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The TBE Blog

The Nova Music Festival was held just two miles from the Gaza border on October 7th when Hamas began their attack on Israel. Our TBE solidarity mission visited the Nova site in March. I thought I knew what to expect; I had seen so many photos and videos from that day of death and destruction. Photos of concert goers hiding for their lives wherever they could find cover, a video of Aner Shapira, an unimaginably brave 22 year old standing at the entrance of one of those bomb shelters, picking up with his bare hands the live grenades thrown in by terrorists, saving lives until the eighth grenade exploded in his grasp and killed him.

With these images in mind, I expected to find a barren space, just sand, dirt and rock. What I hadn’t understood from my vantage point sitting in America was that the Nova Festival was held in the middle of eucalyptus fields, a surprisingly peaceful place with rows and rows of trees, twisted trunks and leaves almost dancing in the breeze. Between the trees, there are now memorials for those killed there that day, and in the more open field next to them, fledgling eucalyptus trees planted in their memories.

These fields are the backdrop to the video so many of us have seen of 25 year old Noa Argamani, crying and pleading, being taken hostage to Gaza where she is still held. These sapling eucalyptus trees, planted this past January on Tu B’shvat, are now surrounded by kalaniot, bright red anemone flowers that grow wild in the south of Israel. These flowers are pushing up through the ground that has been trampled and desecrated, growing and blooming undeterred.

This month, as we observe the Israeli high holy days of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), we mourn the loss of Israeli lives to war and terrorism while celebrating the existence of our modern Jewish state. This year, I’m thinking about the bold and beautiful kalaniot, these red flowers covering the Western Negev. May we embrace the spirit of the kalaniot as the Jewish people continue to live, to grow and bloom in difficult grounds, unapologetic in our presence.

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