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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The ongoing tragedy of the Gaza expulsion

There is a museum in Jerusalem that I am ashamed to tell you I have not yet visited. It is the Gush Katif museum. I think the reason I have not visited is that some of my kids would find it very depressing (and frankly, so would I) so every time we think of going, it's inevitably Chol HaMoed (the Intermediate Days of the Passover and Succoth holidays) and we end up deciding that it's not an appropriate time to revisit a tragedy. Maybe this Chol HaMoed - when there will be six weekday days here in Israel - we will make it.

I can tell you, however, that the tragedy of those expelled from Gush Katif is a continuing one. Two of my daughters have spent significant time in one of the towns where the refugees have been 'temporarily resettled' and they have told me many of the kids who are old enough to remember what happened still walk around in a daze - even today. Many families have spent all their money, are still paying for the mortgages on their former homes (you can't just abandon them here because if you do, the bank goes after your guarantors, and everyone has guarantors - usually family members), and don't have a gainfully employed adult. The tragedy continues and the government is doing less than nothing to help.

The Gush Katif museum has as its slogan "identify and be strengthened." One would hope that part of that includes not repeating the same stupidity carried out by Arik Sharon shortly before falling into a coma. But the Netanyahu government doesn't exactly seem averse to doing it all over again.
At the time of the Gaza disengagement, [Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpoe] and his colleagues invested tremendous effort in attempting to derail the Israeli government forced expulsion of nearly 10,000 Jews. As the disengagement was implemented and while the fires were still burning, they resolved to establish this museum. It took three years to come to fruition. The museum’s early visitors, back in 2008, were mostly from the national religious segment of Israel’s population. But gradually, this changed. Both haredim and secular leftists had remained largely ignorant of what actually happened to Gush Katif’s residents. As they heard about the museum, more and more started visiting and were deeply affected by the exhibits.

“The people of Israel have been experiencing disillusionment,” says Rabbi Wolpo. “The Kassam rocket attacks, the Hamas ascent to power, the revolutionary changes in surrounding Arab nations, the enormous danger from terror organizations based in the Sinai desert – all these have brought Israelis, including many who once supported the expulsion, to re-think their positions. Now they’re opposed to further expulsions of Jews from Judah and Samaria, God forbid. I’m sure the museum has played an important role in this, because when people visit, they start to understand what really happened there.”

We pass through the rooms. Pictures document the history of Gush Katif, revealing that ever since the time of the Hasmoneans, of Chanukah story fame, there was a continuous Jewish presence in Gaza and its environs. This continued until the terrible 1929 Arab pogroms. Only after the 1967 Six-Day War did Jews return. They built thriving communities, never dreaming that one day they would be cruelly uprooted by their own government.

In February 2001, the first rocket was fired at Gush Katif. At the time, the news was widely featured in the Israeli and international media. But later, if news accounts of rocket attacks appeared at all, they were relegated to the back pages. … More than 5,000 rockets fell on Gush Katif. Those attacks, along with so many other terror acts and shootings, claimed the lives of dozens of Jews; hundreds more were injured. The dead were buried in the sand of Gush Katif, but even they were dragged out of their repose when the Israeli government carried out the disengagement.

“Despite all the attacks,” says Rabbi Gefen, “the idealism of the residents would not let them leave. The terror could not convince them to give in, because you don’t give in when this concerns the Holy Land. They always insisted that if they wouldn’t be located there, the rockets would be fired at the population centers in the heart of Israel.” And, this forecast proved devastatingly true.

The Israeli Government, under the once acclaimed general and then PM Ariel Sharon, forced out the 10,000 dedicated Israelis of Gaza, abandoning the fertile area to the Arabs. Their houses destroyed, the families expelled, their lives shattered, the thousands of wretched families were cruelly plucked from their communities and land, and thrown into mobile homes until today – without livelihood, homes, or the wherewithal to support their families as they had until this cruel expulsion.”

“Many of the expelled families have already used up all the compensation received from the government,” Rabbi Wolpo stated. “They’re paying the bank a mortgage for their destroyed home in Gush Katif, together with high rent for their present leaky mobile homes in Nitzan or Yad Binyamin. Many simply don’t have money to buy bread.

… “Whoever observes the results of the previous withdrawals and considers the present revolutionary upsets in the Arab world, yet still speaks of further expulsions from Judah and Samaria and the establishment of a terrorist state in the heart of this land – is either insane or is an agent of our enemies,” Rabbi Wolpo tells me.
I've go to get to that museum. Maybe during Chol HaMoed.

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