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by Rachel Saperstein



Gush Katif Viewpoint 162
by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
May 26, 2010

We met in a forest picnic area near the Tomb of Samson. What could be more appropriate for a first haircut than the burial site of the long-haired prophet renowned for his feats of strength?

Michael Mordechai, our twelfth grandchild, son of Dafna and Hanan, was the center of our attention. He sat like a proper gentleman on his little orange chair as members of our family and invited guests cut snips of hair. He had turned three and in keeping with tradition was given his first haircut.

His uncle, my son Ari, is his sandak or godfather. Ari had prepared a talk on the history of chalika or first haircut. Among Hassidim first haircuts are generally held on L'ag b'Omer in Meron in the upper Galilee near the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The tomb of Samson, in a forest near Beit Shemesh, seemed like a good second choice.

My grandson's middle name is Mordechai in memory of my brother Mordechai Anshel [Max] who had passed away shortly before his birth.

As young and old were called up by my daughter Dafna we sang songs of Jerusalem for this was Jerusalem Day, the day our beloved city was reunited after being divided for nineteen years.

Our aliya to Israel in 1968 came about after my husband and I heard a broadcast of the shofar blast marking the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967. The words "the Temple Mount is in our hands" brought us to tears. We wept with joy and on that day sealed our resolve to live in Israel. Thus began our life's greatest adventure.

How fitting that our youngest grandson would have his first haircut on this momentous day in the history of our people.

We missed a special event that day. My friend Anita Tucker received the prestigious 'Moscowitz Prize for Zionism'. Anita and her husband Stuie were the founders of the Nezer Hazani community in Gush Katif. Anita, originally from Brooklyn, was known as 'the Celery lady'. Visitors from abroad came to see her unique celery grown in sand. Today she travels the world raising funds so her people can buy land to rebuild their lives and farms.

The previous evening we attended a convocation at Bar Ilan University where Mrs. Cherna Moscowitz received an honorary doctorate. Mrs. Moscowitz is one of my favorite people. I have admired her creative and generous allocation of funds to finance unusual but necessary projects that establishment organizations won't touch. The trauma center in Gush Katif was one such project. I try to model Operation Dignity on the same principles of "creativity and generosity".

Sitting next to me at the Bar Ilan ceremony was another person I truly admire, Nadia Matar. She and her mother-in-law Ruth taught me courage and tenacity: Courage to fight, and tenacity to hold on even when the struggle seems hopeless.

Our lives are based on Biblical history and the history that continues to be made by the extraordinary people who have enriched our lives. From a single haircut ceremony to ceremonies honoring Israel's finest... we all are indeed fortunate.


by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
Gush Katif Viewpoint 163
June 9, 2010

We celebrated my husband's 70th birthday last week. Moshe and I tend to ignore our birthdays or at least play them down. I generally get depressed on my birthday and look forward to the day after. My parents never made me a party or even acknowledged the event except for my 12th birthday, my bat-mitzvah. On a bat-mitzvah a girl is required to take on all the commandments of the Torah, especially the fast days. My parents were Europeans and in their village the concept of cakes, candles and party hats were unknown in the life of a religious Jew.

But Moshe's 70th birthday was an event our children felt needed real attention. We decided on a Sabbath weekend for the whole family at a kibbutz guest house: the two of us, our three children and their spouses, and twelve grandchildren.

The party theme was the weekly Bible portion telling of the spies who were sent to scout out the land of Canaan and report to Moses on conditions there. They find the land flowing with milk and honey but also find giants — pretty scary — and return with fear in their hearts. How could they conquer these giants and claim the land? Their lack of faith that the Almighty would protect them resulted in our people wandering the desert an additional forty years until those with the slave mentality died out. Only a generation of brave warriors was to enter the land.

My daughter, Dafna, reminded us in her Friday night talk that living in Israel can be pretty scary. Wars seem constant, rockets fall, people are hurt, world opinion changes overnight. Her mother and father, she said, left the relative safety and comfort of America to settle the land of Israel, to raise a family, to fight in its wars, to be physically and psychologically wounded, and despite all to continue to live their Zionist dream.

