By the third week of the war in Gaza, most of the residents of northern Israel have been evacuated from their homes, because of Hezbollah missiles and mortar attacks. They have become refugees in their homeland, uncertain about the possibility of returning home and resuming their life. Some communities have stayed together in close by facilities, and were able to maintain some kind of routine in their displaced situation. While others were scattered all over Israel.
On October 21st, I wrote to my friend Sima in Kibbutz Eilon to inquire about her well-being. She responded that she and her life partner, Yehuda, chose to stay in Eilon. Sima mentioned that most of the Kibbutz had been evacuated, and they are scattered all across Israel. But she and Yehuda decided to stay at home tending to the gardens, caring for the animals in the children’s farm, feeding the cats, alongside other Kibbutz members who also chose to stay.
I met Sima during our university days. She had polio as a baby and moves around in a wheelchair. But that never stopped her, and I doubt if her disability was a major factor in her decision to remain in Eilon. Perhaps she believed that more could be done at home, and she seems content with her choice.
We’ve been exchanging messages, and each time, Sima shares something small but wonderful that she and Yehuda have been doing, and sends photos. Yesterday, she mentioned that they were waiting for rain. And then sent a video showing Yehuda planting anemone bulbs. Later, a young girl, a granddaughter of an evacuated kibbtz’s member, visited and joined Yehuda with planting. It was such a hopeful sight that also explained their wish for rain. Today, Sima sent me a photo of herself in her wheelchair, and wrote “you can see a camera attached to the left handle of the wheelchair, we document life at the evacuated kibbutz”.
In her memoir A Widow’s Story (2011), Joyce Carol Oates recounts the year following her husband’s death. She writes about her husband’s love for gardening and how she attempted to maintain the garden after his passing. Oates notes that gardening is the most optimistic pastime, as you always look forward to the forthcoming season. In our collective grief, I feel that Sima and Yehuda are the gardeners who give us hope as they are busy planting, watering and waiting for rain, remind us that there will be a new season soon.