In solemn memory of the Jewish Massacre in Israel by Hamas Terrorists in October 2023.
On October 13, 2003 I cast my lot with the Jewish People and my Hebrew name became Ruth Devorah. One year later, in October 2004 I adopted Israeli citizenship. I made the decision to become Jewish in November 1994 while living in a little one-room apartment in North Hollywood, CA with my sons. Since the age of six years old, I learned, wondered and dreamed about the Promised Land. Religion was the centerpiece of my life since the age of six. I no longer consider myself religious. I often joke that I lost my religion in Israel. Go figure! Leave it to me to do things backwards. But my faith and fidelity to God, the Jewish People and hope for the universality of humanity has never wavered. Following is an essay I wrote about an experience I had on April 27, 2005 in Neve Dekalim, a settlement in Gush Katif or Gaza.
On April 27, 2005 I joined a legion of approximately 20,000 fellow Jews in a solidarity march I have coined Gush Katif Day. I was looking very forward to marking my six month anniversary in the Holy Land in such an international hot spot, having emigrated from Los Angeles, California to Israel on October 27, 2004. It had become common knowledge that by April’s end absolutely no one, save for actual residents of the Gush Katif region and military or government personnel, would be allowed entry into this area. As such, I could not allow this last chance opportunity to partake in history pass me by.
I intently peered out the window of our bus for the entire two and a half hour journey from Jerusalem, anxiously anticipating the opportunities of capturing some eternal and lasting impressions of this historical saga. Upon arrival at our destination, one can only imagine how pleasantly surprised I was by the scene which unfolded before me. There was a massive crowd of Jews swathed in orange, walking in unison toward a vast sea! Immediately my thoughts rushed back to a time when, many thousands of years ago, a similar scene must have taken place. Over 3,300 years ago thousands of Jews left Egypt, a place of hellish oppression and slavery under a tyrannical and Godless regime. They reluctantly followed their leader, Moses, to a promise of a better future, freedom, an uncharted path, and an eternal hope.
Our tradition teaches that freedom and land are Divine gifts. We didn't want to leave then either. Yet, had we not left then, would any of us be here now? Were these thoughts so poignant because it happened to be Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days of Pesach, the season for the reason of our existence which is freedom? I could not help but wonder whether we will ever know peace within ourselves, and amongst each other? Will we be brave enough to take a look through the looking glass? Will we be courageous enough to make the necessary changes that such a close encounter with ourselves will unquestionably deem necessary? Will we choose to unite and bridge the deep divide which separates us, and truly embody the solidarity and oneness of a diversified unity?
Quickly my thoughts rushed back to the scene before me, and my experience as a new immigrant in Israel thus far. I considered that freedom is ongoing and it comes at a high price, one has to be willing to sacrifice no less than everything. Golda Meir once stated, “Any price is worth paying for the security of Israel, so long as it is realized that its role is to preserve the Jewish People.” Beliefs shape the world, they are powerful. We are currently bound to our rigid ideologies and systems of thought so tragically and successfully serving to deepen the divide and schism within our Nation. Without a doubt, these are tough times in the history of our People. Has life ever been easy for Jews? The stakes are high and the game being played is at a universal level. Are our varied perceptions of a singular ideal so absolute?
Can we honestly state we lay claim to a deeper understanding of the machinations of international politics? Are we shamelessly capitulating to fighting a senseless war against self? At what point, if ever, will we look to ancient history to derive wisdom from the lessons of the past in order to make better choices in the present? Is now the time for the People to rally against the government, and its leaders, or each other, one Jew against another? Settler v. Soldier? Our Prime Minister, Mr. Sharon, is not in any enviable position. He happens to be a world representative of the most talked about People and Nation in all of history. Our country is hardly larger than the size of most counties in California, and yet we command this amount of global attention. Is it any small wonder?
As this vast sea of fellow Jews was set before me, I wondered whether at this point in time we will again make the brave choice of accepting the gift of freedom i.e., from our separatist ideals and rigid viewpoints - or will we choose to remain prisoners of our own beliefs? The problems with our foes are many and continuous. There exists the age-old issues of territory and of land, and some remote possibility of peace and coexisting with our neighbors. The entire world is caught up in waging the war against the dictates of the reign of terror. It seems a world full of madness, chaos and utter confusion.
Later that day, I sat on the dirt yard of the home of a resident in Neve Dekalim, a Jewish settlement in Gush Katif slated for evacuation. I listened attentively to his opinions regarding the situation. He shared that his is one of the only two homes in the entire settlement not protected by added reinforcement, emphatically or proudly pointing out this was entirely his choice. Incidentally, his home is strategically located next to a sand dune. I asked him if he found the incessant rockets and mortar shells being launched irksome. He stated he had become immune to the situation. At that very moment a mortar shell flew overhead. My friends and I remained quietly in place. His wife ran into their home.
(Written on 23 May 2005)
Diana Hochman is the author of Dispelling the Myth, a novel about world and current events.