Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Benei Darom

Arriving in Bnei Darom, I ran into a bit of trouble. The streets weren't as I had remembered them. And the traffic circle at the entrance? Was that there? No, my memory must have faded over the years. Eventually, after making a few wrong turns, I began to get my bearings, and eventually found my way to cousin Achikom and Sarah's house.

After the usual, "You've lost weight," comments, back-slapping hugs, and an hour or so catching up on the last four years, I had a few minutes to walk around the moshav before shabbat started. After fifteen minutes clicking shapshots, I wandered back.

"I'm surprised you were still able to find the place," Sarah told me.
"I haven't forgotten everything."
"No, but we built a whole new neighborhood. And rearranged the streets."

Foreground: Houses in the new neighborhood. Background: Ashdod.

I most remember the idyllic feeling of being surrounded by breezy olive groves and avocado orchards on Shabbat.
"It's changed a lot here since you've been gone," Sarah remarked.
"Were you okay with all the new building?""Of course! Look, we all have children who want to live near us but don't want to work in the fields or pay their salaries to the moshav. So we built the new neighborhood and they can still live near us. We're looking for young religious couples to move in. Our schools need children." Hint hint, when you get married...

New housing under construction.

Their house is wide and spacious by Israeli standards.
"When we first started," Sarah tells me, "everything was tiny. We couldn't afford anything. Now, Baruch Hashem (thank God) we have all we need."
Still, there is some nostalgia for the old days.
"I remember when you could walk to Tzomet Benei Darom (the Benei Darom intersection, a major transfer point for busses) in fifteen minutes. Then, they took half our land to build the freeway.
Looking out of the new neighborhood towards the freeway.

I remember getting off the bus at Tzomet Benei Darom, dodging the cars, and walking over construction of a newer freeway when I used to come for visits back in 2000.
"Then," Sarah continues, "they build another freeway. Then they built an interchange and onramp. You can't even walk to the bus station now, I'll have to give you a ride when you go."

The last remnants of older settlement.

Sunset over Ashdod. Midground: Benei Darom olive groves.

Dogs running on the main street in the new neighborhood.

Walking out to the old orange groves, I'm met by a stainless steel gate fence, padlocked shut. Looking out towards Ashdod, I see a network of shiny new fences delineating the fields. Only four years ago, this whole area was open. Walking through the groves on Shabbat, I would often pass by Bedouin shepherds passing through with their flocks. One Shabbat, I even walked clear to Ashdod, miles away, without encountering so much as a picket fence.

A fence at the orange orchards.

But the construction boom has brought with it many advantages, including new money to spruce up public spaces within the Moshav.

Foreground: a new fountain and garden. Midground: the Moshav Sukkah. Background: the new neighborhood.

The orange groves.

Eventually I meet up with Achikom and Sarah's son, Uri. He fills me in on the lates news in olive worms, chicken diseases, and the oranage harvest. They've stopped making soup nuts (little yellow crunchy crutons that Israelis put in their soup,) but they're now making chickens and hot dogs. So, despite the changes, the farm life continues.

The Benei Darom Shul (Synagogue)

1 comment:

Ephraim said...

I'm sure they would be glad to have you around to help out.