Shayndel Plotkin
Executive Director, Liumi, Inc.

Vignettes of War #2

Vignettes of War #2

Where are my footsteps leading me? I wonder…

Today I experienced another War torn neighborhood. Kibbutz Beeri. Today my footsteps lead me to the south. To the most tragic place in our land since October 7th.

I joined a holy group of individuals as we walked through the streets, all lined with burnt homes and deserted gardens of the families that were murdered, captured and “left to die” as one of the survivors expressed to us. Does the world not see? Impossible. Our new friend, Nir, met us at the barbed wire fences where he has for years told his 7 year old daughter they were enough to protect her and that she should have no fear. He told her. But the fences were gone now, the barbed wire cut through and the promises he made to her were no longer true.

He took us to homes, remnants of homes, and told us about the families no longer alive he told us of his friends, Avi is a hostage in Gaza. He told us as we stood outside his home. He told us of his own son age 15, also a hostage in Gaza until he was released 54 days in as part of a trade for three Palestinian terrorists.
He shared with us his October 7th horrors, his eyes were glossed over and his heart was wide open and broken. He has to tell us, he says. He doesn’t alway feel he can share. It is too difficult. But today he feels he has to share so that we can tell his story when we return home.

We had to listen. We have to listen. We must tell and retell his story and make it our own.

But how do I make his story my own? I ask him?

It starts with arriving at the site of the War. As a witness, I see what happened here. I can not pretend it did not. I mildly smile and say hello. I give Nir a hug. This is how he becomes my friend. This is how he becomes my brother.

I take deep breaths as we carefully step on the gravelly, torn up road and I look deeply inside the open holes that were once walls, doors, windows; and I imagine the memories of those beautiful men and women, teens, children, babies. Families.

It is not hard to imagine. I can easily hear their laughter, their stories and songs. I can easily smell the simmers in the kitchen and the cooking that went on each day as they gathered together for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I walk through the homes of Avi and Shira. I wander through the garden of Safta and Saba. I can’t take my eyes off of the swing set of Emily and Yonatan. I see the Sukkah, still not taken down, as if it is frozen in time and will not have a future.

I didn’t want to leave the kibbutz. I still don’t know why? It will take time to understand what I saw and what I heard. It will take time to unpack and unravel the horrors that happened in the places that I stepped and stood.

How do I make their story my own? By telling it and retelling it. Is it uncomfortable for me? Yes. Is it uncomfortable for you? Yes. It’s ok to be uncomfortable.

It is unacceptable to be comfortable.

This is war. This is right now. These are my footsteps upon this land. My land. My people. This is where I am led and this is where my heart will stay. I hugged him and said lehitraot, goodbye, to my brother. I left. He couldn’t leave. He could only wander around a bit with his footsteps leading him right back to the home he once knew and that no longer exists. My footsteps lead me back to the entry gate of Kibbutz Beeri, I passed by the broken fence, the barbed wire cut through and the promises that are forever broken. I will be back.

I kiss the hot iron gate as a Mezuzah and I leave.

About the Author
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Liumi West Retreat. As a teacher, writer, and facilitator of Jewish educational seminars and curriculum, Shayndel Plotkin is passionate about working with women, children, and families to help them grow and develop – spiritually and personally. Her background in the Jewish community, Jewish education, and Israel advocacy began in the South Florida community more than twenty years ago as a writer for the Jewish press, and then as the Israel Experience Director for the Commission for Jewish Education. She has recently been certified as a female farmer in the state of Florida. Shayndel is a writer of novels, children's stories, a professional memoirist, and writer for several international magazines. She holds a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Pardes Institute and Hebrew College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications from Florida State University. Shayndel is a graduate of Midreshet Rachel Seminary in Jerusalem, where she studied Jewish texts and philosophy for three years. Shayndel is married to Rabbi Baruch Plotkin and together they have seven children.
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