Friday, July 1, 2011

The Destruction of Alei Ayin

School was never a positive experience for Eitan so at age thirteen he dropped out. What does a drop-out do with his life? The stereotype is that he hangs out at the pool hall, half-heartedly looking for a dead-end job, and gradually gets involved in drugs and crime. Eitan is anything but a stereotype.

While visiting his brother who lives in the tiny village of Aish Kodesh he spent hours taking long walks and thinking about his future. He fell in love with the hilltop on the eastern edge of Aish Kodesh’s land and decided to start a farm there. He called the place Alei Ayin.

With his own hands he built a one-room house of stone, the rocks gathered at the site, leaving openings for windows which his father and brother, who work for Marvin Windows, installed. He planted trees and a garden, bought chickens, goats, sheep, and guard dogs and built an outhouse so his mother could be comfortable when she visited.

Two years ago, when he was sixteen, he had the dedication ceremony for his house. Family from all over the country and near-by friends came. It was hard to say what they found more impressive; the house Eitan had built or the beautiful view he had found.

Eitan worked hard with the aid of several other boys who came by, but he wasn’t yet self sufficient. He was able to manage with the help of the many visitors, impressed by his efforts, who would make a donation to help buy a horse or material to build a corral or other expenses.

His livestock grew and his garden blossomed and Eitan decided the time had come to marry his sister’s friend, Leah. The young couple, both eighteen, had a beautiful wedding and settled at Alei Ayin. If they had lived in America one hundred and fifty years earlier they would have been model homesteaders and become leading citizens. They had no desire to be model homesteaders or leading citizens, however. Their dream was to build the Land of Israel.

That dream came literally crashing down around them in the middle of the night on January 12th, less than two months after their wedding. Sick with fever Eitan could not do his guard duty, so when the force of soldiers and policemen came bearing down on Alei Ayin it was a total surprise. Before the destruction, the belongings of Leah, Eitan, and the boys were packed up and taken out of the house. Then the buildings were razed to the ground. The following night Arabs came to the Alei Ayin and burned the tent where all the valuable belongings had been placed. Among the items burned were two pairs of tefillin.

Eitan and Leah did not give up. With the help of family, friends, and generous strangers, including the local governing council, a pre-fab house was built. This one was bigger, had two rooms, a bathroom, and running water, but Eitan did not love it the way he loved the house he had made with his own hands. With time, perhaps his feelings would have changed. On June 2nd, however, at a time when the security forces should have been concerned with the anticipated Arab rioting to mark the anniversary of the Six Day War, the powers-to-be decided it was time to destroy Alei Ayin again. They made their way to the hilltop in the wee hours of the morning.

This time Eitan and Leah had warning. Many tried to block the roads leading to Alei Ayin and others came to try and prevent the destruction. There were violent confrontations in which orders were given to throw rocks. A police car was burned. Fortunately, the physical injuries on both sides were not serious. Only one boy was hospitalized for a head wound and he was released the same day.

Everything except one dog house was destroyed though. And Eitan’s second pair of tefillin was missing.

That was Thursday and by Friday a temporary structure had been put up. Eitan and Leah, his parents, and two siblings and their families were there for Shabbat. They were prepared for a quiet, camping sort of Shabbat, and then, shortly before candle lighting, they saw a number of cars along the road. Friends from nearby hamlets had come to join them for Friday evening services. It was a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat with singing and dancing. Afterwards their neighbors walked home leaving their love and support behind.

On the seventeenth of Tammuz we will begin the Three Weeks that commemorate the destruction of the first and the second Holy Temples. Our sages teach us that the second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred among the Jewish people. It is hard not to remember that when looking at the ruins of Alei Ayin.  

Eitan and Leah have some heavy decisions to make. They have no desire to have another home destroyed but they do want to build Land of Israel. Several families are planning to move to Alei Ayin. Whether Eitan and Leah will join them or find another spot to farm remains to be seen. May they be allowed to follow their dream and may we be blessed to see its fruition. 

For information about how you can help Alei Ayin please contact Akiva Leibowitz by phone at 0525-802-991, from America 972-525-802-991 or by mail at PO Box 9089, Shilo, 44830, Israel.

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