Sunday, December 25, 2011

They Murder: We Build

These words were said by Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu to young Tamar Fogel when she was sitting shiva for her murdered parents, two brothers, and baby sister. They were recorded in an interview on Israeli TV Channel Two*. Later in the clip Tamar describes how she remonstrated with the Prime Minister and said, “But afterwards you evacuate”.  She could have been describing the destruction of her home in Netzarim which was destroyed in the Expulsion of Gush Katif in 2005. I think she was probably referring to the violent destruction of houses at Gilad Farms just two weeks before her family was murdered.

“They murder, we build” is an ideal that not only sends a clear message to the murderers; it also gives comfort to the survivors.

Twenty years ago my neighbor, Rachela Druck, Hy’d, was murdered along with the bus driver, Yitzhak Rofe, Hy’d, when their bus, full of women and children, was attacked by Arab gunmen. Although Rachela had not been a close friend of mine, my world turned upside down. For the first time in my life someone I knew personally had been murdered and murdered for one reason only: Because she was a Jewess.

With her murder the cemetery in Shilo was established the following day. All morning long I heard the rumble of tractors and forklifts preparing her resting place down below my house. In the afternoon I, along with hundreds and hundreds others, made my painful way to her funeral. In the evening my daughter and I stood on our porch and watched as ten mobile homes rolled by.
At the same time the cemetery had been prepared, the site for a new village, Shvut Rachel, was cleared. With tears in my eyes and my arm around my daughter, I sang softly, Shavu Banim, The Children Will Return, as the mobile homes moved into place. It gave me a bit of comfort. The American spokesperson called the establishment of Shvut Rachel provocative and the Israeli government declared it a closed military zone. Still, it managed to persevere and now Shvut Rachel is home to a hundred families. They murder; we build.

For some of the women in Shilo beginning Shvut Rachel was not enough. Horrified by the murder of a young mother leaving seven children behind they felt they had to do more and called out to the women in the area for help. Women from Beit El and Kedumim responded and joined the women from Shilo. They made their way to the site of murder, less than five kilometers from the Tapuach Junction, and erected a tent of mourning.

I remember sitting outside that tent, watching the Arab drivers pass by, and wondering what they thought of our tent. More important, however, was what the government thought of that tent. The powers-to-be let it remain there through the week of shiva and the first thirty days of mourning.
Twenty years ago, on the first night of Chanukah, our menorah lighting was very emotional for me. I could not help wondering how the Druck family would be able to celebrate the holiday a mere thirty-four days after Rachela had been murdered.  For my children’s sake I made a great effort to pull myself together and join in the singing. Later, as we were in the middle of our Chanukah supper, a neighbor knocked at the door. In a hushed voice he told my husband that there had been another shooting. Zvi Klein, from Ofra, had been shot in the head and was in critical condition.    
I did not know Zvi Klein and, surprisingly, in all the years that we have lived here I am not acquainted with any of his family. Still, he was a fellow Jew and he could have been me or any of my loved ones. The ambush had taken place in Al-Bireh, the Arab town we drove through every time we travelled to Jerusalem.
Zvi Klein, Hy’d, succumbed to his injuries the following day. In the midst of the grief it was decided that we would not be satisfied with a mourning tent or memorial marker at the site of Rachela’s murder. We would start another village.
I remember leaving Shilo right after lighting the menorah the second night of Chanukah. It was dark, cold, and drizzly. Many of us were scared to be on the roads after dark. In spite of all that, we had filled our van with some of our children and neighbors. With a prayer for a safe journey we joined others on their way to Rachela’s murder site.
As we gathered there more and more carloads arrived. There must have been speeches but I do not remember any of them. What I do remember is the euphoria when three mobile homes accompanied by a convoy of cars filled with supporters arrived. In the rain the men dashed to greet them dancing and singing Shavu Banim. Again, I felt a bit of comfort.   
Those three mobile homes were dropped haphazardly and the Israeli flag raised on top of one of them.

A number of people returned to their warm, dry homes. Many others, though, stayed and camped out in the mobile homes. It was decided the new village would be named Rachelim, plural for Rachel and named for three Rachels. Rachela Druck, Rachel from the Torah, and Rachel Weiss, Hy’d, another young mother who had been murdered in a fire bomb attack on the bus she was riding ten years earlier.
The whole week of Chanukah people stayed in the mobile homes. Others put Rachelim on their Chanukah vacation itinerary and stopped by to give moral support and food. It felt good. We were showing the world that we would continue to grow and stay strong.
It was not easy. In the beginning the government agreed to have an army camp at the site and only soldiers could sleep there. On Shabbat, though, there were always groups, either young families who wanted to make their home there or teenagers who had the commitment to keep Rachelim a reality. After a while wooden structures were built under the army tents but the electricity still came from the generator and there was no running water.    

Slowly things began to improve, although there were lots of starting and stopping. The tents were removed and more structures were built. Electricity lines were strung and water pipes built. Now Rachelim is home to fifty families. They murder; we build.
However, Tamar Fogel is correct. Afterwards the government evacuates. Evacuate is a polite way of saying destroy.  Not only were the towns and villages in Gush Katif destroyed; homes were razed in Maon Farms, Amona, Migron, and many other locations.
In 2001 Asaf Hershkowitz, Hy’d, a young father from Ofra was murdered in a terrorist shooting, just three months after his father was killed in a drive-by attack. Givat Asaf was begun at the site of the murder, a strategically valuable location. Twenty-four families live in mobile homes there. Since there is a constant threat of expulsion hanging over their heads no one has built a permanent home.

Following the Fogel murders Givat Aryeh was begun, the name chosen because it holds the initials of Udi, Rut, Elad, Yoav, and Hadas Fogel, Hy’d. Its aim was to send a powerful message to Awarta, the nearby village where the terrorists lived. Last month, ironically the day after one of the murderers of the Fogel family was found guilty, Givat Aryeh was razed by the army using Arab workers. This was done by the orders of the Israeli government. No self-respecting Israeli government should sanction such activity.
Yes, Tamar was right. They murder, we build, and then the government destroys. However, there is another factor to the equation: we rebuild.  Givat Aryeh now has another house, a few tents, and they are building a new synagogue. With HaShem’s help, we will continue to build and rebuild until the time comes when new villages will not be built in memory of our murdered; rather to honor our living. And then there will be the ultimate rebuilding, The Third and Eternal Holy Temple. May we see it swiftly, in our times. 
Hy’d: HaShem should revenge their blood
Shiva: the first week of mourning

* The interview with Tamar can be viewed at


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Batya said...

Very powerful, great article. One of my daughters was in the car after Tzvi Klein's and hugged his daughter while the medics worked on him. Some of his blood was on her jacket. No matter how many times I tried to clean it and no matter how clean it looked to me, my daughter only saw his blood.

Yes, we build living communities to memorialize those who were murdered.

Ester said...

Thank you, Batya. It is mind-boggling everything our children have experienced.