New Signs of Spring in Israel

New Signs of Spring in Israel

Pesach, Passover,  the holiday of Freedom and the holiday of Spring,

begins two weeks into the Hebrew month of Nisan.

Spring flowers in Jerusalem, Israel in Beit Hanasi garden

In Israel, spring is a time of green and of spring blooms of all colors popping up in the warm sun after the winter rain.

Clouds in sky, power lines and green along road in southern Israel

On a recent trip south toward the Negev, clouds billowed over the power lines.

Negev green after winter rain as seen from highway

All along the highway, green was the predominate color.

Fields of green vegetables are ready to pick for the holiday tables.

Hasslat Gush Katif vegetable packing plant in southern Israel

Our trip was to see a new vegetable packing plant in the Negev called חסלט Hasalat.

The facility was impressive on many levels.

Trucks unloading vegetables at packing plant in southern Israel

The size and capacity are impressive. Those openings are for two large trucks filled with produce to be delivered.

Vegetables marked with red stickers were rejected by packing plant for kosher customers

Not all produce is accepted, and these crates with red stickers contained rejected produce.

Gush Katif packing plant water being checked for insects

Samples of deliveries are washed and rinsed and checked in the lab, through a series of fine filters.

Man inspects for tiny bugs in vegetables in southern Israel packing plant

The specially trained inspectors are looking for insects less than a millimeter in size.

Man uses magnifying glass to examine small bug found in vegetable rinse water in packing plant in southern Israel

They know how to tell tiny insects that are not easily washed away from those that are.

Packing Gush Katif vegetables in southern Israel

Once the produce has been checked and declared clean, it then to goes to the packers, who have to dress warmly, as the rooms are kept cool.

People inspecting cabbage in packing plant Israel Gush Katif

The cabbage checkers check and recheck for insects, before the cabbages are sent along to be put in plastic bags.

Work room in Hasslat packing plant for Gush Katif vegetables

This is a large plant, with multiple rooms that process a variety of vegetables.

With Passover approaching, the demand for romaine lettuce will surge.

Ready-cut carrots, parsley and cabbage for salads will also be in great demand.

Israel green from winter rain people working in fields

Along the road agricultural workers were working in the green fields.

Bomb shelter on farmers for safety from Gaza missiles in southern Israel

These bomb shelters for farmers were built for protection as the rockets rained in from Gaza.

Now they are being used for storage, but if an alarm sounds, in the Negev there is no time to head home. Some workers have less than fifteen seconds to run to shelter.

After 12 years, Gush Katif produce, though no longer from Gush Katif, stands for quality and bug-free vegetables with low pesticide use, and some are grown organically.

Cabbage growing in hot house in southern Israel

Farmers are growing in special green houses in the Negev, sending their produce to be packed at Hasalat and then sent to stores in Israel and around the world.

Not all the farmers who left Gush Katif have permanent homes yet, so many years after they were expelled.

Kfar Darom building sites ready, but still no homes built

These are the housing plots for the new Shavei Darom community.

Gush Katif Kfar Darom playground built though no homes yet

The JNF playground is built and ready, but there are no children yet to play there.

Kfar Darom mikvah built before any homes Gush Katif

The community mikvah is state-of the-art with access for those with disabilities.

Land for homes Kfar Darom Gush Katif to rebuild

The Shavei Darom infrastructure is ready, but there are no homes built yet.

12 years after the destruction of Gush Katif, those expelled are still living in temporary residences.

Southern Israel bomb shelter next to bus stop

Bomb shelters next to bus stops are real and ready.

Cabbage in hothouse in Southern Israel for Gush Katif vegetable

But it was good to see that greener days are ahead for some of the former residents of Gush Katif.

It’s also good to see the new signs over the Jerusalem streets for Passover.

Street sign Happy spring holiday

 Chag Aviv Sameach Be Yerushaliyim

Happy Holiday of Spring in Jerusalem.

 

Israeli Summer Heats Up

As the summer weather heats up, I slow down.

Sipping an ice coffee while walking

has become a routine.

Jerusalem graffiti

It seems I am not alone, this man who

   walked into my new graffiti photo had a drink in hand too.

It took me a couple of weeks to get to Yoel Salomon Street

Jerusalem umbrellas over street

to see the Jerusalem, Israel streets’ hottest summer display,

dozens of colorful umbrellas strung above the narrow lane.

There used to be so many used book stores lining the streets,

Another used book store closes

but another book store is closing,

and these signs were plastered announcing the sales.

