Yesterday, for the first time in nine years, I davened (recited) Shakharit, the traditional morning prayer. It wasn’t the result of any religious revelation or desire to return to Orthodoxy. Some student supporters had simply decided to go to shul, and I joined them.
I recited the summer prayer that God let the dew fall.
After Shakharit, a small CNN crew landed in Morag to film the place. No one really welcomed them except me. No one really likes to talk to the press unless it’s for a live broadcast. In the editing room reporters manage to turn things around and preserve only those remarks that bear well for the disengagement and present the settlers in a negative light.
Noticing my friendliness, CNN decided to interview me as secular supporter of the Gush and probably also to fish for some information about Morag’s resistance activities, which I wasn’t about to offer.
Here are some non-verbatim snippets of the conversation should the important parts be cut or should my interview remain on the shelves:
CNN: Until when are you here?
Orit: Until the thanksgiving celebration.
CNN: What are the settlers planning to do the day of?
Orit: There are some who are packing, but I just spoke to a family who didn’t pack a thing. My sense is that they don’t want a violent confrontation. Their weapon is love — love for their family, love for their homes, love for Israel.
CNN: Do you think it’s really going to happen?
Orit: No, I don’t. I can’t even imagine it. It will take a certain amount of cruelty and mercilessness to pull people out of their homes that I don’t think the police or soldiers are capable of.
CNN: As someone not religious, what do you think about being here?
Orit: I don’t think this is a religious issue. It’s a national issue. I think the disengagement is very destructive for Israel and by being here I’m protecting my own life. And I think the religious get a bad rap. People see their skullcaps, tzitit, clothes, beard, and they think they are different. It’s true they have different values — and I think good ones — but they are people — good people.
CNN: Are your parents worried?
Orit: My dad, who’s anti-disengagement, is pretty supportive. My mom’s a little more worried. But I think they are curious and feel that through me they are living Jewish history.
Looking back, I know I could have said a lot more, even if it would probably get edited. The people here, probably because of their faith, have a spirit and sense of a continuity of Jewish history that most secular Jews don’t have. They are tied to the sources that brought us here in the first place. They understand historical and biblical foundations of world affairs, often quoting the prophets, whose sayings and warnings aptly describe events here, even from a rational perspective. This is one of those rare instances where I believe that faith is aligned with reason.
Not long after the interview, I hopped on a van to join some students in collecting pineapple buds at the Nezer Hazani settlement for future planting. Volunteer work in the nurseries is very common for a variety of reasons. Sometimes foreign workers have left and we fill in the manpower gap. Sometimes people are afraid to plant for fear that the seeds will be uprooted. Some only want to work harder and accomplish more despite the edict. The family farm with the pineapple buds has just planted parsley yesterday. Arab workers were packaging the new harvest for sale across Israel.
But I feel that they are doing me a favor. Working the land ties you not only to your land but to your purest self. Instead of watching TV, surfing the net, or listening to radio, I stripped thorny pineapple leaves, even scratching myself, since there weren’t enough gloves to go around. It was just me and nature — no outside influences dictating what to believe, what
to wear, what to think. It also got me in touch with my more primal being. The family has five hunky sons, one of whom I wished would have just whisked me away into the nursery for a different kind of planting….
I generally hate asking people to set-me up, but all of a sudden I’m advertising myself as a single woman looking for a shidduch. Mom will at least be proud of that.
At night I met my secular friend from Herziliya on the grass by the Neve Dekalim town square. A 50+ year-old woman, also secular and from a Tel Aviv suburb, joined us, freely sharing with us a troubling conversation she had with her husband, who supports our struggle but who demanded that she return home. She described his demands as a power struggle.
“I don’t want to leave. I love it here. He wants to control me, and I don’t want to let him. It’s almost like I’m emancipated – that I’m coming closer to the truth, that I’m experiencing a personal disengagement.”
The spirit here its contagious. The unity, generosity, love, and feistiness whips all of us with a new strength, self-knowledge, and defiance — not only on the national level, but on the personal level as well.
I too wonder what life will be like when I return to Tel Aviv. I don’t think any of us here will ever be the same after this redemptive experience. The atmosphere here is of the sort that has gone into building this nation — and building the Temple. This is what makes me certain that we’ll see miracles.
We continued to sit on the grass, freely sharing of ourselves — our dreams, our hopes, our fears, and a very light drizzle — dew! — fell down upon us, a most rare event in the middle of a hot summer in the desert south of Israel.
So maybe our prayers really will be answered, and CNN will report my prophecy fulfilled.