Pina Chama is a place where soldiers can drop in on the way to their bases for a bite to eat, a warm drink, some friendly conversation and to feel the love of the residents of Gush Etzion.
In September of 2000, the Second Intifada began. Intifada is the Arabic word for uprising. The First Intifada spanned the years 1987-1993. Both Intifadas were characterized by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians—homicide bombers, attacks on cafes, pizza shops, buses etc. and shootings on the road. The Second Intifada began supposedly in response to the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. Irresponsible, wild rumors were spread that the Jewish State was planning to take over the Temple Mount, which fanned the flames that led to the uprising. I say supposedly because most believe that the Second Intifada was pre-planned rather than a spontaneous reaction to Sharon’s visit. Nevertheless, over the next couple of years, hundreds of people were killed in acts of terror against Israeli civilians.
The proper response to terrorism is to move forward with exactly what the terrorists were trying to prevent. If the terrorists murder innocents to prevent construction in Judea and Samaria, then we must build even more homes in Judea and Samaria. If the terrorists try to shut down tourism, then we must increase tourism. If the terrorists try to boycott Israeli products, then we must buy more Israeli products. We cannot be weak and hand the terrorists any kind of victory. Terrorism must always be met with a strong response or it will only encourage further acts of terror. Capitulation has historically proven to be bad policy.
On February 1, 2001, at the height of the Second Intifada, Dr. Shmuel Gillis, a 42-year-old father of five and a hematologist at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, was murdered by Arab terrorists who opened fire on his vehicle as he was driving home. He was killed instantly.
Ten day later, on February 11, 2001, Tzachi Sasson, a 35-year-old father of two, was on his way home to Gush Etzion when he was shot in the head by Arab terrorists. He was rushed to the hospital where he died of his wounds.
These two precious souls were gunned down in the prime of their lives for no other reason than the fact that they were Jews living in the Land of Israel. The families decided that they wanted to do something special to memorialize them. Shortly after their murder, Pina Chama was founded.
Pina Chama literally means a “warm corner,” but a better translation is the “cozy corner.” Pina Chama is a place where soldiers can drop in on the way to their bases for a bite to eat, a warm drink, some friendly conversation and feel the love of the residents of Gush Etzion. It is located at the Gush Etzion junction and is a modest building that can easily go unnoticed if you don’t know that it is there.
Real People, Not a Faceless Group
Pina Chama is operated by the local residents who volunteer on a rotational basis. Pina Chama is open daily from 7:00 AM-9:00 PM. There are two main ideas behind Pina Chama. The first is to express our love and appreciation of our soldiers who are constantly in harm’s way. They allow us to conduct normal lives and to sleep well at night, knowing that we are protected. The second idea is that the residents of Gush Etzion want the soldiers to be able to put a face to the people that they are protecting. We are not some faceless group, we are real people with hopes and dreams. We want it to be personal. When a soldier feels appreciated AND he/she knows the people that they are fighting for, the result is a highly motivated soldier. We think of them as our own sons and daughters and treat them as such.
On a typical day Pina Chama serves about 200-250 soldiers. Here is what the Mayor of Gush Etzion Davidi Perl had to say: “Pina Chama has become a center of giving from the heart of all of us. It started out as a corner, but is now a center. The people in Israel are all working together, taking care of the soldiers.”
Here is what one of the long time volunteers, Sara Weinreb, shared: “The soldiers walk in like Alice arriving in Wonderland; looking around they just can’t believe it. One soldier remained outside saying that he forgot his money. I told him you don’t need money. He was astounded. ‘What do you mean? Who pays for this? Who pays the salaries??’”
Pina Chama is a fitting memorial to Dr. Gillis and Tzachi Sasson. It is a place that celebrates all that is good about society. It is about life. It is about concern for the other. It is about appreciation. We pray that one day there will be no need for Pina Chama as we will be able to disband the IDF when true peace will be achieved in the Land of Israel.