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by Rachel Saperstein



by Rachel Saperstein
Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
May 12, 2011

There were fireworks. It is Independence Evening. The State of Israel is now 63 years old. We have lived in Israel for forty three years. Because of my distinct American accent when I speak Hebrew I am often asked if I'm a new immigrant. "No" I answer, "I'm an old immigrant."

My husband and I have been through endless wars, terror attacks, and the expulsion from our home in Gush Katif. For years since our expulsion we have not celebrated Independence Day. I have felt a distancing of myself from the State of Israel. A state that evicts its own people from their homes cannot be a state that I love. Someday, perhaps, I will feel differently.

Every year we have watched the official ceremony on television. During our almost thirty years in Jerusalem we lived near Mount Herzl where the ceremony takes place. For days we would listen to the rehearsals, then watch the fireworks from the perfect vantage point of our terrace. Only once did we actually see a live performance at Mount Herzl.

At the 63rd ceremony Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, in his speech to the nation, mentioned the people of Gush Katif and the fact that we are once again settling the land, in the desert, in Lachish, and in the Jordan Valley. I have a sense of pride that I too will be among the pioneers of Lachish.

On Independence Eve I crossed the street to the grassy area that is used for community celebrations. What sweet revenge I witnessed... Hundreds of children, our Jewish children, many born after the expulsion, milled around. Dozens of youngsters sat mesmerized as a 'balloon artist' twisted balloons into the shapes of animals and clowns. He taught the children how to do a balloon dance to the music of Swan Lake.

There were children helping their parents sell sweet corn, popcorn, crepes (called muffleta) spread with chocolate or honey, and stands selling colorful flashing toys. All made in China.

There were babies in carriages and strollers. Pairs of twins were prevalent. There were children on jumping plastic bungees, and trampolines. There were children playing catch. Hundreds of children, having fun.

I had forgotten to take money with me. I stood near the crepe stand apparently with the most pathetic look on my face. I walked away with the words "I have no money". Suddenly a child was tugging at my skirt.

"We want to give you a crepe for free" he said.

I started to refuse, but remembered what I had been preaching. If someone offers you a gift, say thank you and accept it. Being a gracious receiver is as important as being a gracious giver. I returned to the stand with the young boy and he created a most delicious chocolate filled crepe. He wrapped it in a napkin and with the grandest of smiles gave it to me. I said the blessing on the crepe, he said "amen", and I bit into it and moaned with delight at going off my diet.

Father and son enjoyed the mitzvah of treating an older person with respect, and I enjoyed the mitzvah of being a gracious receiver.

"This is delicious" I said through my chocolate cream lips. "Thank you so much." No matter how they try to destroy us, and break our spirit, we become stronger as we produce children who are clever, decent, happy and kind. What sweet revenge!


by Rachel Saperstein
Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
June 5, 2011

I have extraordinary grandchildren. They come in all colors. Some are blond. Most have brown hair. One is a redhead. Three are dark skinned girls with shiny black hair and eyes. My daughter Tamar, blond and blue eyed, is the mother of the dark skinned children. They take after their father, Oshri, our brilliant son-in-law with a Sephardic Tunisian background. Clearly, his genes are dominant. Tamar is often asked if she is their Russian nanny. The girls used to ask why, if they came from her stomach, did they look like Oshri rather than like her. When they grew older she explained.

Last week we celebrated her oldest daughter's bat mitzvah. Ohr is twelve and is now considered an adult, in the way a thirteen year old boy is considered a man. She is required to carry out the teachings of the Torah on her own. Mom and dad are no longer responsible for her relationship with the Almighty.

The bat mitzvah party was held in the social hall of Maale Michmash, the Samarian settlement north of Jerusalem where the family has a home. An armored bus was sent to Jerusalem to pick up friends and family who were uncomfortable coming by car. We have made the trip countless times, and came by car. Hours before the event.

"They live in the wilderness" Bubbie — Moshe's mom — remarked.

"That's how all of Israel looked before we settled the land" I reminded her.

A local deejay brought his equipment and set up. The caterer arranged the gleaming white plates on wine-colored tablecloths. Tamar had borrowed the tablecloths, candlesticks, vases and centerpieces from an on-site Free Loan organization. A photographer began snapping away.

The guests arrived. The music began. Children and grandchildren rushed to kiss and be kissed by the 94-year-old Bubbie, the matriarch of the family.

Enter Ohr and her parents. Wearing a black blouse, a deep red and black skirt, with a tiara-like necklace woven into her hair, she looked elegant with the freshness of youth. Tamar looked proud, and gorgeous.

I welcomed the guests and reminded them that Ohr was blessed with the genes of two ethnic groups. I spoke of her intelligence, her dancing and sports ability and her innate knowledge of right and wrong.

Tamar on guitar and me on flute played a duet of Hassidic tunes. Ohr gave a short speech, and Oshri spoke words of Torah. The food was fresh, plentiful and delicious. A powerpoint display took us on a journey of Ohr's and her sisters lives. Friends and family danced with Ohr and Tamar and Ohr's classmates sang a song in her honor.

Then came the biggest surprise of all, the 'hina' ceremony. The Sephardic side of the family took over. The guests donned embroidered hats and robes. A dish of henna was brought in with lighted candles in the center. Large trays of homebaked sweet cakes oozing with honey and sesame seeds were carried shoulder high to the exotic strains of Arabic/Sephardic music.

Ohr was now dressed in a magnificent green and gold embroidered robe. Gold coins were stitched into her elaborate headpiece. My granddaughter had been transformed into an Arabian Nights' princess.

Clumps of henna, a mashed up green vegetable, were placed on the palm of each guests hands. The palms will shortly turn red. This will bring 'good luck' to one and all. Tamar and Oshri had a 'hina' celebration at their wedding and now we enjoyed this folklore tradition once again.

Dessert, coffee, and it was time to say goodnight. Ohr's classmates refused to leave. Deep into dancing to Hassidic rap music, they danced the night away. The deejay kept the music going.

There are times when you know you have had a wonderful time. This was such a time, and we did it our way. May we be blessed with many more family simchas.

OPERATION DIGNITY continues to help our people with the small but vital needs that government and large organizations cannot provide. More than ever, we need your help.

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

Operation Dignity,
POB 445,
Nitzan 79287,

Dollar checks over US$250, earmarked for Operation Dignity, should be sent to
Central Fund for Israel,
980 Sixth Avenue,
New York, NY 10018, USA


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

See our website for further details.

Rachel Saperstein and her husband Moshe 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 trailers in Nitzan, seemed a step up. Contact them by email at


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