כאן בונים תיירות
מצורפת הכתבה של אורלי גולדקלנג על עוז וגאו"ן
הכתבה פורסמה בדיוקן של מקור ראשון של שבוע שעבר
The following article appeared in Hebrew in this past Friday's Mekor Rishon, Diukan, September 5, 2014, pp. 4-5
written by Orly Goldklang
translated into English by Women in Green
Here we are Building Tourism by Orly Goldklang
It's hard to miss the tourist sign leading to Givat Oz veGaon, if only because of the picture of the three kidnapped youths that it bears and that causes a twinge in your heart. As soon as you leave your car, the smell of a Bnei Akiva camp fills the air, the smell of youth, summer, and everything that was taken from those three, as if it comes to compensate those who remain here.
This was a Monday, Tammuz 2 [June 30], the last day of the past school year. At eight that night the official announcement was received about the finding of the missing youths' bodies. At eight and one minute Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar were already on the way to the Gush Etzion junction with sleeping bags and an inexhaustible amount of ambition. The objective was the nearby hill, but on the way they came across a spontaneous assembly of Gush Etzion residents close to the hitchhiking station where the kidnapping took place, and they joined the crying and prayers there. Later that night they came to the site reinforced by many supporters, and began to prepare the hill, that is named after the three youths: Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali. Nine and a half weeks later, it's hard to believe that not long ago this was a bare, rocky hill, not to mention - a garbage heap, with an abandoned and filthy Jordanian structure.
Nadia and Yehudit know their work. There is nothing makeshift or temporary here. There are signs, there is order, there is organization. The Jordanian structure was spit-and-polished that very night, trails were prepared, along with a not inconsiderable number of hearts and minds. The first generator arrived, and after it a steel door and windows were purchased. They say that they find Divine Providence everywhere there. For example, on the first night, when they discovered a well with water that proved helpful in scrubbing the place, or, for instance, the dozens of volunteers who spent this summer building the sites, or the donations of food, trees for planting, and wood for furniture.
This is not going to be a yishuv ("settlement"). We are not talking about Tekoa E or Bat Ayin D, of blessed memory. The establishment of yishuvim has become a dirty word , and at any rate, the time has come to advance a bit. A ramified tourist corner is situated here, one that is taking its first steps with impressive speed. The full vision of the two Women in Green includes guest rooms and a museum, a visitors' center, and even a hotel. Nature has provided the rich forest, they plan to mobilize the rest.
A New Kitchen and Mosaic Paving
They met during the struggle against the disengagement, two women infused with faith and charm, who are twenty years apart in age. Somehow, the older woman of vision and the younger, temperamental one became best friends. Which one is the actual leader of all this? Depends who you ask. If you ask Nadia, it is clear to her that Yehudit is the leader. If you ask Yehudit - you guessed right - Nadia is the one who leads. They shared a tent at the site during the first three weeks of setting up. Two women who already have grandchildren, one of them is approaching seventy, set up shop in the heart of the forest and continued working.
After years of major struggles, they no longer believe in petitions or calls for protest. "If you collected ten thousand signatures and you succeeded in making noise," Nadia says, "so what? Without a presence on the ground, it doesn't work."
The ground, in this case, is the heart of the matter. When the south was in flames and the north suffered from a dearth of visitors, this natural tourist pearl succeeded in attracting many scores of youth and adults who are the farthest away from the hilltop youth that can be imagined. A Canadian Jewish National Fund delegation worked here and prepared paths, youth from Ezra and Bnei Akiva who came from throughout Israel planted, cleaned, developed. Groups from Bat Yam and Petah Tikvah built wooden tables and pergolas. And alongside this, the weekly activity of Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow, to be precise) moved to here.
Surprise - this doesn't anger the army. To the contrary. When we begin the local tour, we are joined by a group in uniform. As they draw nearer, we see among them the deputy commander of the Etzion Battalion, Eitan Picard, and Safi, the Druze ordinance officer, who immediately gives out tips on the right way to plant medicinal herbs. Whatever you need, Picard says, just ask. The Etzion Battalion commander, Amit Yamin, visited here that same day together with the [Gush Etzion Local] Council head. "He was all white and filthy, after 18 days of searching," Nadia relates. "This, our presence here, caused him to smile after the long, tense days." Like him, politicians who visited here, too, have already given their blessing.
Our tour passes alongside ecological toilets. Yes, the color green has several meanings here. Toilets with sawdust, water recycling, recycled materials. An ecological hill? I ask, doubtful, and the two give up and admit: This is the thing of the young people, they brought it. The young are the forest guardians, headed by the Kimhe couple and their outdoors baby who manages to charm everyone here. The cute one year-old baby, who in the first days was afraid to step on the stones here, now confidently runs between the children's corner and the social coffee house (five shekels for a cup, for those interested) that was opened in the Jordanian house, and which now boasts a new kitchen and impressive mosaic paving.
In addition to the Kimhe family, we also find staying in the spacious (separate) tent area Efraim and his group. A young man with a heavy Russian accent, a student in Rabbi Neeman's Zionist Midrasha, who set up here together with other Midrasha graduates. Nadia and Yehudit beam with pleasure. The two hard-working directors have nothing but admiration for the young generation that has joined together with them, and for the 75-year-old Orbach from Alon Shvut who directs the construction work.
The barbecue and zula hangout are already set up. But don't let all this deceive you. "People come here to work," Nadia says. "Parents came to us with tears in their eyes, and explained what this place did for their children. They don't move at home, but here, all of a sudden, they want to show their parents the wonderful thing that they built with the own two hands."
Along with the high-profile memorial service for the three youths, and the trees that were planted in their memory, several celebrations have already been held here. There was already a brit (circumcision) and a sheva berakhot here, and a seventieth birthday party for a grandmother in whose honor a fig tree was planted. If you're considering a celebration in the area, don't wait too long. Several additional events are already signed up - from bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs to weddings, and other events. Not to mention the Sukkot events that are approaching.
The finely cared for hill still isn't ready for a young woman in high heels, but every day that passes here, another path is prepared and another part of the place is brought to life. Anyone who came this week will not recognize it in another month. But as Nadia promised, Yehudit looks far ahead. "This will be a rural area in the style of Neve Ativ in the Golan. A small place that preserves a rich and pampering tourist area." And when she says small place, she obviously looks out at the nearby hill and the nearby target, for it should be mentioned: "Under no conditions will any tree, plant, or branch be cut from it, just as we are adamant in the current area."
Where does the strength to dream come from, I ask Yehudit, one of the thirteen women from [Beit] Hadassah [in Hebron], who have been engaged in settlement activities already for decades. "If you stand still for a moment, you go backwards," Yehudit says. "You have to think and plan ahead all the time."
The evening hour of the month of Elul, the air of Gush Etzion begins to be cool. What will be in the winter, I ask them, but they aren't getting excited. "Don't ask what will be in the winter," Yehudit says. "Come. Give your support. It will be a fine winter here. Nahshon son of Aminadav did not ask what will be in the winter when he leaped into the sea. He did not wonder what was the temperature of the water or whether it was cold."
A moment after that historic leap into the water, the gates of the Red Sea opened and the Children of Israel passed through on dry ground. Oz veGaon has already succeeded in opening the southern gate of Migdal Oz and in renewing the Jewish presence on the road leading to it. When Nadia and Yehudit stand as a wall on their right and on their left, dozens of young people and adults already pass along the way, preparing it for the next generation. Of them, and perhaps of the State, as well.
Two sleeping bags, a generator, and ambition. Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover
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