Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Expulsion from Gush Katif: Looking Back from Within

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

Exactly ten years ago on this date (in 2005), the expulsion from Gush Katif, the area of Azza, was completed. It began the day after the Ninth of Av, and it continued for a full week. On the day that I am writing this essay, this year's fast of the Ninth of Av, I returned to these dreadful events with a visit to the Katif Center (Museum) in Nitzan. (Whoever has not yet been there should make it his or her business to go!) The echoes of these days a decade ago are still blowing up in our faces to this day, and their effect can be felt within our nation and in the international arena to which the State of Israel belongs.

Looking Back

First I want to return to what I wrote in this column that year, and to bring back from the past three declarations from those days which engraved themselves in my heart and well up regularly within me. Looking at the dark pictures and films in the museum, I remembered what I wrote in my "Point of View" for Number 1081, Re'eih 5765: "Is it conceivable that Yisrael would destroy synagogues?" [Rashi, Devarim 12:4]. Sharon's government did decide to destroy both the synagogues and the Batei Midrash. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the rabbis, who claimed that never in our history had Jews destroyed their holy institutions in order to prevent our enemies from having this "satisfaction." And then I crowed like a bird in support of an alternative (for which I gave the credit to Yehuda Tzadok, of Petach Tikva): "Let the buildings be filled with concrete so that it will be virtually impossible to destroy them, and they will remain as eternal monuments for the minor Temples. I sent this proposal to the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, to the Chief Chaplain of the IDF, to the members of the relevant committee in the Chief Rabbinate, to other public figures, not to mention the press." Let it suffice for me to note that to this very day I have not received any reply, and the flames which reached towards the sky from these holy buildings were all photographed and filmed!

As time goes on, I have been asked more than once: What article is engraved most strongly in your heart from all those that you wrote throughout the years? My answer has always been what I wrote two weeks before the expulsion with the title, "Surrender, a White Flag, 'Rending Clothing,' and Exile" (Number 1076, Mattot 5765). I called out "with trembling fingers and a heart filled with blood that we should think about a status of surrender! The orange flag should be folded and replaced with a black flag flying at half mast, a white flag should be hoisted (not blue and white!). And we should go into exile, the way one goes to exile. We will be conquered by our own people, believers in the 'religion of democracy,' who were willing to betray their own faith in order to destroy the vision of those who cling to Eretz Yisrael! Democracy will blow up in their faces! The disengagement will blow up in their faces, when they discover that nothing has been accomplished!"

A Single Nation or Separate Tribes?

The question of whether I was right in the past is not important. The Zionist significance of these events appears in my article, "A Tear that is not Mended – Thoughts of Mourning" (Number 1080, Eikev 5765). In the article, I wrote a "divorce" to the Israeli left and called to "disengage" from it. "We are not brothers! When one part of the nation skewers the others on the sword of democracy, when the leader refuses to appear before those he expels and look them straight in the eye... when they refuse to discuss what we will gain from this brutality, when the political left is willing to overlook every conceivable kind of corruption to advance the 'holy objective,' when not a single one of these people finds it necessary to apologize to the pioneers of our generation – when this is a picture of the current situation, I cannot feel any brotherly love, at least not for the time being." Well, in past years, and especially very recently, some signs of regret by politicians and by military and police officials have appeared, but I am still waiting for an official statement of remorse from the Knesset and from the government of Israel. And the land will never be fully forgiven (see: Bamidbar 35:33) without the ultimate elements of repentance: Regret for the past and a resolution never to repeat the act in the future!

As time has gone by, I have been troubled by an additional "frightening" element, which I assume I have expressed in past articles: Eretz Yisrael has been abandoned by its nationalist-Zionist faithful, and it has been handed over almost exclusively to the religious sector, including its sons and daughters. My visit to the memorial center for Gush Katif strengthened this feeling. I fear that the public, both nationalistic and Zionist, which will be exposed retroactively to the expulsion, will be convinced that this was relevant to a specific sector of the nation, to a sub-sector, or at the most to a specific "tribe." It will be very difficult to convince the current and the next generation the truth in both Zionist and social terms – that many of the inhabitants of Gush Katif were farmers, "the salt of the earth," including many who were not religious at all, and not only highly emotional young religious people. And that the settlement in Katif was an initiative of the governments of Israel faithful to Mapai (Golda Meir, Yigal Alon, Yitzchak Rabin, and others) and not of bearded Gush Emunim fanatics or members of the Revisionist Party.

Have we Also been Expelled from the Hearts?

I am sorry to disappoint my readers, but it seems to me that the attempts to "settle in the hearts" of the people did not succeed, and the same is true of the "face-to-face" movement which tried to convince people to oppose the expulsion by visiting them in their homes all over the country. I know that in general every criticism should be accompanied by a suggestion for improving the situation, but I do not have any such proposal in this case. Perhaps something can be whispered in the ear of the Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, who has a reputation as a person who knows how to meet challenges. The national educational institutions at all levels should be the proper arena for spreading the heritage of Gush Katif. This would mean such concepts as: (1) Settlement even in areas full of challenges and danger. (2) Clinging to land and eating by "the sweat of our brow" (see Bereishit 3:19). (3) The importance of social and cultural communities. And we must not forget: (4) Acceptance without violence any expulsion command, no matter how hallucinatory, together with (5) a legendary ability to brush off the dirt and to start all over again...

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