A Loss of More Than Just Possessions

A Loss of More Than Just Possessions

They saw each other at the airport and sat next to each other on the airplane. Their destination was California. Being that they were seat mates, they started to talk.

"Which city are you traveling to?" he asked.

"To Los Angeles" she replied. "To join my family. They went on an earlier flight and now I'm joining them. What's your destination?" she questioned.

"Los Angeles, too" he answered. "Our home was destroyed, and we don't have anywhere to go right now. I'm trying to make arrangements for a temporary place to live."

"Our home was also destroyed," she said, visibly upset. "I didn't want to abandon my home. I lived in it all my life. Our business had to be abandoned, too. I was told I had no choice; I was forced to leave."

"I understand what the loss of a home means," he said quietly. "It makes no difference if the cause is monetary, political or because of natural disaster, it's very painful to lose a home. When I saw the images of the destruction in the news I identified so strongly with the loss of personal possessions, memorabilia, and family heirlooms, I was overcome with pain and hurt."

He stopped for a moment to compose himself, and then continued, "We lived in the same town and the same house for almost 30 years. We built the community ourselves. My family feels displaced without the loving environment that was familiar to them all these years. Our children were born into a warm and established community; it's where their memories were formed. It wasn't just our house which was destroyed, it was our home. It wasn't just bricks and mortar. It was brotherhood and unity. Yet they forced us to leave. Our homes, our businesses, our houses of worship and our cemeteries were all destroyed. We tried to protect them but we couldn't."

"I know what you mean," she said. "The people of our town were trying to be supportive of each other knowing that everyone was struggling to prevent the same loss. The clergy told us to have faith and things would work out, and so we prayed. We tried to save ourselves, by moving from place to place and eventually by climbing on the rooftops. We were ready to do anything to push off the inevitable. We were sure that help would arrive and prevent evacuation. We were so disappointed to be forced out."

"Yes, we sat on the rooftops too" he murmured. "We, too, were hoping and praying for salvation, and tried not to despair."

"Aside from each family's personal loss the national monetary casualty is staggering" she said. "Though I'm sure we'll recover, I can't see it happening in the near future."

"It is quite terrible" he said. "The economic future does look bleak - on a personal and national level - but recovery is sure to come, even if it's slow. Not only that, I heard it said that .0016 percent of the population was displaced."

" .0016? I heard that number, too. Almost everyone I know was affected" she said.

"What town are you from?" she asked. "We all live in the Southern coastal regions. Your town might not have been too far from mine."

"It did live in a Southern Coastal region. It was called Gush Katif" he answered.

"Katif!" she exclaimed, sounding quite surprised. "You're from Israel? What you described sounded so familiar, I thought you lived somewhere near me. I'm from New Orleans and we were hit by Hurricane Katrina."

"New Orleans? The home of the Mardi Gras?" he asked. "From what I've read, for many people the Mardi Gras meant promiscuity, lawlessness and lack of morals."

"Yes," she said. "To our great shame that is exactly how some acted. Maybe that basic lack of concern for others was the cause of the rioting and looting after the storm. Even many rescuers didn't feel safe. A helicopter bringing food and help was shot at, endangering the pilot and almost preventing the copter from going to help others. The looting and pillaging were horrible. The price gouging incredible!"

"There are those in the religious circles that say that the destruction of Katrina was a message connected to the destruction of Katif" she stated.

"I saw the coverage of the evacuation of Katif," she continued. "I knew the residents disagreed with the disengagement and were brokenhearted from the destruction of the lives they knew, yet you could feel a sense of love and brotherhood between the evacuating soldiers and the evacuees. When the soldiers came the residents gave up their guns. There were unforgettable pictures as the soldiers and the town residents cried together, sang together, and prayed together" she finished.

"I can agree with you on that" , he said. "When you equate the pictures of the aftermath of each tragedy, I can only say that I am proud that I was part of the tragedy of Katif and not Katrina. "

"Actually, if you compare the two tragedies, they do seem quite similar" he said as they got ready to part their separate ways. "Both cities suffered tragic and irreparable destruction. Perhaps by viewing the pictures of both tragedies, many will realize that the tragedy of Gush Katif and the permanent loss of homes was a loss of more than just possessions."

Rabbi Shea Hecht
Chairman NCFJE
824 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11213