Today (technically the day after Tisha B’Av) is the 10th anniversary of one of the most traumatic events in modern Israeli history: the expulsion of the Jewish citizens of the settlement bloc of Gush Katif in Gaza – euphemistically called the “Disengagement” by its initiator and promoter, Ariel Sharon and his cabal of thieves, crooks, corrupt politicians and delusional leftists.
Arutz Sheva spoke to Gush Katif activists on the occasion of the 10th anniversary about their experiences and the challenges that remain:
“It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since the expulsion from Gush Katif,” Dror Va’ananu, the International Coordinator of the Gush Katif Committe, said. “We the former Gush Katif residents went through so many challenges.”
“First of all the government was not prepared with appropriate solutions for the people of Gush Katif…it took us many many years to go into temporary sites, and only after six, seven years, the first families started moving into permanent homes.”
According to Va’ananu, the feeling of anger and resentment among Gush Katif residents has subsided somewhat in the past ten years.
“As long as people were in temporary housing, they still felt in many ways disengaged, like refugees in their homes.” But once they moved into permanent housing, “they feel much more relaxed, their anger about what happened is less.”
But “people’s longing for Gush Katif is more significant,” Va’ananu noted “because now they realize how terrible this disengagement was.”
Laurence Baziz of the Gush Katif Heritage Center spoke about the center’s mission to tell the story of the communities of Gush Katif, as well as portray Gush Katif as something greater than the communities that were.
“Gush Katif is also a spirit, it’s a way of thinking, is a way of behaving toward the State of Israel,” Baziz stressed.
For Va’ananu the biggest challenge that remains are the 25% of Gush Katif families who still do not have permanent housing, making it “impossible for them to restart their lives.”
“There are lot of things beyond the homes and business that have to be rebuilt – that sense of belonging, belonging to the State, to the Israeli society, and this is also what we are trying to do,” Baziz concluded.
Watch this video of their stories:
The Gush Katif evacuees held a remembrance evening last week at the President’s residence in Jerusalem:
Hundreds of Israelis whom the state evacuated from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria during the disengagement in 2005 on Wednesday night marked the 10th anniversary of their uprooting.
They met at the President’s Residence where President Reuven Rivlin had been scheduled to address them.
It was the first anniversary of the evacuation marked under the patronage of the president, in what was essentially a state ceremony.
Because Rivlin is in mourning for his sister Esther Herling Binyamin, who died on Monday, his wife, Nechama, delivered an address in his stead, as did Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Edelstein was one of the evacuees. Ten years ago, he lived in Moshav Gadid, in the heart of Gush Katif. A neighbor from across the road had come to him asking “Why Yuli? Why?” He did not have an answer then and confessed that he still does not have an answer today. All he knows, he said, is that the government of Israel ruined lives and uprooted whole communities, tore down all that was built and even dug up that which was buried, and in return for all that received rockets fired at Israel, wars and two body-snatched soldiers whose remains have yet to be returned by Hamas.
“Reality hit us in the face,” said Edelstein. “The majority decides, but the majority is not always right. We accept the decision of the majority, but we don’t have to agree with it.”
Edelstein had harsh words not only for the government of the time but also for the media, which he said had decided what the public should know and shouldn’t know so long as what it published served the cause.
He was angry that people had not come up with solutions for the evacuees 10 years ago, and said that those who did try to propose solutions were silenced.
The event to mark the forced uprooting of more than 10,000 Israelis from 21 Gaza Strip and four northern Samaria settlements was a joint initiative of the President’s Office, the Gush Katif Heritage Center in Nitzan and the Northern Samaria community.
As Knesset speaker in 2005, Rivlin was opposed to the disengagement, and he has given moral support to the displaced communities ever since.
According to the Gush Katif archives, the disengagement included the destruction or uprooting of approximately 1,900 homes and gardens, 400 farms producing $200 million of export goods each year, 42 daycare centers, 36 kindergartens, seven elementary schools, three high schools, an industrial center, 18 mikvaot ritual baths, 18 synagogues, one central community center, one swimming pool, two Torah institutions, one research center, youth clubs, three main libraries, one hesder yeshiva (military-Torah institution), study centers) and dozens of small businesses.
Speakers at Wednesday’s event included Rabbi Yigal Kaminsky, the former chief rabbi of Gush Katif, and several former residents of the area including David Hatuel, whose pregnant wife, Tali, and four daughters ages two to 10 were shot dead by terrorists from Khan Yunis as they approached the Kissufim crossing near their home in Gush Katif in May 2005, when Tali had gone out to protest against the evacuation.
Hatuel was evicted from his home on his 36th birthday.
“I became a refugee,” he recalled.
Hatuel said that he could not understand why the government had turned its back on Jewish settlement. He has since remarried and fathered a new family He lives with his wife, Limor, and their four children in the trailer home community of Karmei Katif, southeast of Kiryat Gat, where he and his neighbors keep hoping that one day they will have permanent housing.
Kaminsky said that more than any of the physical attributes and wondrous scenery of Gush Katif, what had impressed him most was the spirit of the place and the way people had been able to interface their lives with Torah in the most natural way.
“This was Zionism at its best,” he said.
It was that Zionism, that best-of-the-best, the creme-de-la-creme of Israeli religious Zionist society, that the extreme Left wanted to destroy, according to a shocking column by David Weinberg in the weekend Jerusalem Post:
Ten years ago exactly, a few days after the expulsion of Gush Katif’s residents by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, I hosted in Israel a group of 14 Canadian newspaper editors.
The group met its peers at all Israeli newspapers, including the then-editor-in-chief of Haaretz, David Landau.
Mr. Landau was an English gentleman, and to me, always a good colleague. While we were poles apart ideologically, I appreciated his advice and even his support. I knew that my Canadian guests would find him fascinating. But this time, Landau’s radical creed got the better of him, and he proceeded to give a lesson in raw Israeli politics to the neophyte Canadians.
“You undoubtedly want to know what I think about the disengagement from Gaza,” he told the unsuspecting Canucks.
“The reason why the disengagement is so important; the reason why it is so historic a move; the reason why it makes Ariel Sharon into such a great hero; the reason why it fills me with hope for the future – the reason is…,” Landau barked, “because we crushed religious Zionism!” There was shocked silence in the room.
Boom, crash, whack. Landau pounded on the table some more. “We crushed the religious-Zionist rabbis and settlers! We destroyed their Gush Katif towns, and we smashed their political power! We decimated the religious-Zionist lock-hold on Israeli politics. And now, now, now… Now there may be, finally, true hope for peace!”
Certainly that was the feeling amongst most of us religious Zionist Israelis, wherever we lived and whether we were “settlers” or not.
Whatever the reason, whether it was misguided security rationales, political opinion or anti-religious antagonism, the results were a misery for everyone concerned.
Israel’s security was not enhanced – in fact it worsened dramatically as we can see from the series of wars and the rise of Hamas since the withdrawal.
Israel’s diplomatic position did not improve one whit – not only did we not get any credit for the withdrawal, but according to the UN we are still considered the occupying power. And the withdrawal simply whetted the appetites of the terrorists, persuading them that they could get something for nothing; and the foreign powers now think that Israel can be pressurized into ever more land surrenders.
As for Israeli society, it proved much more resilient and much more sympathetic to the Gush Katif refugees than the Left would have wished for. Confounding the Left’s wishes even further, the catastrophic results of the withdrawal have dissuaded the vast majority of Israelis from any further concessions to the genocidal Palestinians.
These are probably the only good things that came out of this disastrous withdrawal.