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Reflections on the Sabra

Photo by Barbara Abraham-Vazana

Yesterday I wanted to escape the never-ending, heart-breaking, worrying news updates. So off I went to commune with nature in the cool breeze of the early morning. Stretches of green-leafed trees, unpaved paths, and open spaces nearest to my home are those surrounding Kibbutz Mishmarot. But even the breeze and the quiet, which was broken only by the birds chirping to one another as they rose from the orchards towards the slightly cloudy skies, did not remove the pain or the thoughts. The occasional 'shalom' from other passing morning walkers, joggers or cyclists made no difference to my mood as thoughts continued to bombard in my head. Each step taken only increased this mixture of sentiments, vivid recollections of past confrontations and wars we have had to face, and the question, why?

All along the path bordering the verdant avocado orchards ran a barrier; no, it was neither a wooden fence nor one of wire but one of nature – opuntia ficus-indica – the 'sabra', or prickly pear. That is what true Israelis are all about - prickly on the outside but full of inner sweetness when the protective, thick skin is removed and the flavor of the sweet juicy fruit brings delight and satisfaction to the taste buds. The origin of the plant was in the North American continent; Spanish traders, who originally carried the plant on board their ships for the prevention of scurvy, began to bring it to the Mediterranean and North African areas from the 16th century. The plants made me think about the true and wonderful Sabras that came into being in our small, once barren, country.

It was back in the 1930's, in mandate-governed Palestine, that the term flowered as they were cultivated; a determined and brave young generation which would make the State of Israel bloom. Known then as 'the new Jews' they were mainly products of the agricultural background of kibbutzim and moshavim; they were those who then took leading roles in the army, navy and air force. Tenacious and thorny they have had to be, as are those who followed them. And what would we have done without them? They are the human fences who protect our country and when many from outside taste the sweetness of the fruit they are hooked on more; they have come, are coming and will come to make their lives in Israel and be a part of our productive society.

Here they are once again, defending our right to exist, protecting the people of Israel with their thorns and strength. What would we do without their protection? On and on it goes, the never-ending wars and terror attacks taking their toll and here I am, one of the old generation, standing out there gazing at the ripe and ready fruit with tears running down my cheeks.

With these thoughts in mind I came home to write a big 'thank you' to our brave and wonderful men and women. You are part of us and we are forever proud of you. As I write I can visualize the unforgettable faces of those who have given their lives, who will not, know the joy of being fruitful, and my heart –like yours, my readers, is so heavy, but we must look to the future and say again and again: "AM ISRAEL CHAI!" Without you, we would not.

Be as prickly as you want, as you have to be - but thoughts of you will always remain sweet inside for all of us. 



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Wednesday, 19 June 2024

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