Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Water Festival - Israel: The early years - 2

In this country, probably the most popular festival is the rejoicing over the finding of water in the depths of the earth. Now the day had come when the threat of drought had been removed fromt he Negev. Water had been found. Yet on the selfsame day a terrible sand storm blew up in the South.

Two men were standing at the big wheel, which sets the water flowing. The one was the oldest of the settlers, a man who had been a leader of the settlement movement for years. The other, much younger, was the pioneer, representative of the men who always heed the call and leave their families and farms whenever they are needed by the homeland. When the men moved the wheel and a pillar of water spurted up into the air, you could see the Negev sandstorm retreating. The tremendous sand-clouds fell back when they met the stream of living water. Man had celebrated his victory.

A woman sitting next tom me started weeping. She told me she was a Gentile from the city of Zagreb in Yugoslavia. The next day, when I visisted her at home, she showed me a picture of the neighborhood where she had been born: "This part of the city has been destroyed completely by the Germans." I could understand how a person who had lost his own home could feel to the depth of hi soul the building up of a country.

After the ceremony a man stopped by our car and asked for a lift back to town. "I am a newcomer to the country" he said and mentioned his name. His family is quite well known in the country, therefore his exellent Hebrew was no surprise to us. But we couldn't understand why he had only arrived recently. After a short silence he brought out a picture of a tombstone over the grave of a falledn Israeli soldier. "This is what brought me to Israel" he said.
His son had fallen at Negba.  He was their only child and had been brought up in South America. When the War of Liberation began, he volunteered for the Israel Army. He gave us all the details. How the son had left home. How he fell. How the news had reached him.

He was silent for a moment, then added: "We received the news on a Thursday. The following Sunday I buried my wife. There was nothing left for me. Now I'm here, all alone." Then he, the serious adult, started crying in front of us strangers.

When we reached town, we asked him. "Where is your home?"

"Home? Well, if you can call it that," he said. "I am all alone, I have no home." He walked away from the car in the twilight, moving hastily.

But before he left us he had said one more thing: The next day would be his wedding anniversary, so he had come to celebrate the water festival in the Negev.

(Oops: In the bitter war of Israel's independence 60,000 soldiers dies, equivalent to 1% of the population. The next time arabs and their sympathisers talk about Israel's supposed ethnic cleansing of 'peaceful' arabs, rememeber this statistic.)

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