By Nachum Katz, Director of Hadassah Neurim
22 July, 2006
Twenty four yeas ago, at around this time I found it very strange that people in Tel Aviv went out to restaurants and pubs while we, the soldiers and officers deeply engulfed in the Lebanese mud were trying to create a new reality on the Northern border. I was even quite mad, as it seemed that nobody cares anymore about the thousands of soldiers fighting on the hills of Beirut.
Last night, my family and I went out to dinner at the Herzliya Marina to celebrate my fiftieth birthday, where a strange and happy world contrasted deeply with the many military helicopters flying North and South. This is their course, everybody knows. From the terrace of the restaurant you could almost see the pilot's tired eyes. No doubt that they can see the crowds gathering around the many hostesses, trying to catch a "seven thirty" table that will overlook the beautiful sunset on the Mediterranean Sea.
This time I new that only thanks to these pilots, and all the other soldiers deployed on the border can we try to maintain a somewhat normal life here, in spite of the terrorists that try to crush every routine and sane habit of ours. Thank you, soldiers, thank you!
My cell phone rang. At the same time exactly, a family of five was arriving at our Youth Village, Hadassah Neurim, also on the Mediterranean coast, twenty kilometers to the North, not far from Netanya. I don't know how they got there, but they were asking for an asylum from the rockets fired on their home. My answer was an immediate yes, and by the time dinner was served to us, at the restaurant, the new family, which I had no idea who they were, joined an already large crowd of two hundred and fifty smiling Ethiopian stemming boys and girls, plus another nine families to the Shabbat dinner in the Hadassah Neurim dining room.
During the last week we hosted these children and families, making every effort so that they will forget the strain and stress of the crowded shelters, the distant parents, the fact that they are still culture shocked and no little Hebrew, yet are already on the front line in those Northern absorption centers where they were evacuated from. Many joined in the effort.
Volunteers from Israel and abroad, organizations and businesses, all made a beautiful effort to give a few calm days to the kids. Some of the families were tired and exhausted, as they turned to us after a few days of holding out in the crowded, warm shelters, many have not worked for several days. Their work places shut down, their streets empty, their friends and neighbors fled to the South (not too South, just enough to avoid the Katyusha's, not far enough to be in the range of the Kassam's).
Twenty four years after, Lebanon again, I hope this time for good.