At least on the other side of the street there are happier signs

Beit Avi Chai outside building

of summer children’s programs at Beit Avi Chai.

signs hung for summer programs on Jerusalem  streets

Summer festivals will be starting soon,

summer in Kikar Safra

and posters are up for summer events

in Kikar Safra, Government Square.

But this week leading up to Tisha B’Av

is also ten years since the end of Gush Katif.

I wrote about a visit to the new Netzer Hazani four years ago.

Since that time,

photo of Gush katif community before 2005

beautiful communities like in this poster,

are now remembered in Gush Katif Museum in Nitzan.

gush katif museum

In the courtyard the wonderful sand is displayed.

seats in Gush Ktif Museum made form moving boxes

Moving boxes are used as seats for a video in the museum.

The army was organized and provided everyone boxes

to pack up their lives and leave their homes,

then every last one was knocked down

and every last Jew left the Gaza Strip.

rocket fired from Gaza into Gush Katif

All was not ideal in Gush Katif.

Yaakov Gross keeps a Gazan rocket

that fell into his house in Gush Katif

in his still temporary store.

But after leaving Gush Katif, what have we gotten in return?

The government promised peace,

and instead we got ten thousand rockets

and Israelis have suffered through three wars.

bomb shelter next to park

In southern Israel,

an outdoor meeting place has to have a safe area

five seconds away.

inside of pipe used as bomb shelter

And who can forget

 last summer as millions of Israelis had to run to bomb shelters.

Some in the south had to huddle in cement pipes

as protection from hundreds of Hamas rockets

that were fired at Israeli citizens day and night.

Gush Katif new community

People are slowly rebuilding.

After ten years

new house old house Gush katif

some families have nice homes,

while some are still in temporary living conditions.

green around home from new Gush Katif home

One garden stood out in the neighborhood,

newly rebuilt in the sand.

Garden of Gush Katif Museum in Nitzan

The names of the destroyed towns are listed,

and the pain and division of the nation

are symbolized in this monument.

Tens years on that summer still makes no sense.

Hopefully you will remember,

as there are those who are trying to erase history,

and the Jewish connection to this land.

Disengagement, Six Years Later

In 1976 Yitzhak Rabin’s government initiated the establishment of Gush Katif.

From 10 original families, Netzer Hazani became an Israeli town in 1977.

For 30 years, thousands of hard-working Israelis made the desert bloom.

Gush Katif grew to 23 communities…until August 15, 2005,

 when they became homeless and had to leave their fields behind:

 everything in Gush Katif was destroyed.

And today where are they?

Travel the highway from Jerusalem towards Ashkelon

and there is a new sign directing you to Netzer Hazani.

On the left side of the road is a welcome sign to Yesodot, a moshav founded in 1948.

On the right there is a gas station which is closed for the holy Sabbath.

A beautifully landscaped fountain greets visitors;

 the sign warns to look, but not to enter.

A blue security gate opens

 

  to the new

 Netzer Hazani.

Six years after being forced from their homes in Gush Katif,

one house is near completion, while many others are still being held up by red tape.

For many reasons, most home plans are much smaller than the original ones.

The main hall of the community center

is under construction.

This is its new kitchen.

Meanwhile, construction of the synagogue

has been stopped due to lack of money.

Afternoon tea hosted by Anita Tucker in her new home is quite a treat….

well… on the site of their new home.

Today these formerly productive people are still trying to re-establish,

some on the land bought from the religious Moshav Yesodot.

 Nahal Sorek, does not look like a river in summer, but if you follow the road

you will find a recycled water pond, which serves as a haven for migrating birds. 

The irrigation ditches for the new Netzer Hazani fields are in place

and the fields are being prepared for organic produce and new hot houses.

The infrastructure is ready,

with plans set for the first stage of 130 families to move in by August 2012.

This sign hangs at the entrance of the new Netzer Hazani,

it is a reproduction of one made and hung by their children in Gush Katif.

The sign proclaims a full belief in God.

After the ordeal of the last six years…that is an accomplishment.

Disengagement was supposed to bring peace…land for peace.

Instead, Israel has been bombarded by

 thousands and thousands of missiles and rockets from Gaza.

The “tent city” protest which began in Tel Aviv is entering its fourth week

with ‘”building crisis” and “social justice” as its headlines.

Bus loads of people are trying to spread the protest to the “periphery”.

How many think of the 9000 people left homeless by the disengagement?

How many of the tent protesters have even heard of Yamit?

 

For more information  see:   www.netzerhazani.org