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ICEJ Partnering with Kibbutz Be’eri as it begins to rebuild

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By: Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid & Aliyah

I drove up to the gate of Kibbutz Be’eri, with a sense of anticipation, looking forward to the cornerstone ceremony set to take place in a few hours. Yet this anticipation was tempered with sadness as I recalled how the Kibbutz was ravaged by terrorists eight months ago. Having endured the loss of 101 friends and loved ones murdered by terrorists and the destruction of 150 buildings on October 7th, I realized that for residents, while breaking ground on the new Shikmim neighbourhood is a reason for joy, many complex feelings linger in the background.

Speaking to Channel 12, resident Miri Gad Mesika described “very difficult feelings” on this day, “but on the other hand, my home was burned down, so I don’t have anywhere to go back to. There’s no choice but to rebuild and move forward.” Similarly, Ruth poignantly captured the bittersweet sentiment of the occasion: “The guns are still firing, and we are still refugees in our own country. In these circumstances, it’s not simple to think about returning home – especially when we still have hostages whose fate we don’t yet know.” Her words resonate deeply, reflecting the difficult reality faced by many residents who yearn for normalcy amid profound loss.

Kibbutz Be’eri stands as a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity. Within a week of that black Shabbat, they reopened their Printing House, a symbolic move which brought unanticipated results. Yigal, a resident and local leader in Be’eri, noted the impact of this decision, “The printing house is the heart of the kibbutz. All other operations started to function when the printing house opened. Since Be’eri serves as the biggest employer in the region, with some 400 people employed there, reopening the Printing House not only helped people return to work but also breathed life back into essential services within the kibbutz and set the stage for a wider community revival. With workers returning, the kitchen resumed operations to accommodate them, and the laundry services restarted, marking a ripple effect of restoration.”

Cornerstone-laying ceremony on Kibbutz Be’eri. Photo: ICEJ

Eshkol Mayor, Gadi Yarkoni, spoke of the difficult shared journey and of hope, “I’m full of pride and of sadness. Thank you for all who came here today. … You, who went through the worst of all – how much we went through together!!! You are a symbol. … You did the impossible from such a low place. You’ve been able to reignite hope. We get the desire to go on – to be here together and to develop the region from our children.”

Moshe Edry, Head of Takuma, the government relief response for communities affected by the war, reflected on how thankful he was to partner in this renewal, adding: “We carry a message of rebirth (t’kuma) and rehabilitation. Despite the massacre, you can grow again. This is part of the victory – you are continuing on!”

Nevertheless, residents of Be’eri have a long road ahead. Right now, all efforts are towards moving the evacuated families from hotels at the Dead Sea into 306 temporary homes being prepared for them at Kibbutz Chatzerim. The moving dates are still fluid and gaps yet remain to meet their immediate needs.

Those needs include setting up sufficient temporary education centers, purchasing replacement household items for those whose homes were destroyed, and providing ongoing trauma care.

As residents have noted, “We cannot heal until this thing is over. We need a sense of security.” Despite the many challenges yet ahead, Kibbutz members have taken the attitude, “If you build it, people will come.”And those who can return are already doing so. Today, some 100 residents have already returned to the Kibbutz. And, this week’s cornerstone-laying ceremony is a hopeful start for the 52 yet-evacuated families who will eventually make their home there.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing hostilities, the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Shikmim neighbourhood in Kibbutz Be’eri was not just a ceremonial event; it was a powerful symbol of hope, unity, and the unwavering spirit of a community determined to rebuild and thrive again against all odds.

Nicole Yoder at the cornerstone-laying ceremony. Photo: ICEJ

I was so touched by all I saw and heard from the people that day. It was a tremendous honor to be a part of this historic and special occasion. I found it so inspiring to see these people ‘choose life’ and look towards the future even though this “event” is not yet over for them and the grief and pain over the unknown fate of loved ones remains. One thing is sure, we at the ICEJ will continue to stand with Be’eri and other communities of the Western Negev as they rebuild their lives.

Please consider a generous donation to the ICEJ’s Israel Emergency Aid fund as we continue to support Israel during this difficult time.

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