Kfar Darom, Friday, Feb. 16, 2001
It’s 12:00, the school bell rings and children from grades 1-8 pour our of their makeshift classrooms (which are in portable homes). Holding candies and art projects, they hurry home to help their families prepare for the Sabbath.
Just three months ago, these same children attended school in the Gush Katif communities: Neve Dekalim and Aizmona. Three months ago their lives as well as the lives of everyone in the Kfar Darom family were changed. It was a regular morning, and I was late as usual. I ran out of my house, grabbing my partially closed bag, it was 7:29. I heard the running engine of a bus and thought the worst … I probably missed my ride. Around the bend to my relief I saw that the almost completely full bus was still there and the few remaining children were waiting impatiently in a line to get on. I barely reached the bus before I was stopped in my tracks by the loudest explosion I have ever heard. I spun around to see a mushroom cloud of smoke rise to the sky. Everyone immediatly thought about the school bus which had just left a minute before. They also remembered the bombing of their children’s school bus 2 years earlier, which miracurously didn’t wound any of the children. What about this time? My husband, Nachshon, who arrived immediately at the gate to the community jumped into a car and drove to the site of the blast. Only later I would learn that he helped remove the wounded children from the bus. Meanwhile the children who had not yet left were immediatly taken off the bus whose engine was still running and hurried home by their mothers. Everyone was quiet and alone with their thoughts…were there any wounded, dead? A couple of hours later I was approached by one of the mothers. She asked if I was close with the Amitai girls. The girls would need to be comforted by a friend when they received the news… I couldn’t believe the news and only an hour later when the community’s Rabbi quietly said that Gabi and Miri were now in the world to come did I realize that it was true. I would never see these beautiful people again. In addition to Gabriel Biton (35) and Miriam Amitai (36) being murdered 5 children and 3 mothers were wounded. Three of the children of the Cohen family lost limbs. The most severely wounded, Tehifla, age 8, lost both legs to the knee caps.
Having learned from the murders of Rabbi Biran (the community’s beloved Rabbi) and Doron Shorshan by Arabs in 1992 led by the murder of Efrain Ayubi in 1995, the Kfar Darom family understood that it must be strong and move on. With the eyes of the world on our every move Kfar Darom became a symbol of Jewish strength and community. For several nights the men of the community worked to secure Kfar Darom by taking control of lands that Arabs used to shoot from. The morning after the attack as the sun rose over Kfar Darom the men prayed next to four new portable homes that they had set there during the night. Within two weeks of the attack a boys school and a girl’s school had been opened.
Today, three months later, the world still watches Kfar Darom. The Arabs also watch us expecting us to fall and yet we rise higher and higher. Nathshon and I are now living in the new and presently being built southern neighborhood of Kfar Darom. Even though we have been living under pretty hard conditions, only being hooked up to water and sewage systems today, every morning upon seeing the sun rise over Wadi Salake of the East and in the evening setin the West we thank G-d that we have merited to live on the holy land that our forefathers settled thousands of years ago. Many people ask bewildered or even sometimes with a hint of anger how we can continue living in Kfar Darom. The answer is simple: This is my home. In addition, we understand that strengthening Kfar Darom will strengthen all of Israel.
Two thousand years ago, in Gamla on the Golan Heights, thousands of Jewish warriors fought to their death against the Roman invaders. Many questions were asked as to why they put so much at stake to fight against the Romans. The answer was found when a coin was dug up at the site of the ruined stronghold. On one side was engraved ‘For the redemption of’ and on the other ‘Jerusalem the Holy’.
When in the future people come to Kfar Darom they will not have to dig deep to understand why we are here. Our root are being strengthened every day. We understand that maybe the hardest of times are yet to come but we will accept them with strength, honor and pride.
Expect a letter every couple of weeks from Kfar Darom