Friday afternoon, we’re driving past nature reserves, army bases, and sheep farms, towards the setting sun. The car is loaded with with kids, blankets, pillows, diapers, a freshly baked lemon cake, and–you know me by now–chocolate cookies. Fortunately, we arrive at the five-years-young desert town of Shlomit in time for Shabbos. And what a Shabbos it is!
28 hours. Two young couples. 13 children aged 8 and younger with the world as their sandbox. How’d that happen? The friends we were visiting, owners of the local toy store, have four children, and a relative in the neighborhood left them with her four children when she went to Beer Sheva to have a baby Thursday night. Add in our five, and it was quite a party.
Somehow, over the background noise of the kids, we got to learn a little about the community. Shlomit is located about seven kilometers from the Gaza Strip and less than a kilometer from the Egyptian border, so close, in fact, that we heard booms from Egyptian fire, all over the border. Our hosts said that in the middle of the night, they can sometimes even hear Egyptian soldiers shouting to each other one guard-post to the next. (Time to replace the walkie-talkie batteries.) Despite the close proximity to Egypt and Gaza, Shlomit’s 200+ residents feel safe. Even in the Gaza War, they weren’t targeted by rocket fire because they are in the opposite direction from Israel’s large cities. The daily struggle is not with the neighbors, but with the sand fighting its way into the living room.
This little town currently hosts about 50 families, all in pre-fab “caravan” homes, a large playground, a basketball court, a synagogue, two new kindergartens, a new day-care center, a tiny toy store, and someone’s pet sheep, goat, and chickens. An area is already prepared to build 79 permanent homes, so if you love sun, sand, and starry nights, Shlomit is looking to expand.
Shlomit: Making the desert bloom, one family at a time.