There was a place not far from Jerusalem that used to be owned by a Jewish family. It was called The Cohen Farm and it was founded on September 6, 1935. The farm was abandoned during the Arab riots and then remained under Jordanian control until 1967 – when we won it back with our blood, sweat and tears.
Many people hoped to return to this land after 1967, but there were always hurdles, issues and excuses. And then, in 1982, a group of determined families decided to make it happen. And they came up to the rocky, windy hill, set up their tents and declared that they weren’t leaving. They took turns, making sure at all times that someone was there to man and protect the land. And eventually, on July 18, 1982, Neve Daniel became a reality.
And why was it named Neve Daniel? Nebi Daniel was the location, several kilometers southwest of Bethlehem, where a convoy that was bringing supplies to Gush Etzion was ambushed in March of 1948. During the 30 hour battle, fifteen Jews were killed and 73 were wounded.
We live where we live today because of the fortitude, strength and determination of the people who came before us; the people who simply said "We aren’t leaving." They declared that this was going to be our their community and they stuck it out in tents, then in caravans and then, eventually, in houses that they could call their own. Today, it is a glorious, thriving community of 450 families who have a similar vision and a desire to live in Eretz Yisrael and to fulfill our dreams.
On the night when the bodies of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were discovered just two weeks ago, the yishuv of Givat Oz V’Gaon was started. It’s a beautiful wooded piece of land set back from the road right at Tzomet HaGush. It was already called Givat Oz, and they added the V’GAoN to it to represent Gilad, Eyal V’Naftali. Now, this is State Land which has never been privately held. At the moment, it’s designated as a tourist location, so it could be used for guest houses, museum, picnic areas and more.
And so, a group of people led by the Women in Green (co-founded by Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover) and the Zionist Midrasha have decided that it’s time for this land to be used, loved and enjoyed. And one of the many reactions to the murder of our people that we often take is to establish more neighborhoods – to build and settle, and by doing so to show the terrorists that we will not be scared away by their tactics and that we will not bend to their will and leave our Land. Here is an explanatory video about the vision for Givat Oz V'Gaon:
We have spent a good deal of time at Givat Oz V’Gaon in the last two weeks since it was started. We have made pita, explored the surroundings, listened to lectures and delivered drinks and snacks. There have been mosaic workshops, challah baking events and times to build and plant. They have meticulously restored the building and have made the surrounding area livable and nurturing.
Then, last week, we decided to take it up a level by staying for Shabbat. I wasn’t sure how Yakir would do camping, so I sent Josh and the five other boys for the Shabbat. They had such a lovely time , and so this week we ALL returned this Shabbat with friends of ours.
It was a truly glorious Shabbat. There were probably 60-70 people staying for Shabbat, and many others walked from Migdal Oz, Alon Shvut and Efrat to join us for davening and meals. We all set up our tents and brought all of our food with us. We brought games, toys, Shabbat clothes, delicious food and a sense of awe and wonder at what people are willing to do and the commitment they are willing to make.
The area was well lit and had a generator to ensure that we had lights through the night in the surrounding areas. The spirit was uplifting and inspirational throughout Shabbat. Everyone enjoyed the meals together and beautiful new wood picnic tables that have only been built by the team in the last week. We sang songs, told stories, laughed and enjoyed the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Late in the day on Shabbat, right before Seudat Shleeshet, the air raid siren wailed, warning us of incoming rockets. We had told the children exactly what to do, and everyone ran for the small stone building that sits on the site. While I was running towards it, with a shoeless Yakir in my arms and a number of children charging behind me, Nadia Matar (the co-founder of Women in Green) was standing by the shelter saying, “Slow down. You’re ok! We have a minute and a half. You’ll get here. Come everyone, come.” It calmed me and allowed me to realize that I was part of a group, and that we were all going to get through this together.
It was very nurturing and really set the tone. Once inside, everyone gathered together quietly and respectfully and waiting to hear the booms, and then to wait another few minutes. As we exited the space, people broke into song. We wrapped up Shabbat with Torah, song and a beautiful group Havdalah.
The entire experience was beautiful. We feel privileged to have a way to turn our children’s feeling of helplessness, frustration and fear into something positive and uplifting. Whether this turns into a hundred family yishuv, a visitor’s center or something else, it is a great message to teach our children; they are helping to build the land and to give the message to terrorists that we won’t be stopped by terror and won’t be paralyzed by fear. Rather, they are being propelled into action.
And this is what we do.
Neve Daniel, Israel