There is no one word that I can use to explain the emotions in Amona last night, as the announcement was made that the residents had accepted the proposal. Most of the outsiders looking in were ecstatic. News of a compromise meant a peaceful resolution. It meant the world would be spared another horror show of Jews being carried out of their homes by soldiers, or bashed in the head and beaten by our own police. However, the ultimate destruction of Amona as it stands now, is still the reality. The range of emotional responses to this reality is great.
When the final word went out that the evacuation of Amona was indeed imminent, 5,000 young people from all over Israel arrived to protest the destruction, and stand together with these families. Coming out to Amona these past weeks was no picnic, yet every time the threat of evacuation was announced, they kept coming. The weather was terrible, and the people of Amona could only provide minimal accommodations. Greenhouses were set up to protect people from the ice, rain, and wind, but the extreme cold was not something you could escape from. The greenhouses were full of young people sleeping on the cold ground, wrapped in multiple sleeping bags. Not an inch of floor space could be found in any of the resident’s homes, or the synagogue. Everybody’s house suddenly became public domain. The people of Amona were constantly making hot soup, and serving hot drinks. The dedication of the supporters was both hectic, and heartwarming.
When news of the agreement was announced, the majority of the protesters were content. They left with a feeling of accomplishment. Their presence in Amona was to stand with them through this. If that meant tying themselves together, barricading hundreds into each home, being arrested, or carried out by police, so be it. Once the proposal was accepted, they understood that as a community, the residents of Amona did what they felt was best for their families.
As is the case in any mass crowd of passionate youth on a mission, there were also those who came for the fight, and left angry. It’s not fair to call these few bad apples either. This is a generation that as young children watched the disengagement of Gaza, the destruction of Gush Katif, and the head bashing by police that went on in Amona in 2006. Their anger may be displaced, but it is indeed righteous. I have great concerns for this next generation, and if we’ll be able to handle the inevitable repercussions of our actions, or lack of action.
The adults of Amona
For parents of 6, like Elad and Sarah, the acceptance of the proposal was very difficult. It was a long and grueling process, but in the end the feeling was relief. They felt like they had fought a good fight, and in the end they were finally being taken seriously. For months they had been under tremendous stress over the outcome of the court decision, and for weeks they were without sleep fearing each day they would wake up surrounded by soldiers and police ready to pull them from their homes. When they weren’t in emotional discussions and meetings over the proposals, they were feeding and caring for the thousands of supporters. They were constantly being photographed and interviewed, never knowing if the reporter was a friend or foe. Efforts to shield their children’s pictures from being used in the media were useless. Their daily life, and lives of their children were put on hold. Many days of school were missed, and there was an understanding that homework was simply an impossibility in the chaotic scene that each home had turned into.
But for Sarah and Elad, Amona is just a chapter in their life story. It’s the chapter where they started their family. It’s where they became grown-ups, and began living their own dreams. They gave birth to 6 beautiful children in Amona, to whom they have passed down their deep love for the land of Israel. Unfortunately, this chapter ends with many of their dreams being crushed, and they will watch the home that they built destroyed. Unlike the hundreds of families who recently lost their homes to fires set by our enemies, this family will watch bulldozers sent by our own government to purposely dismantle every inch of their home until it’s just a pile of rubble to be cleaned up and thrown out like trash.
But Elad didn’t grown up in Amona. Elad spent his childhood in a secular kibbutz in Northern Israel. At the age of 11, he lived in the Philippines for 2 years, and then to the United States where he lived and learned in a school in New Mexico, and then in New York. Eventually he returned to Israel at the age of 16, moving to various places around Israel until he served in the Army, and then married Sarah. Sarah grew up in Rehavot. She first left home when she married Elad. Her and Elad lived in a few apartments before finally settling in Amona, starting this new chapter, and beginning their family 18 years ago.
The children of Amona
To the children of Amona though, this is not just a chapter but the whole book, and they are incapable of imagining anything outside of what they currently know as home. They were born in Amona. It’s where their friends are, their school, their favorite climbing tree, and their growth chart on the wall of their ‘home’. Their heart, soul, and whole life IS AMONA.
When their 16 year old daughter, Ayana, heard that one of the first proposals was monetary compensation, she was so proud of her parents for rejecting it. She hugged them when they returned home, praising them for standing up for their home, their family, and for the land of Israel. To her, it was as if the government was putting a dollar amount on her life. She was so proud when her parents told the government that our lives, and the lives of our children, can’t be bought for any amount of money.
The announcement that the residents of Amona had accepted the last proposal was made before Elad and Sarah could explain anything to their children. When they finally arrived home, there were no hugs and smiles. Ayana, and a handful of her teenage friends were furious with them. Some of them so angry that they couldn’t speak. In a fit of rage, Ayana went into her parent’s bedroom and wrote on their wall “Eretz Israel – we have betrayed you!”. And that explains exactly how she felt. She felt her parents had not only betrayed her, but the land of Israel as well. Again, it’s displaced anger, but righteous nonetheless. What Ayana, and the rest of the children of Amona are having to endure right now is not fair, and a government that would carry out such evil needs to be reevaluated.
This article isn’t about the politics or legalities of the situation. For those arguments, there are plenty of other journalists writing about who’s doing what and where the corruption is coming from. But for those who understand that Amona is more than just politics, but families whose lives are being torn apart, the battle for Amona must continue. The community may be relocated, or even wiped off the map, but the procedures for dealing with situations like Amona must be resolved. We cannot continue to destroy Jewish homes, tear apart lives, and traumatize children. These are the children we are looking to to shape our future.