My Story of our factory on the Gaza Israel Border
Built for the people of Gaza & Destroyed by Hamas!
by Moshe Robinson
Shabbat Shalom. I am honoured that, Rabbi Hackenbroch; Rabbi Blachman and the honorary officers of this amazing community that l have called home for three decades have asked me to share my story, experiences with the Kehilla today. Most importantly l thank you for your indulgence.
There has and continues to be so much disinformation about the reality of the Gaza strip vis a vis Israel that l felt, if l may be allowed to put a little context to it through my personal journey it might help clarify a few points
On the 25th April 1982 Israel completed the evacuation of its military forces and installations as well as civilian settlements from the Sinai Peninsula, handing over sovereignty of the area to Egypt and withdrew to the newly defined international border. Menachem Begin the then Prime Minister of Israel, the same man who had declared years earlier, that he would not give up “one inch” determined that Peace with Egypt was a price worth paying. Not all Israelis agreed at the time and as a young man living in Israel, l partook in the demonstrations against the demolition of Yamit, a town of some 2500 Israelis. Now 40 years later l realize that Menachem Begin was right and l wrong. Peace and Hope is what we as a nation have always and will always stand for and aspire too.
Similarly, in 2005 the then Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon gave orders to dismantle military posts and 25 civilian settlements in the Gaza Strip where over 9000 Israeli citizens lived, in relative peace with their almost 2 million Arab neighbours. He handed over control to the Palestinian Authority in the true belief that our peoples could once again live side by side in harmony. Each being responsible for their own. However, Just two years later with the uprising of the Hamas, an off shoot of the Moslem Brotherhood from Egypt, in Gaza, their leader and founder Ismail Haniyeh manipulated the Gazan people who had had enough of the corruption of the PLO and of being treated like second class citizens by Yassir Arafat. Hamas was duly elected by the people of Gaza to Govern. I hope my story will demonstrate how we got from then to now!
The story starts in Dublin in the 60’s where Beryl Davis grew up in a Jewish traditional Irish family. Beryl came back to Judaism, having taken a slight detour on the way, when she found herself working as a seamstress in a small factory in Chorley Lancashire. When she came across a new 3M invention, namely the reflective tape that we all know so well now, she experimented by sewing it onto a waistcoat. This became the now globally famous high visibility waistcoat that every security; warehouse etc person knows so well. Beryl set up on her own in Chorley, got married and proceeded to move to Israel with her husband and two children which had always been her life’s ambition. I found quite by chance several months ago that Beryl is our very own cousin of Zachary our renowned Shamash of this School! A small world indeed. Having become a Haredi working mum of two, Beryl fitted in to the community in Har Nof, a religious suburb of Jerusalem and (home to the Blachman family), continued to run the factory in Chorley by remote control. Beryl however had other ambitions, which was to create a factory in Israel. To that end she met up with her ex-factory manager originally a Mancunium himself who had also gone on Alyiah and whom l had known for many years. The three of us set about looking for a factory which would allow us to compete with the likes of China yet be blue and white. At the time Ariel Sharon was the then Prime Minister of Israel and was encouraging Yassir Arafat as the Head of the PLO to try and raise the standards of living in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They came up with a plan to build an Industrial Park on the Gaza Israel border at a crossing called Machsom Erez. The Erez Crossing. The intention was for Gazan people to be able to walk to work over the border into Israel each day and earn a living from the many Israeli factories that like us sought good competitive ways of manufacturing.
This collaboration for the benefit of the Gazan People between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government went against all that Hamas stood and aspired for. It soon became very evident that the only goal of Hamas was in in fact to take over the running of Gaza through sheer terror. Not only terrorizing Israel but also their own people, which of course has now become so evident to the entire world. Unlike the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, that ultimately brought an end to terror in Ireland with a peaceful settlement, that was never the intention of Hamas. To further their political and terrorist aims they started to send suicide bombers to our Industrial Park, blowing up hundreds of innocent Gazan Arabs who simply walked across the border daily and went to work to earn a crust.
At the height of the park there were 7,500 workers gainfully employed between 50 factories, that were feeding over 100k fellow Gazans. What a blueprint that could have been for not only the people of Gaza but also for parts of the West Bank. Sadly, this was not how the story went. When our factory Manager called me one day expressing his concerns that one of the guys on the production line was growing a beard and praying 5 times a day we alerted the security forces. He blew himself up the following day on the crossing, unfortunately killing several of his fellow Gazans. Tragic. Ariel Sharon finally closed the Industrial Park sighting that it was too dangerous for both Israelis and Gazans working there. We moved our factory to Kiryat Gat which is where we are based today some 16 years later. The Hamas ideology of using its own people as shields to further their own warped sense of ideology has never changed. Ironically, up until 3 weeks ago we have continued to utilize a Gazan factory as a sub-contractor to meet our requirements of production. A few months ago when l was in the factory in Israel we all met up with Mohammed the owner who expressed how intolerant life had become living under the Hamas terrorist (his words) regime in Gaza. He said that the best thing that could happen to the people of Gaza would be if Israel overran and took back control of Gaza like it was pre-2005!
Today 3 weeks ago l was convinced l was dreaming when l thought l heard sirens going off. My wife woke me up and told me we had 30 seconds to get into the shelter! At that point I realized that we were in Israel and not Woodside Park. We were there to celebrate our son Danny’s wedding the following week. A wedding our very own Chatan today, Gavin was due to attend.
Initially we thought the rockets were a repeat of the same that had been going on for several years. We surmised that again Hamas was demonstrating their fear of Israel expanding the Abraham Accords with the imminent inclusion of Saudia Arabia into a new Peaceful Middle East. Alas as the day unfolded, we realized this was very different. The tragedies of that day the 7th October are well documented and known to us all. Sitting in the Maamad (the shelter) with our children; their respective partners and two dogs we felt unified. Together. The country started to quickly unify, and the fractious disunity of the past year began to dissipate as families united; the country united and very quickly the entire Jewish global nation became one, no matter their political; religious or other beliefs. Amongst the tragic stories there were also heartwarming ones where one cannot dismiss the Divine intervention that also showed itself.
Two days ago, on Thursday afternoon l got a call from my sister-in-Law who lives in Petach Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv. She was shaking with fear and told me that a rocket had landed in the building opposite her. The rocket penetrated the penthouse flat and travelled all the way down to the second floor flat where it lay unexploded! There was no one in either of the flats at the time and no injuries as a result. A “NES” miracle she exclaimed!
In times like these, our Jewish values extend way beyond sometimes even our own comprehension. Last year the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, was admitted to a hospital in Tel Aviv for emergency medical treatment. It is safe to assume that at that very time her father was busy plotting the destruction of the Jewish Nation! All this whilst we were saving her life! Difficult to compute! And this is by no means an isolated incident as Israeli doctors and hospitals receive patients from Gaza for medical treatment on a regular basis. Difficult to comprehend given the events of the 7th of October ordered by this girl’s father. That is the extent of our deep Jewish belief in the sanctity of all life. We as a people hold ourselves to a moral and humanitarian standard that at times is difficult to fathom. Yet that is what we stand for and that is what our Judaism teaches us. We are all struggling with this dilemma evil against right but as long as we are unified in our dilemma our humanity will always win the day.
My thanks for your indulgence, and may l wish all of us; the entire Jewish nation both in Israel and the Galuth peace in our times and hope and faith that we will prevail with our humanity intact. Shabbat Shalom.