Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: Bearing Witness

Ester Rada, Ethiopian Israeli singer, music ambassador to the world.

We have seen many friends, heard stories of heroism and heartbreak. Hugged scores of young and not so young brave soldiers returning home after months of serving. All are dazed, trying to readjust to life and bracing for when they have to return.

Is this the quiet before the next wave? It’s not really quiet…it’s an illusion. Noticeable changes…we see random people dressed in street clothes carrying automatic weapons. There are very few tourists, but the restaurants are filled with Israelis trying to get a break from the war.

One evening we drove to Tel Aviv to meet friends for dinner and beforehand visited Hostage Square. Experiencing the square is quite different from reading about it in the news. It took an hour to see the many displays, tributes…We spoke with family members. One memorable encounter was with an elderly cousin of one of the DJs that had worked at the Nova fest, now being held hostage. She explained that the DJ in the picture on display is a young father, his brother is an attorney living in the US. It was haunting speaking with her.

Caption on Tshirt
“these are all our children”
Hostage Square, representing the children taken.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Artist rendition of the tunnels in Gaza.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We “chose” to walk the length of the tunnel on display. It was barely a minute to walk the length of the tunnel, it seemed like forever. It was dark, cold and had noise effects. We couldn’t wait to get out…

A few days later we were were invited by iCenter   to attend a special briefing hosted in Israel (click on the link to see the great work iCenter does to educate the world on Israel). A commander (overseeing seven hundred ground troops in Gaza) and an incredible women who runs intelligence and logistics spoke. They completely depend on each other, have young families and are best friends. After the presentation we went up to them and thanked them for their service and sacrifice, saying without them there would be no Israel. This incredibly able commander gave me the biggest hug, we both had tears.

We were treated to a private concert featuring Ester Rada. Ester is stunning and her voice mesmerizing, (similar to Adele but with a Jewish gospel quality). She is Ethiopian Israeli. She sings in English, Hebrew and Amharic. She has felt rising anti semitism these past few years. Depending on where in the world she performs, she is defined as… in Israel as Ethiopian, in the US as Israeli, elsewhere as a Jew…I squirmed. She refers to herself as a citizen of the world. Her parents fled Ethiopia, she has no where else to go….

Ester Rada in concert. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

The following day we boarded a chartered bus and drove South with people wanting to see the “sites”. We visited Kibbutz Nirim one of the first Kibbutzim to be attacked. Gaza is visible from their security/mesh fence. It was heroically saved by a few of the volunteer guards from the Kibbutz, with additional help hours later by two army helicopters, five residents were killed and five were taken hostage.

Daniel, “Rambo”, saved most from the massacre at kibbutz Nirim.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We visited where Israel had towed the burnt cars, hundreds of them piled high. On display was the stolen Israeli vehicle used by the terrorists to transfer the hostages into Gaza. We were pleased to see touring the site dozens of non Jewish Chaplain police officers from abroad. They were kind, respectful and moved by the knowledge that the first line of defense was the local police force, many of which fell that day defending the area. The terrorists brought with them enough ammo to last months, they were planning on destroying the South then march North to take over all of Israel. They showed us bullets and missiles which had markings on them from Russia, Korea, Iran…

On right stolen car used by Hamas to capture our citizens, now being held hostage.
Tractor used to shoot automatic weapons into the kibbutzim. Photo courtesy Beth Kopin
Burnt ambulance from massacre.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We visited the Nova music site.  The area had stakes in the ground with photos of those killed and others being held hostage. I recognized the photo of the DJ we had seen displayed in Tel Aviv. We were told where the DJs had set up playing their various playlists. The area was not always set up as a music fest, just a nice forest with open grounds. Many of the young adult hostages came from around the world to attend the fest, hosted every year in a different country. This year was Israel’s turn.

All the slaughtered young souls from the music fest.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

There was a soldier dressed in uniform playing a guitar and singing mournfully, with a guitar resting next to him. I sensed he was playing in tribute to his friend who was either killed or being held hostage who must have been his music partner. Click on this hauntingly beautiful link to see some of the many who attended the fest, some are still being held hostage.

Our guide for the day finally spoke about his role in the massacre. He is a trained EMT and does volunteer work for an organization called Zakkah. He is one of the brave souls who chooses to rush to crime scenes to help in the sacred task of collecting body parts for proper burial of the victims. Prior to Oct 7 he aided in the collection and identification of two hundred bodies, at the site of the fest and surrounding kibbutzim it was so overwhelming seeing the carnage he became numb. He is now devoted to bringing people South to give tours, telling stories for the people who cannot speak, and barbecuing for the soldiers.

Yossi our guide, and hero.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

We drove to an army base, Pagah several hundred meters from Gaza. This base was breached early on Oct 7, thirteen soldiers were murdered in their beds. We met young vibrant soldiers, happy to see us. We fired up five bbq grills and grilled a massive amount of meat, not a scrap remained. I noticed something interesting, many of the soldiers were wearing Yalmukas and some had tzitzite (traditional fringe) hanging from underneath their uniforms, this was not considered a religious army unit.

Some of the young men were geared up as they ate. As each finished, they quietly walked off into the distance to serve for the night. I watched them walk away, with a pit in my stomach I said a silent prayer that they will live to see the sunrise.

BBQ for soldiers.
Photo courtesy Beth Kopin

The entire time we were South we heard jets flying overhead. There was steady bombing, you could feel the ground shake, and see plumes of smoke in the distance. There was a code red at the end of dinner and everyone ran into the dining area/bomb shelter. After all was calm, my group boarded the bus and drove an hour and a half back to Jerusalem. The front is so close…

On the bus in the quiet I was jolted with a memory from a few days prior, we were  visiting one of our daughters friends and her kids. We brought Squishmellows as presents. As we were being given a tour of their lovely new home, the toddler who barely said ten words pointed to their safe room and said “Azaka,” translated as emergency, sad reality…

Yesterday we drove North to meet with a buddy who suffers from severe PTSD. I told him about our time South. He said he can’t go see it now. He has many friends who were killed or still being held hostage, who attended or worked the fest as “the music guys.” He said he was afraid it would trigger his PTSD. I thought of the picture of the DJ I had just seen. I didn’t dare ask my buddy if it was one of his friends … I just knew.

It seems many people we spoke with here have not been to Hostage Square or visited the massacre sites in the South. They are still living this trauma, it’s too fresh. It was incredibly hard to go but we felt it was our duty to see it. We came to bear witness.

We are living during a scary time in our lives. We need to root out Hamas, help free the Palestinians from this tyranny. The blood of the civilians who die in this war are on Synwar’s (the mastermind behind the massacre) hands. That’s unfortunately what he wants…His goal is to have Israel kill as many (human shields) people as possible to show the world how merciless Israel is.

One final note. Israel was holding local elections. We proudly walked into the voting area. It was surreal. Please help in the fight for pursuit of truth and free people everywhere, by supporting Israel and joining our ranks. We are the future! We are Team Truth!

About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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