten. No sign of her. Perhaps it's just as well. Now she can remain a happy memory.
La Passionara and I are off for a week of R'n'R at the Terminally Ill Sea from Sunday, the 22nd. Make good use of our silence: read a book, rob a candy store, mug an old person. Anything socially useful...
Moshe Saperstein lost an arm while fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. A resident of Neve Dekalim in the Gush Katif area of the Gaza Strip, Moshe was wounded in February 2002 when he drove his car into a terrorist who had just shot and killed a young mother traveling in the car in front of his. He writes frequently of his physical and emotional struggles on the long road to recovery
He and his wife Rachel were among the thousands of Jews kicked out of their homes in Gush Katif, in the Gaza strip, and forced into temporary quarters so dismal, their still-temporary paper-based trailer in Nitzan seemed a step up. Contact them by email at ruchimo@.netvision.net.il
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