Lovely, isn’t it? A second-hand market full of gorgeous clothes and accessories.
Only, it isn’t.
Because these clothes and accessories belong to the brutally slaughtered or kidnapped of the Nova party. 360 murdered. 41 taken hostage.
401 peaceful, joyful souls.
The belongings are still waiting for their owners to claim them. Most never will.
I held it together as I walked around the Nova exhibition in Tel Aviv. (open until 13.01) After all, I knew what these people had gone through, right? I knew that at 6:30 in the morning the peace of the party had been shattered and what had been a paradise was in seconds turned into a hellish nightmare… I had already seen pictures of the burnt-out cars, one on top of another. I’d heard about the bullet holes in the Portaloos, one lying on the ground, having fallen in the chaos. I knew some people had run for their lives, and some had hidden, and most who had hidden had been found and massacred, some raped first, and those who had run had been pursued… I knew about so much of it. And yet when I reached this place with the piles of clothes and possessions neatly folded, ordered and waiting, just waiting to be taken home, and my husband said, ‘This is a market where they could buy clothes’ and I had to tell him, ‘no, no, darling, these are their clothes…’ For our guide, who had himself been at and escaped from the party, told us, these were all the belongings found there. Now they are trying to return them to the families of the dead or hoping the hostages will be released so they can take back what is theirs. That’s when my heart, breaking all the while, felt as though it had been blasted into pieces. I couldn’t help comparing my students at my school with those who had attended the party. So young and naïve and innocent, peace loving, music loving, dancing souls who sought for light and love with others, a community of dancers, a community who all knew each other and loved to be together. They even looked like my students, with their vibrant clothes and piercings. They even wore the same clothes as my students. These belongings, I thought, could have been theirs.
We have around three hundred students in our school and another sixty teachers. That’s the whole school, slaughtered.
Last night I cried myself to sleep thinking about it. What would I do if this had happened to our community?
My beautiful Steiner school where I’m a home room tutor and an English Literature teacher is unusual in many ways, in ordinary times. In our teachers’ kitchen, there is always the smell of fresh homemade food, be it soup or challah. In the staffroom, there are always freshly picked flowers on the wooden sideboard, bowls of freshly picked fruit on the tables. Almost everything is made of wood, and often handmade by the teachers. We’ve an art teacher’s beautiful artwork covering the whole of one wall, handmade plant pots and fruit bowls made by our ceramics’ teacher. It’s a delightful room to enter in the mornings, in ordinary times, to see colleagues and friends, to drink and eat together, to chat and joke and sing. There’s a lot of singing. There’s almost always a play, or an exhibition, or a few days camping in nature going on. Many of our students, and teachers, love to dance.
Yet these are not ordinary times.
Now when you walk into the staffroom you see a table covered in photos of the two young men – Oh God, so young, so full of life! – students who graduated from the school three years ago, killed fighting in this war. Nir and Yair are from the same year-group, and both of their funerals were attended not just by their friends and family, but many of us at school too. Not only to show them our love, remember them and say our farewells, but also to support each other. After all, we are a family.
That’s ‘only’ two of our community gone, just like that, and we are in such mourning. But, unlike the victims at the party, they died heroes. Somehow, I find that comforting. Still, it’s difficult to sleep.
But I am grateful. For my community who are all still alive. For the beautiful nature in my kibbutz. For our animals. And for our simple, yet lovely house. I am grateful we can house refugees here from all over the country, and I can cook for them sometimes and help make their lives more bearable.
And as I take food I’ve prepared to a house of refugees, or to a house where there’s a single mother with three children because her husband is fighting in Gaza, I have to walk by the Shikli house. Amichai Shikli, you know, you might have heard of him. He’s the one who’s the Minister for the Diaspora who doesn’t want to relinquish his position because apparently the diaspora needs him right now, in these trying times. There are over twenty hostages with dual citizenship; has he visited any of their families? He hasn’t. Perhaps he’s too busy giving orders to the workers who are adding another floor to his already large house (Minister’s salary 57,000 shekels per month) work which was started a couple of weeks after the war broke out. I wonder to myself if he’s adding another floor to house the refugees. And I laugh bitterly at my own sarcasm. I wonder, if he too, has been to the Nova exhibition and experienced any guilt at all, for the fact he started a chain of events, by bringing down the last government, that caused this war.
I wonder if he cries himself to sleep at night. And I don’t think so. For while the whole country is in mourning, he is simply just spending our money.