Head to Head

Last Friday evening, the sun was a giant ball of fire that plunged beyond the horizon. There are those who say that that sunset has never been seen in this land, that the sun has never been seen to plunge so quickly.

That is 50what happens when the Sabbath is on the threshold and so much has yet to be done to prepare for receiving the Sabbath Queen.

About a dozen teenage boys and girls who had come to help pounced on the bags of the young families that had just arrived - precariously close100 to the arrival of the Sabbath - in vehicles that were covered with dust of the sandy path. The belongings were hurriedly deposited in structures, most of which had not been prepared for human habitation, especially not for infants. The food for the Sabbath meal was quickly placed on the150 platot - the Sabbath hot plates.

Another new community had been established, with suitable modesty, on the soil of the Holy Land.

In Jerusalem, the Sabbath candles had already been lit, yet, in this new community, people were still working hard to connect the fuel tank to the generator. It was200 pure havoc. In the midst of this bedlam, another family arrives. And then another. How familiar all this is, how reminiscent is this scene of the way the first Jewish settlers initially set up camp in Judea and Samaria. Some of the founders of this new community are the children250 of those first settlers.

When the goal is what really matters, this breed of human being exists beyond time, as well as beyond trivial matters, such as the absence of the minimal housing andenvironmental requirements for raising children - an access road, a clinic, a grocery store. These minute details are300 irrelevant in the eyes of such people.

After all the necessary paperwork was completed and all authorizations were given, the prefabs were brought in and the fear of any further postponements in the creation of this new community had become history. The founders of the community had been told repeatedly,350 "Just wait a little longer, until the structures are properly connected to the community's infrastructure, until the soft limestone access roads have been paved, until the pits "that could endanger the life and limb of the community's toddler residents are all covered up."

The founders of the new community simply400 could not wait another moment longer. And there was a certain justification behind their impatience: Whenever a place is inhabited, things move much more quickly. In the final analysis, things - including the completion of all preparations for the Sabbath on schedule - always work out somehow. Those things which did not450 work out that Sabbath were overlooked by these people, whose spirits were high and who were not frustrated by hardship.

So what if sand - which, because of the earthwork operations, had become a fine powder - finds its way into every nook and cranny, even into the pots and pans containing 500the food for the Sabbath? So what if some of the food could not be heated? So what if you have to sleep on a mattress atop a hard floor? So what if (nearly) every door cannot be shut tight? (These are, after all second-, and in some cases, even550 third-hand prefabs that were previously used in the absorption of the waves of Russian immigrants). Who pays attention to such trivial points? After all, all these minor hardships are part and parcel of such projects anyway.

Who had any time to think of a ceremony to mark the establishment600 of this new community? In fact, it is doubtful whether any of the founders even realized (without someone to remind them of this point) that they were participants in an event that could - as they were hoping - become the starting-point of a major about-face in the settlement of650 this particular region. The few communities that exist here are small and thinly populated. For years, no new community has been established in the region. In effect, this is the most sparsely populated area in the entire Holy Land, as far as the number of Jewish residents is concerned. 700One of the newcomers, in the ceremony marking the official reception of the Sabbath, recited the traditional Jewish prayer, "Blessed is God who establishes communities for widows." And, with those words, the "ceremony" of initiating this new community promptly ended.

It was only when the Sabbath songs were sung, when the750 members of the new community felt the spiritual uplift that only the Sabbath can provide, that the songs of the pioneering Zionists - the Halutzim of the early days of Zionist settlement in the Holy Land - were added to the traditional repertoire of Sabbath songs. Nathan Alterman, Avraham Shlonsky, Y. Rabinov,800 Shin Shalom (Shalom Joseph Shapira), Naomi Shemer, David Zehavi, Daniel Sambursky and Marc Lavry had dedicated these "pioneering songs" - it seems as if it were eons ago - to the Zionist Halutzim who had preceded these new settlers in this region, and who had preceded the settlers in other850 regions of the Holy Land as well.

In the youth movements of that bygone era (including Bnei Akiva, the National Religious Party's youth movement, which is somewhat anachronistic today), these songs, which have become anthems and which inspired Jews to carry out missions of immense national importance, were sung. Some of the 900members of those youth movements in that era could even remember who Avraham Hertzfeld was in the history of Zionism and on what occasions they had even sung with him Alterman's "Look, o look, and see how great this day is."

When the subjects of the banner headlines are terror950 attacks, murders, strikes and road accidents, there is, of course, no room to mention the modest holiday you have celebrated, the founders of this new community - although, in terms of its intrinsic value, no event could be more beautiful and more important than your celebration. The media's overlooking of the 1000event and the fact that the residents of neighboring communities did not welcome them did not dampen the inner merriment of the new settlers. Nor was that merriment dampened by the fact that the closest community, despite its small population and its isolated position in this wilderness, actually opposed the1050 creation of this new community. When its opposition in the various relevant committees proved futile, the older community demanded (and this demand was met) - that the new community be built in a place that could not be seen from the older community with the naked eye. It should be recalled 1100that this demand was made by the residents of a region whose population density is one person (or even less) for every square kilometer and whose land reserves - the only remaining land reserves for significant Jewish settlement in the Holy Land - are being plundered.

The new community, located some 11 km.1150 south of the development town of Yeruham, is called Halukim (which can be translated as "pebbles smoothed by the flow of water"). Its residents, who disdain any form of dispute, emphasize the importance of that name, which they associate with pebbles softened by the flow of water in a stream.1200 They are not offended by their neighbors' rejection. Did the young residents of Ofra and Beit El think they would get a different welcome from the inhabitants of the Negev than the welcome their parents received when they established those West Bank settlements? The newcomers did not give that 1250point even a moment's thought. After all, they came here to fulfill a mission, not to be hugged and fussed over. They have also made peace with the fact that today, as the communities in which they grew up are in the midst of a war, they have decided to 1300help settle the Negev. Unless settlements are established there, they know very well, Israel could also lose that region of the Holy Land.

The upbringing that these newcomers received in the West Bank settlements of Karnei Shomron and Kiryat Arba, or in the central Israeli towns of Ra'anana and Petah 1350Tikva, or in other parts of this land will now be introduced to Yeruham and Halukim. The newcomers will try to be an inspiration to thousands of other Israeli Jews, who deeply feel the distress of the Jewish nation today and who, the newcomers hope, will follow their example. Not only1400 in the Negev, but also in the Galilee.