Rita & Samira Naim
Some months after the Israeli retreat from Lebanon I wrote about the Tsadal refugees who were temporarily based in Kibbutz Mayan Baruch. Seven years have passed since then – seven pretty lean years for many it seems. A percentage of those who fled over the border, escaping Hezbollah wrath, have found a future with financial and other means to make a decent life for themselves. But many still find life here difficult and feel they have become a forgotten element even though they risked and gave all to fight with Israel.
One of these is Samira Naim whom I met as she washed the floors of a show room in a commercial center in Kiryat Shimona. She heard the saleswoman saying my name and stopped her chores to tell me, "Oh – did you know that we have a Saint Barbara?" I saw the cross around her neck, heard her accent and understood. "Your husband was with Tsadal wasn't he?" I asked. She smiled politely and nodded. I verified that they had stayed on in Kiryat Shemona and asked her how they were managing. A thoughtful frown changed her expression as she shrugged her shoulders and replied, "It is not easy for us you know." Wanting to tell me more, she invited me to visit her for coffee and a chat before getting on with her job.
My visit was just before Christmas and I found the small basement apartment she shares with her husband and daughter in one of the older areas of the town. They had done their best to make it comfortable, everything was in its place and spotlessly clean. Room had been made for a small, modestly decorated Christmas tree in one corner. Samira pointed to the photograph of a pretty little girl that stood between two religious portraits. "This is the best thing that happened to us since we had to leave Lebanon – our daughter Rita, our only child." Tears came into her eyes and she excused herself to go and make coffee.
Over coffee I heard their story. Originally from Beirut, Samira had left the city where she was employed as a secretary when she had married her husband and settled in his hometown of Kaliya. Proudly she showed me photographs of their comfortable villa in Lebanon, but then sadness creased her face again as she told me it had suffered damages in the war and has fallen into complete disrepair. News from Southern Lebanon reaches them in roundabout ways but as her husband, an officer in the Engineering Corps, is a wanted man they will never be able to return as long as Hezbollah exists. "Yes, my husband is employed here but even with our combined wages it is difficult to finish the month." Her health is not good and has prevented them having more than the one child. Samira explained that in many ways they feel let down, that they sacrificed so much to fight for the Israelis, and apart from a number of top commanders, the remainder of the Tsadal have found their position vis a vis Israeli bureaucracy problematic. Her Jewish neighbors are kind and supportive. However, many Israeli Arab communities are disapproving of them and they are not made welcome.
Her husband returned from work, and in spite of his overall politeness I could sense his pain at what they had sacrificed and what they now had. "We cannot even manage to replace a computer for Rita. it will work no more – and it is Christmas." He shrugged, then smiled and nodded, claiming that they would still enjoy the Holy Days.
I came home and decided to try and find out what was really being done to assist this sector. A number of calls and an email requesting information to the Office of the Interior for my proposed article brought no feedback – the spokeswoman, it seems, is too busy doing other things. A search on the Internet shone no light on the problem that exists so I have still decided to write some words in the hope that perhaps one of our readers has an unwanted computer to spare and if so, please contact me.
In hope and appreciation, please contact me at Tel: 04-626-9658.