On the Farm

On the Farm

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I spoke too soon

Late last Friday night, just when people were starting to believe the truce would hold, a suicide bomber killed himself and four other people in front of a crowded Tel Aviv nightclub. Another sixty-five people were wounded.

Fortunately, most Israelis have remained calm. Most are unwilling to see a return to the savage retaliations of the Intifada years.

By today the story had receded to the inside pages of the Jerusalem Post. Haaretz reports today, on Page 1, that a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad has admitted "the attack was the work of a small cell acting on its own." Israeli officials are not buying this story; they insist the attack was directed by the Jihad leadership in Damascus.
Still, the people we talk to are confident the Intifada is over.

On Sunday we picked up a friend in Tel Aviv and drove north to visit the kibbutz where she grew up. Her parents, who arrived from a German concentration camp after the war, still live there. They raised six children here, all of whom lived in the children's house in the kibbutz where they ate their meals, had their lessons and slept at night. In the tradition of the kibbutz, they only saw their parents for a few hours each day.

But today it seems as if it was an idyllic childhood. The kibbutz is nestled in a shallow valley of green hills, dotted with clusters of oak trees clouded with fuzzy blossoms; the woods and fields where the kids played in the spring are full of wild irises, anemones and cyclamen as were fifty years ago. Vines, cacti and roses decorate many of the gardens around the old cottages of the kibbutzim.

Above the kibbutz, at the end of a simple road that winds around a hill, is the cemetery for this community - and here are the graves of the men of the kibbutz who died in the Yom Kippur War. Our friend's brother, a commander in the army, was just twenty-one when he was killed in 1973.

Driving back towards Jerusalem but still high in the hills on back road, we could see the Sea of Galilee, now back up to its normal levels after a winter of heavy rain. This lake, the only one in the country, provides most of Israel's water. We saw some reservoirs as well as several fish-farming ponds; we passed date palm groves where the dates hung from the trees in large net bags, and banana plantations where the heavy fruit was wrapped in thick plastic - and still on the trees. Farmers at roadside stands displayed boxes of giant strawberries; many others were out tilling fields or covering rows of vegetables with netting.
We know this country sees its future in high technology, but the farms and green valleys are as lush and productive as any I've seen anywhere.

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