There’s no place like home – which home?

It’s been hard to keep up with the blog while camping here on the hill because the only electricity is provided by a generator which is at the main building. It’s much easier for me to think and write when I am off on my own by our tent, which is away from all the hubbub of the administrative center of the project, but also means that I don’t have access to the electricity.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time just enjoying the beauty of G-d’s land, thinking about where we are and the fact that Abraham or Joshua may have tread on the very stone I just did.

I posted a blog post on the Times of Israel. I usually only post religious or inspirational stuff, but I was so frustrated with the current political situation that I wrote about that. I wrote about things that I am not hearing people talk about and why I think that things just don’t seem to be adding up. I included what some are calling a conspiracy theory – that it seems to me that the Israeli government was very quick to say that the Arab boy who was murdered was killed by a Jew seeking revenge, so quick that it almost seemed like they were going to pin it on a Jew no matter what, in order to give them some political leverage. Now, in general I don’t subscribe to such ideas, and like I said, I tend to stay away from political topics because they rarely benefit anyone.

What I discovered was that I don’t really have a thick enough skin to speak on politics. In general, when you speak on religion, even when people don’t agree, they tend to argue much more gently than they do when it comes to politics. I had to stop reading the comments because some of them were just mean and unnecessary. People were accusing me of saying things I never said, and reading into what I did say. The good side is that this post got the most shares of any blog post I have ever posted on TOI. It seems that controversy, and not inspiration, is what gets readership.

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In the evening, at 6:00pm, I gave my story to a group of English speakers who came up to visit the hill. I know that this will sound ridiculous to some people, but in a way, speaking here was the biggest honor of anywhere I have ever spoken. The response I got in return was very flattering.

Right near the end of Maariv (evening prayers) which the men were praying inside the building, the code red sirens went off. If you can hear that siren where you are, you are in danger of a rocket hitting your area (usually shot from Gaza). So everyone outside went into the building and we shut the door and windows.

Yes! We now have a door and windows on the building on the hill. When Nadia and Yehudit got here last week the house was a mess and had no door or windows, just holes. They got the building cleaned up through the hard work of volunteers, but it wasn’t until yesterday that we got a door and windows. Yehudit had the foresight to arrange for them because she understood that in case of a serious danger to the residents of the hill, they needed the added security of a building which could be locked. So now we have a door and windows (see picture).

Givat Oz V'Gaon gets a door

Givat Oz V’Gaon gets a door

Of course, the sirens had nothing to do with us being campers on the hill, everyone in the area heard the sirens. Even in Beit Shemesh, which is not considered disputed territory. The weird thing is that the timing of the sirens was such that when we entered the building, the men were at the point of saying kaddish. So we heard the siren, rushed into the building, shut the windows and door and the men said kaddish. All I could do was pray that no one got hurt.

Code Red Siren

Code Red Siren

So now, its Tuesday afternoon. Pinchas’ vacation time is over and he must return to work tomorrow. I have work that I must do, trying to put together a speaking tour in the US for Elul. I need to do laundry, pay bills, take care of those things that I have managed to avoid for the last 6 days. See my Mom.

I am going home, but I am conflicted. Over the past 6 days, this hill has become home and the people who have been building here have become family. I’ve made friends from all over, and my Hebrew is improving. I know that while I am in Beit Shemesh physically, my heart will remain in Gush Etzion, the area where our forefathers (and mothers) are buried, the place where some believe mashiach will come from.

But I will be back, B”EH. We are planning on coming back for Shabbat. I will be baking challah on the hill on Friday, around 1pm, I’m guessing, if anyone wants to join me in hafrashat Challah. And on Shabbat afternoon, I will be giving a shiur. If the majority of people want my story, I will be telling it again. Otherwise I’ll probably be trying to tie-in the parsha to some inspirational idea.

What’s going to be beyond that? Who knows. Life is a journey, but the journey is not a means to an end, it is the end. It’s the getting there that’s the point. So for now we will take one day at a time and enjoy every moment of it.