"Did you see the houses?" My eldest daughter asked.
I knew, right away, which houses she meant. I had not seen yet them. So, she grabbed my hand, pulled me from the Beit Knesset (synagogue), and... there they were, on the next ridge.
"See the Israeli flags;" she said, "you can see the corner of that room..." she added, pointing.
On first glance, I saw three large, grey piles of rubble. But then I saw the details too: a cabinet door; the white walls, now broken and covered with dust and debris; the flags, blowing in the afternoon breeze. It was surrealistic.
There were nine houses in all, now nine piles of shattered dreams.
GS, our host, told us some of their stories. Each home, each stone, crushed and destroyed, told the story of a young family, excited about building a home, and a community, in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).
I've know GS for almost as long as I've been in Israel. When we both lived in Katamon (or thereabouts), we often had Shabbat meals together. GS originally moved to Amona for "a year or two." That was 7 years ago, and she has been inviting us to come for Shabbat ever since.
To get to Amona, we drove through Ofra, then turned onto a small windy road, to reach the mountaintop community of 40 families, living in caravans. Amona was founded eleven years ago, by three families from Ofra, on land that technically still belongs to Ofra. Many of the families living there today have one or two members who grew up in Ofra and neighboring Beit El. The community is warm, friendly, and accepting.
The air is crisp and clear in Amona. Even during these hot summer days, it is pleasant to walk around in the late afternoon and evening. Around 5:30 pm, we walked to the "visitors center", a lookout tower above a large Crusader archeological park. But you need not go anywhere special to see the spectacular view. From outside GS's door, you can see straight to Jerusalem (Mount Scopus) and Herodian.
When GS originally moved, few Israelis had heard of Amona, including us. Unfortunately, that changed in 2005. The entire country's attention focused on Amona, as hundreds of Israeli youth protested the scheduled demolition of the nine homes.
The Israeli police were brutal, and used excessive force and violence. They detained many of the teens, often in solitary confinement. These children (some as young as 13 and 14), were held for weeks (and months), with no charges, and no access to legal representation. The silence of the "human rights" and "children's rights" advocates was blaring. These organizations, dominated by an openly left-wing leadership, apparently do not believe that children with right-wing views deserve protection under the law.
That double-standard should not surprise us. After all, it was Peace Now, an organization that protests the demolition of Arab homes as inhumane, that actively advocated and petitioned the courts to destroy the nine Jewish homes in Amona.
Our army is getting proficient at throwing Jews out of their homes.
Though all these thoughts went through my mind during our journey and visit to Amona, the thing that struck me the most, was the peaceful beauty of the yishuv.
At the center of the yishuv, is a modest Beit Knesset and a small park with a wooden jungle-gym, surrounded by flowers, bushes and several young trees. The caravans stretch across several ridges. The people who passed us, all greeted us with smiles, and the sound of children's laughter wafted through the air.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,