The following letter is from Alifa Sadiyah, one of our Rico friends from Israel. She lived on the moshav that was destroyed by the terrible fires this past spring. With her permission, I am posting her letter, and have encouraged her to visit Ricochet to know there is one fine group of people that supports her and wishes her well. Here’s her letter:
Thanks so much for your email. I’ve been wanting to post something on Ricochet, but I find (as others here have found) that I can’t get my brain organized and find the energy to think out what to write — unless someone asks.
It’s beginning to sink in what a horrible experience this has been. Right now the absolute worst part is that about 30 families from the community are living in one section of the guest houses at Kibbutz Hafetz Haim, near Gadera/Ashdod. In many ways it’s quite pleasant: lots of green lawns; the large families have cabins; my daughter Shira and her two kids have two rooms, and I have one room, shared with our dog and one of the cats that was rescued. The drawbacks are that the food in the dining hall is abominable, and we are far away from “home.” We do not know if we will be moving out of here the end of this month, or maybe in January. On Sunday night there’s a meeting at which we will get a better idea.
We are supposed to be getting “karavilot” (a caravan-villa) as temporary housing until we can rebuild, but those cannot be installed until there is electricity and water. There are a number of legal issues that have to be resolved before we can rebuild. I suspect this will take years.
I go back to the moshav every few days to check on the cats that live around my house. My beloved Tiger and Jadwiga appear to be gone forever, but Nate, Mommy-T Cat, Kitten Little, and Roberto come to the house to eat. There is another very shy cat that I see sometimes, and one of the black cats with no name. One of my neighbors had been feeding the cats after the fire, and he realized that some other animals were eating the food, so he got permission from another neighbor whose house was destroyed to use the leftover wood from their building project to make cat feeders — just a box with a cover and an opening large enough for the cats. He also got a waterer that refills itself. Of course there is no running water into my house, so it’s just a hose hooked up to the outside connection after the water meter was replaced.
My house still stands, but Shira’s house on top was completely burned, leaving only the twisted I-beams and the frame for the cover over her porch. Miraculously, my car survived, and only needed a good cleaning. Maybe the car cover I put on before leaving for the States helped.
My house will have to be demolished, but I’ve been searching through the ashes and have found a few little treasures, such as my father’s mess kit from World War II, only a little blackened. I searched through the ashes in my bedroom for jewelry, but it was all lost. I did find a substantial lump of gold that was a ring I loved: it had a pruta coin from year two of the First Revolt. That coin had been minted when the Temple was still standing. The coin must have melted before the gold did. There were a few ceramic things that were undamaged, but I don’t have hope of finding anything else of even sentimental value.
The thing that bugs me the most is losing my entire library, about 500 books. Most of the books were on history, geography, the Holocaust, Jewish studies and religion in general, medicine and nursing, plus a lot of reference books I needed as an editor. I had a large collection of classical music, and I was really sad to lose a CD collection of early recorded Gospel music called Goodbye Babylon which came in a wooden box with a tuft of cotton.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, it’s only stuff; almost all of it can be replaced… you need to be grateful that no lives were lost…” Yeah, I got that. It’s a real Zen moment. And, sure, at my age I needed to downsize anyway, but there are moments when I don’t feel very philosophical. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life cooking on a tiny apartment-sized stove when I had a beautiful Lofra. And I know my refrigerator was getting old anyway, but it was the only one I ever had of which I loved the interior design, and besides, it was my neighbor Emery (a refrigerator repair man) who came with me when I bought it and told me why that model was the best design for the climate in Israel. Emery died shortly after, and the house he and his wife built was consumed. Zelda told me she found two steel balls amongst the ruins — those Chinese balls with bells inside that you used in a kind of hand massage. Someone had given them to Emery when he was doing chemo, and he passed them on to Zelda saying she would need them.
What is really infuriating is that there has been a lot of looting in the houses where the interiors did not burn, and my house (which has no doors or windows) is missing two cast iron skillets and a ladder that would have survived. Unless looters are looking for cat food, they won’t find anything worth stealing, thank goodness.
So, I’ll close here. Today, on a more positive note, some volunteers are coming to do tree planting on the moshav, and I want to join them.
Thanks so much for being in touch. You can post this on Ricochet if you like.