During my nighttime drive to Amona, there was a moment when I felt that I couldn’t take any more. The Pandora’s box in my head with the word “evacuation” on it flew open and images of an 11 year old me in Yamit were conjured up. The stench of the burning tires again filled my nostrils, the sight of people being dragged, tears, and broken hearts raced before my eyes. These were mixed with images of Chomesh being destroyed, screaming, crying, injustice, hopelessness, and horrified children being dragged out of their homes. And again, the bus taking us to an unknown destination and dropping us off in the middle of nowhere. The memories of what happened in Amona 11 years ago, the worst horror movie I have ever seen in real life, the beating and the cries and the batons crashing down and the masses of wounded people and the shock in the wide-open eyes of the young teenagers.
But after a moment, I took a deep breath and I knew that I would deal with this time, too. It would be awful but I wouldn’t let myself break. We wouldn’t be broken.
The cold in Amona was surreal. Layers of ice covered the cars, the wind pierced us mercilessly and the pain was deep and enveloping and bitter. Most of the homes in Amona are small and scattered, like a little, spread out village, and its residents also have especially wide open hearts. Behind the illuminated windows, I imagine to myself, the homes are replete with memories and cozy corners and special experiences and family growth and scents and love. I don’t know if at such difficult and sensitive moments as these, right before it was all taken away so cruelly, I would have been able to open the door and let dozens of teenagers who I don’t know into my small home. Teenagers who went out into the cold and wind so that the residents wouldn’t be alone on this difficult day, and so that this terrible act wouldn’t go over easily.
Photos: Hillel Meir/ TPS
I try to think to myself how it’s possible to stand the constantly increasing pressure, the question marks, the disintegration of your familiar reality, the sudden transition from having a home to being a homeless refugee. I don’t know how they withstood months of negotiating with a stone wall, believing that it was possible against all odds, pushing and clinging to their hope to change the situation. How does it feel to live in a pressure cooker that’s gradually closing above your head?
With every step I took in Amona, I felt the images of Amona 2006 hovering over me and surrounding me on all sides. When the police officers arrived with a fairly humane look in their eyes, I couldn’t believe it. Even when teenage boys hurled terrible words at them, and teenage girls scratched and kicked, no batons that crushed and mangled skulls were brandished.
This type of struggle is a journey to clarify boundaries and values, to understand what’s okay and what is not, what is correct and what crosses the line, what is dangerous and what your heart and conscience dictate. How far are you willing to go to follow your beliefs and what is the right way to express your objection? How much are you willing to suffer and how dedicated are you? How far will you go with your behavior and how much will you cross the line? On the faces of the vast majority of the teenagers who came to Amona I saw the naivety of youth, the belief that if we only believe, they won’t be able to overcome us, that if something is wrong, we cannot stand by silently. If we truly love this land, we can’t stand and watch as it is forsaken. They sat crowded into homes, sometimes tied together, sometimes singing, holding on to each other strongly, some sitting in silence and some shouting, and were dragged crying or screaming to the buses. The expression of lost innocence on their faces is one that I know too well.
During struggles like these, we assess ourselves deeply. What is going on here in this country, why do these problems strike us again and again, what is this supposed to teach us and what do we need to do?
I have my own interpretation, probably one of a thousand different interpretations. I’ve been feeling for years that just like in a person’s private life, when we aren’t doing our job on a national level, we’re sent some sort of “push” from above to get it done. We’re posed with a challenge or issue or crisis that forces us to advance. These pushes are sometimes very painful. But they’re so precise. They are what motivate us and make us grow and recharge us with energy. They kick us toward the work that we’ve neglected. The work that apparently is our mission in life.
I’m sure everyone has their own explanation. Each person sees the messages they want to see. Perhaps all of the answers are correct, as long as we try to truly understand and keep our intentions pure.
Photo credit: Hodaya Saadya
Late at night, I descended from Amona’s peak, freezing and shivering, not knowing how terrible the confrontation in the synagogue would be the next morning, but feeling intensely that although it is so painful and bitter now, new insights will be gained from this experience. New initiatives will be started and strengths that are hidden from our sight at the moment will slowly begin to emerge and take action.