Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gush Katif is a Winner!

Voice of Elimelech Ben Efraiyam.
Elimelech celebrated his Bar Mitzvah shortly after submitting his project: In the Shadow of a World Destroyed, Memories of an Expelled Teenager, based on Shifra Shomron's novel, Grains of Sand. He won for
his region in the state-wide competition at Rider University in New Jersey. He was able to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah with a newly gained respect for his Jewish identity, his Land and his People because of the book and a personal connection with its author, Shifra.

The following are his personal words:

ND: The Fall of Neve Dekalim affected me in many different ways. As a teenager living comfortably in my own community, I hardly believed that over 8,000 people could be expelled from their homeland in 2005 after more than a quarter of a century of life and growth. I knew that behind the character of Efrat was a real member of this community – Shifra, the author, a teenager not much older than myself who struggled to come to terms with the loss of everything she once knew and loved.
Efrat described the vivid beauty of Neve Dekalim, and it was sad to know that this was a girl who was in many ways borne out of Shifra’s own experiences. The story made me feel sorrow that something like this could even happen. I began to realize that the destruction of Neve Dekalim would be an important story for my history project. I turned to songs to inspire me as I learned about the vibrant community of Neve Dekalim.
Neve Dekalim was Israel’s agricultural homeland. How can you not feel sadness for those living there? The greenhouse and geraniums, palm tress and paved streets – they were beautiful – it took so much time to grow and build, and only a few days to destroy it all.
GRAINS OF SAND inspired me to search for photographs and articles that chronicled the destruction of Neve Dekalim. The photos that shocked me the most were those showing the destruction of the synagogues because they were the spiritual heart of the community.
I encourage everyone to read Shifra’s book. I think they will want to learn as much as they can about Neve Dekalim and what was once a wonderful and thriving place. Shifra’s book is a celebration of her community.
I was fortunate to have chance to ask Shifra some questions. I asked Shifra what she would most remember about Neve Dekalim. She answered: “The houses, the gardens, the brick sidewalks, the sand dunes, the view of the sea in fair weather and storms, the sunsets and sunrises, the rain water rushing past our house, flowing down the hill, the fresh air.”
I started thinking, how could anyone get over this kind of loss?
Could I? Could you?

Elimelech & other readers can be heard at: Readers Discuss the Book Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim -- Part 2: -- Part 1:

(For a copy of the book, go to the author’s website for a list of bookstores: Or contact Mazo Publishers; also a Literature Study Guide is available for the book for free downloading. For more information, contact the publicist at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


After a pep talk at the ‘rally’ from leaders and rabbis, the boys went one way and the girls another way to fields which had already been cleared. This photographer went with the girls and the experienced young man that was their madrich for the day.
At first, both of us were just shaking our heads as we watched with fear and trepidation as the in-experienced girls started whacking away at the ground in the sandals and crocs, skirts blowing in the wind and gold jewelry necklaces swinging freely from side to side. I looked at him and asked: “How did you get this job!” He rolled his eyes, shook his head and patiently walked to the girls and tried to give a few instructions: “You are standing on a field. This is a sapling tree in my hand. You are going to dig a hole. And then we will plant the tree in it.” Easy enough! Right? Absolutely not! Being females, no one was listening and everyone was talking.
But they took to the field with weapons – oh! Excuse me! – tools in their hands, two by two, and started punching the ground, hardly scratching the surface. Anyone knows in Israel there’s nothing but rock under the surface. So, after scratching the surface, everyone was yelling for their instructor to help, yelling at him: “I hit a rock! Come and get this rock out of the way!” They would just stand there in a prissy pose like they were running for “America’s Next Top Model” as he made his way from one to the other digging the hole for them. Believe me! He needed to solicit the help of a whole lot more heroes for this crowd.
This was the girls’ strategy: Two girls stood face to face, one with a pick-axe over her head and one with a pick-axe to the ground on the count of two they were to swing simultaneously. One axe went up, the other went down. And eventually you were to have a good rhythm working as a team. In the midst of all the giggles and the timing w-a-y off, this is where I closed my eyes and just aimlessly clicked the camera button, hoping we would all leave the area in one piece and hopefully NOT in an ambulance or worse.
When this proved to be futile, some of the girls opted to remove rocks from the field, so they tiptoed through the pile of rocks and carefully selected the not-so-heavy ones to throw out. This took more time than if they just rolled over one after another. But what do I know!
Okay, that’s too much for a girl to do, so what’s next? To accommodate giving them something workable, yet easier, a few were told to go to the vineyard which had been planted some time back, has taken root and growing nicely. In that place, they were to remove the weeds. Wow! This proved to be the easiest task of all since Israeli weed roots are only surface deep and don’t grow any deeper because of the rock. Yeah!
As we descended the hill, I looked again across the field of labor below. The girls had taken on a new attitude and were working together with determination. They were applying muscle behind the tools and swinging them with more power. It seemed my perspective from a higher position was more revealing and I thought of Hashem and His perspective of things from His position must be yet even clearer: I smiled as I thought: “Does He see this as humorous as I do?” And for a moment I was comforted by the thought that it really doesn’t matter how much is accomplished. It is the effort we extend to live, grow and develop His Land that He is pleased with.
Gleaners of the fields like Ruth they are not, but these Jewish girls are Esthers, queens in the making.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

100706 ADURAYIM: Activities for the Kids

Buses were full of parents with their kids as we made our way to Adurayim for different activities for children. Others joined from nearby communities so there was a full house of tiny tykes.
It didn’t take long before chocolate was on their little faces, cheeks were bulging with tasty treats. Then, they reclined to hear the story-teller weave a story and dress them up to play different characters.
Elazar Brandt & wife Karina were the ‘balloonists with the most-est’, but the balloons seem to burst more quickly than they could be blown up, especially since some kids took a big bite thinking they were edible.
Hands were dripping with paint as the banner of Israel, designed by Yehudit Eisenberg, unfolded and they began to dibble & dabble. Some put their heads together and worked together in a team.
But it took all to make up a fun day of activities for these precious children.

Monday, July 5, 2010

100618 Hikers Arrive at Adurayim

A group of hikers emerged from the fields below. At first it looked like an invasion of Arabs until the men unwrapped their kafiyahs and mixed with acquaintances. The ‘David & Ahikam’ youth group hike through the desert of Judea and the mountains of Shomron every week in memory of David Rubin HY"D and Ahikam Amichai HY"D, murdered in 2007 by Arabs while hiking in the hills of Hevron.
Among the hikers was a beautiful 18 year-old by the name of Eliraz Binyamin from Otniel. She found a shady quiet place to rest and play a few songs on her guitar before continuing with the youth group on their journey through hostile territory.