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Maskiot Receives its First Sefer Torah
by: Ilene Bloch-Levy
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What makes one yishuv successful? That's the question that occupied me as we drove eastward winding our way through the Jordan Valley, passing hillsides verdant with the blessing of winter's rains, speckled with cyclamens poking their delicate necks out among the rocks, and the purple anemones unfurling across the carpeted landscape. Amidst the sprawl we could see the town of Ma'aleh Efraim nestled in a valley of rolling hills standing like brown sentry guards.

We continued our journey traveling north now, our purpose: to attend a Hachnasat Sefer Torah -- the gifting of a Sefer Torah -- in the village of Maskiot, located on the northern tip of this eastern security belt but 20 kilometers south of Beit She'an.

We could feel the expanse of the region. A small town here, another one there, the distances between them stretching like an overextended coil void of its tensile properties.

The natural splendor engulfed us, but so did the feeling of sparseness, emptiness, a quiet whisper of nature's voice. We pulled into the newly paved road leading into Maskiot, and in the distance we heard the speakers resounding with joyous music. A covered area had been temporarily set up near the playground and we walked along the rocky road up a short incline. Our senses were quickly infused with children's laughter, adults singing and clapping, the aroma of the land's fresh fruits, baked goods, and smiling faces of people from all over who had gathered to welcome the first Sefer Torah to be donated to Maskiot.

The twelve resident families were on hand to greet us, and soon those who had traveled by bus from Ramat Gan were surrounded by the local residents, Jerusalemites (many former Americans among them, determined to help Maskiot succeed), the son, Gershon, who was donating the Sefer Torah in his father's memory, friends, students from the local Mechina (pre-Military Torah Academy) and a handful of residents from nearby settlements.

It was an odd melange of people, joined by a common cause: to celebrate with the residents of Maskiot that, at long last, they were to have their own Sefer Torah.

The last letters were carefully written on the parchment, the Torah was dressed in its new shades of blue coat, its silver ensconced arms sticking through the top, and the rag-a-tag band of children, men, women, soldiers made their way across Maskiot to accompany the Torah to its temporary residence in the Mechina's Beit Midrash. Temporary, until Maskiot's synagogue is to be constructed near the 20 new homes just now being constructed, after four long years of waiting.

We could see where the residents of Maskiot will eventually live, high enough to catch the summer evening breezes after the oppressive daily heat of the summer months. We asked them when the homes would be ready, and there were a few tentative answers, but in spite of their temporary existence in stifling caravans, they were infused with hope, happiness and a deep belief that their vision of how Maskiot will grow and develop is being painted right before their very eyes.

Night time began to settle on us, the air clear and crisp, even a bit chilly, and we mingled waiting for the men to finish the evening prayers so that they could join us in the Mechina's well-used dining room.

I listened to the speeches, friends and Rabbis who praised this gift from Gershon Rosner of Ramat Gan in memory of his father and watched the silent picture slideshow on the wall adjacent to the kitchen as scenes of Shirat Hayam and Gush Katif flashed before us.

So, what makes one town a success and another, perhaps not? No doubt it's a combination of factors, having nothing to do with the battle of the natural elements which plagues the Jordan Valley -- for after all, did these families not have to conduct that same battle when they began their lives on a sandy lot in Gush Katif? What ingredients are needed to create a successful venture, here, in the Jordan Valley? The very same ingredients that they carried with them to Gush Katif -- determination, perseverance, love, strength of character, depth of belief.

Ayelet and Rachel, the former now carrying her 3 month old son, the latter pregnant with her fifth child, and now among the crowd of well-wishers in Maskiot, recalled when they first came to Gush Katif to found Shirat Hayam in memory of their friends killed in a terrorist attack. Today, Ayelet's husband Yossi Chazut serves as the engine helping to push forward this new venture in the Jordan Valley. While their older children were born in Shirat Hayam their youngest was born in Maskiot -- his and Ayelet's commitment and testament to their new lives here.

By the time we wearily boarded the bus back to the center of the country, we all knew and felt that these families, now making their lives in Maskiot, so infused with ideals, passionate about their mission, and possessing a deep love of this Land, the Nation and the Torah -- they will make Maskiot thrive. We had no doubt about this.

"G'd will give strength to his Nation, G'd will bless his People with peace."

Ilene Bloch-Levy is a professional copywriter and a member of our Megillah family. You can contact her at Visit her Web site at

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