Our son, Ari, read a letter from Moshe's brother in Jerusalem. "You and Rachel began our family's movement to Israel. You were followed by both sets of parents, and then we came". Moshe's mother, now 93, can boast of thirty-six grandchildren all born in Israel.

Our daughter, Tamar, wrote a hilarious song for the grandchildren to sing to us on Shabbat afternoon, and her husband Oshri made a short but powerful speech. Our daughter-in-law Efrat, herself a eighth generation Jerusalemite, wrote a moving letter of appreciation. And all the grandchildren made cards and drawings. Poor Moshe was quite overwhelmed.

And now we come back to the giants, those who are forever planning our destruction. The shipload of terrorist 'do-gooders' on the Turkish ship Marmara are today's giants. They seem to have forgotten that our warriors will strike back. Those who attempt to destroy the Jews of Israel will meet their own demise. Our people, just freed from slavery after witnessing the destruction of the mighty Egyptian army, remained terrified of giants.

Today Israel cannot afford to be fearful. When we hesitate in our just right to defend ourselves we become unworthy of our land. Only by fighting bravely can we justify our right to the land. If we cower in fear of the giants we lose our rights to Eretz Yisroel.

Happy birthday, Moshe. The children have shown they see us both as symbols of bravery and perseverance in defense of Israel.

May we see peace in our time. But if the giants do not allow it we must fight fearlessly to protect this beautiful piece of Jewish land.


Gush Katif Viewpoint 164
by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
June 20, 2010

There are a group of us — all retirees — planning our "place in the sun" in the town of Bnai Dekalim in Lachish.

We met with the other families planning for Lachish in a nearby moshav reception hall. The room overflowed with excited couples — young couples with babies, thirty somethings, middle aged, and us, the older generation. Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Yemenites, Ethiopians, Bnai Menashe from India, all gathered together to receive a beautiful booklet with computerized pictures and architectural plans for the new homes.

The planning committee had chosen three architects with a number of housing plans for us to choose from. The builders chosen were carefully vetted on their past records of completion of previous housing complexes.

The homes are simple in design with a touch of elegance. The roofs are flat but some two-storey homes have the ubiquitous red-tiled roofs. The plans are modest in design but high in quality infrastructure.

This past Friday I joined two of my future neighbors to actually see the area where our homes will be built. I was delighted to see the area carefully planned out. The roads in the outer circle and the inner circles of the township were already asphalted, making access easy. The stone structures for electrical installation were already in place. There is no overhead wiring of any sort. Every pipe and wire is underground.

A friend called today offering to raise money to buy caravans as temporary structures until a proper community center complex would be built. I thanked him but declined the offer. No more temporary structures. Only the finest permanent buildings will do.

The mounds of earth and rocks that were collected and placed on the side will be returned to the town so that the wildflower seeds now lying dormant will germinate and grow again. We will be at one with nature.

We are also working on the architectural plans for a beautiful synagogue. The synagogue is to be built on the highest hill in our town and will be our first public structure. Our homes coupled with our synagogues are both a tribute to the Almighty. Despite our expulsion we move closer to the Creator.

I was nineteen years old when I first heard the word 'Lachish'. It was in a popular song in 1959 when I was a student at the Institute for Youth Leaders in Jerusalem. The song spoke of the importance of settling this area, smack in the middle of Israel. Today a few scattered kibbutzim and moshavim barely exist in the area. Grapevines dot the countryside. Lachish means the finest of grapes.

Now as a mature adult, going on seventy, I have the privilege to be one of the founders of Bnai Dekalim in Lachish.

What a privilege to be there... in the beginning.

OPERATION DIGNITY is still in need of your help.

Summer is here and we are giving scholarships to needy families for day camp activities at our community center. See our website for detailed information.

OPERATION DIGNITY needs your help to continue aiding Gush Katif refugees in need. Please send your checks, made out to Central Fund for Israel and earmarked for OPERATION DIGNITY, to

Central Fund for Israel,
13 Hagoel Street,
Efrat 90435, Israel


Central Fund for Israel,
980 Sixth Avenue,
New York, NY 10018, USA

Shekel checks, or sums under US$250, should be sent directly to

Operation Dignity
POB 445
Nitzan 79287 Israel


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