September 21, 2011

FLASHBACK AND AFTERSHOCKS by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan

It will be six years this August since the expulsion of the 10,000 Jews from 21 beautiful communities in Gush Katif/Gaza and the Shomron. The majority are still living in caravan (trailer) towns like Nitzan, close enough to Gaza to be impacted constantly by the kassam rockets being fired daily into the Negev. Since their homes are so flimsy, obviously without "safe rooms" , the government sent old sewer pipes to the town to be used as shelters when the red alert sounds, warning of an incoming rocket. Moshe Saperstein, a veteran of the Yom Kippur war, where he lost his right arm, and a terror attack that cost him some fingers on his left hand, named the sewers the "sewervillas." This is his attempt at turning an absurdity into something tolerable. Just as the caravans have been named "caravillas", so the sewer pipes are "sewervillas." Moshe has sworn not to crawl into the sewer pipes when hearing the red alert. He believes they are for rats, not for humans.
Find below Rachel Saperstein's latest letter describing life on the battleground, almost six years since the expulsion from Gush Katif was supposed to bring "peace."
FLASHBACK AND AFTERSHOCKS by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan
In the middle of the night, when you can't sleep and begin wandering around the house, come the flashbacks. Wrapped in a warm blanket I turn on the television set and watch the NHK news in English from Japan. It is riveting. I watch the faces of the survivors of the tsunami. Most are elderly. They lie on blankets on the floor of the evacuation shelter, dazed and uncomprehending. They are the survivors. Their home, villages, places of worship, shops and family members have disappeared. Gone. Only the rubble remains.
Forgive me if I make comparisons between what befell these people and the tragedy that took place in Gush Katif. In Japan we saw destruction by the forces of nature. We faced man-made destruction of our homes and communities. I see myself in each of the Japanese people, and I cry for them. Three weeks after the tsunami social workers and psychologists encouraged them to speak about what they had experienced. They talked about the moment that changed their lives forever.
I recall the social workers who came to the hotel where Gush Katif refugees lived in tiny rooms. "Don't cry" they said to us, smiling, totally without understanding or empathy for the tragedy that had befallen us. My flashbacks have become today's reality in another country.
Reality mixed with flashbacks raises its head once again. This time, a war is imminent. A school bus was targeted by an anti-tank missile, reminding me of the Kfar Darom school has that was targeted in Gush Katif. I call a friend in Kibbutz Saad. The bus was blown up just meters from her home. She's okay, she says. She's calm, she says. Rockets have been falling near and around her home. Her 'safe-room' is nearing completion. Another war is coming. I sleep in thick sweats and woolen socks.
Friday afternoon. Five loud explosions bring us out of our homes. No one would react to one, or even two. But five? It's an hour before Shabbat. Blank-faced we scan the sky for smoke, then hear the sound of planes. There is a collective sigh of relief We are hitting them, and not the other way around.
It's going to be a rough Shabbat.
Friday night I don't sleep well. At 4am the siren wails. I put on my thick red robe, and wake my husband.
"Are you going into the sewervilla?" I ask.
"I'd rather die comfortably in bed than in a sewer pipe filled with screaming people" he says, and goes back to sleep.
The neighbors across the way open their door. I wave and walk over to them.
"Are you going into the sewer pipe?" I ask. "I don't think so. It's too cold."
The siren continues to wail. The rocket is still on the way.
None of the other neighbors appear. I return to the caravilla.

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