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Home Sweet Home
By Rifka Saltz
Home. 'Home sweet home.' 'There's no place like home.' 'Home is where the heart is.' Our language is replete with euphemisms about home. I think about home a lot. I work in the nursing 'home' industry. This industry is in the midst of a major revolution. It is a revolution to transform the cold, sterile, hospital-like institutions that characterize most nursing homes, into places that actually resemble 'home.' If you think about it, at the mere mention of the words 'nursing home' most people cringe. Does anyone want to go into a nursing home? I teach all levels of staff in the nursing homes throughout the metropolitan NY area. I usually ask my participants to raise their hand if they want to be in a nursing home when they're old. I have yet to have one person raise his hand. Nobody conjures up the image of a warm, cozy, inviting place when they think of a nursing home. In fact, the most common refrain you hear from the elderly residents, is, "I want to go home."
Another reason I think about home a lot is because I enjoy my home so much. I get tremendous satisfaction tending to my home. I take pride in the way I've decorated it and I get pleasure from the bright light that comes through the many windows in our house. My sense of aesthetics is fulfilled by viewing the various artifacts I've thoughtfully placed throughout the house - a plant here, a vase there, family photographs up the staircase. Sometimes I think that maybe it's because I'm a woman that I get so much 'nachas' from my home. But my husband told me that there's a Gemora that says a nice home is one of the 3 main enjoyments a man has in this world.
So I guess it's no wonder that the fact that the people of Gush Katif were expelled from their homes bothers me so much. All politics aside, I personally feel so sad for all these people who have lost their homes. It hits me at different times of the day. I'll be awakening in our bedroom, and catch myself appreciating the early morning sunlight casting a golden hue to our walls, and then think of the evicted residents, wondering how they're feeling, waking up in small, crowded, dismal hotel rooms. Or I'll be looking around our living room, thinking that maybe it's time we replaced our worn-out couches. And then I'll think that the people of Gush Katif no longer have couches in their current cramped spaces.
It particularly hits me on Shabbat. That's the one day a week when everything in the house is neat and orderly, the day I won't be embarrassed if someone drops in unexpectedly. The living room floor isn't strewn with briefcases, book bags, and other assorted items. The kitchen counters aren't cluttered, and the dining room table looks like a dining room table, not a gathering spot for all the week's mail. In the morning the house is quiet and still and I have time to walk through the house leisurely, not scurrying to answer a ringing phone or scrambling to head out to work.
As I look around, I take great comfort in the modest beauty of the home we've created. It's not that our furnishings are elaborate; after all, we're working people. But together, my husband and I have created an ambiance that we enjoy, that reflects our spirits. And then I think of the residents of Gush Katif. How they also selected each wall hanging, each knick-knack, in their former homes, only to have them ripped away and destroyed. Or as we sit at the Friday night table, I feel a sense of serenity looking at all of our lovely Shabbat items, the sparkling silver leichter, the china, the crystal decanter, etc. and then I think of the people of Gush Katif. Who knows where they're spending Shabbat. What are they using for a tablecloth? On a personal level, I feel slightly guilty at all these moments when I'm enjoying my home. How can I be enjoying my home when they have lost theirs?
Again, this is not a political issue. I fully understand that people can agree with all sides of the politics of Gush Katif. This is a personal issue. My heart goes out to the refugees for the personal trauma that has affected each and every one of their lives. And I feel so small and insignificant, so powerless to help them.
My hope, my plea, my prayer, is that each of us reflect for a moment or two. When we acknowledge the security and comfort of the familiar and routine in our lives, that we utter a prayer for the people of Gush Katif. And that we send them something, a dollar or a thousand dollars, to help them regain the normalcy of life. No politics. Just heart to heart, just one Jew caring about another Jew who has lost his home.
Home is where the heart is. Maybe by opening our hearts to theirs, we can help them re-create their homes once more.
from the April Passover 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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