I went to a talk given by someone who grew up in Gush Katif (Gaza Strip) and was living there when the expulsion of all Jews took place in 2007. It was more of a dramatic presentation than a speech, actually. I came a few minutes late and when I entered, saw her standing in the center of the room with a balloon in her hands, with a number of other balloons on the floor. She moved to Gush Katif as a five year old in 1978, married and had five children there. Each balloon represented a memory in her twenty five years of living in Gush Katif (specifically Kfar Darom).
After she finished sharing the last vignette, someone rose from the audience and began to viciously pop every balloon, until all that were left was her sobbing, prostrate on the floor, with the shreds of the balloons scattered around her.
As a haunting song played the words from Tehillim, “G-d, why have you abandoned me?” and then went on to sing about the dawning of light, she slowly got up and began to gather the shreds of the balloons – the shreds of her life. She bit by bit fastened them to a shape of a house made of tape on the wall behind her, as it became clear without words that her home now has been built upon the shreds of broken memories and dreams of the expulsion.
As the song came to a close, she sat down with a tehillim in her hand, the ribbon of a single balloon that said LOVE (representing G-d) wrapped around her hand, the balloon floating above her head.
It was amazingly powerful.
Then she shared with us about the background to this presentation. She said after the expulsion she spoke many times before audiences until she reached a point she couldn’t listen to herself talk anymore. Then for years she didn’t talk about it, until a couple of months ago she went to a therapeutic drama workshop. She was asked, “Where are your memories of Gush Katif?” and she responded, “They’re locked up tightly in a box inside me.”
The presentation she gave was a direct result of her therapeutic process, as she began to open up and deal with the emotional trauma she experienced. She told us how much she regretted having agreed to speak, and procrastinated about her preparations for this talk until the day before. I was shocked to learn that this was the first time she’s ever presented in this way; she said it was very difficult for her emotionally. Her emotion had been apparent but I thought perhaps it was done theatrically. Our feedback to her had been that her message was incredibly powerful and touching, a testament to the suffering and loss of all those expelled as well as a the power of faith in G-d.
When I was younger, I wondered how the Holocaust could have happened – now in front of our eyes we see people calling for the death and destruction of Jews in countries around the world and it’s clear not only how it happened, but that it could easily happen again. I see news headlines that are so bizarre that I think they must be parodies – yet they aren’t. I see a worldwide justification of pure evil and the victimization of those who advocate for truth and justice.
In the middle of this incredibly disheartening and discouraging time, in the middle of the fear and frustration – we’re seeing miracles here in Israel (read an example of one miracle here). Miracles every day that remind us that G-d is truly looking out for us.
The massive terror tunnels that crisscross underneath all of Gaza and leading into Israel civilian centers have been discovered, the mindboggling terror plot that has been in the planning stages for years and was set to take place on Rosh Hashana this year that would have resulted in the death of thousands – it was revealed and thwarted at the very last moment, just in time for us to take actions to save ourselves. It came about through circumstances that were incredibly painful, but it allows us to directly see and feel G-d’s love and kindness in the midst of our difficulties.
Here, here and here are some of my past Tisha B’Av posts that include links to different videos and lectures for children and adults. This year Ohr Nava has a lineup of speakers available online, as does the Chofetz Chaim Foundation (and many others – please share in the comments section if you have a favorite!). Learning Torah is forbidden on Tisha B’Av; unfortunately, Jewish history is filled with suffering, and reading/ learning about any of that is appropriate on this day.
Wake the Dawn: The Story of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple is a video that I plan to watch with our children on Tisha B’Av.
I usually read Book of our Heritage and learn the laws relating to the three weeks. Another book that I love for Tisha B’Av is ‘And Rachel was His Wife’ – this is a novel set in the times of the Temple that is engaging and well-done, suitable for approximately ages 12 and up.
Tisha B’Av is not only the saddest day of the year, but the hardest fast of the year. I can’t quickly find my past post about how to physically prepare for a fast but for those of you who see this in time, I’ll briefly suggest: lots of fluids (3 – 4 liters daily) ideally for the two days before the fast; the meal before the fast should be a mixture of proteins, good fats and some carbohydrates. Watermelon is a wonderful food in the day or two before the fast to get you hydrated and keep you hydrated!
May this year our sorrow be turned to gladness!