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by Galit Yitzchaki


Two years ago this week, on August 17, 2005, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police began forcibly removing, from their homes, close to 9,000 Jewish residents of Gush Katif in Gaza and northern Shomron -- Ariel Sharon's Disengagement plan. Long-time resident Galit Yitzchaki of the Gush Katif town of Ganei Tal was able, amidst the tensions, disappointment, anger, tears and fears, to put in writing her experiences and impressions in a diary. This diary. Excerpts from the diary are presented below in four parts, with forewords by Hillel Fendel.

Foreword by Hillel Fendel

( Two years ago this week, 300,000 Jews gathered in Tel Aviv's central Rabin Square to demand the cancellation of the expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

Leaders of the Council for Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) called upon Disengagement opponents to "head south on foot, by car, by any way possible. We will block the roads into Gush Katif with our bodies." Large maps flashed onto giant screens showed the routes to be taken in order to try to reach Gush Katif.

"Beatings from riot police, the horses of the police and the water cannons of the IDF will not stop us," one Yesha leader cried out. "We will be there! Come to Kissufim and lie down on the road and don't leave. Our objective is to arrive at Gush Katif, and to interfere with and impede the expulsion until there is either a referendum or new elections."

(Photos: Jonathan Stein and Elkana Perl)

The day before, a quarter of a million people had gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel)[1] to beseech the heavens to stop the Israeli government from forcefully removing thousands of its own loyal citizens from their homes and transferring thier properties to enemy control. Participants were backed up to the steps leading down to the Kotel plaza, and many others were not even able to get near the Old City.

It was just three days before Tisha B'Av -- the day of fasting commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temples and others of the Jewish Nation's worst disasters. Yet another disaster was about to befall the chosen people.

At the same time, 100 kilometers to the south, a long-time resident of Ganei Tal in Gush Katif was experiencing her last days at home -- and recording her feelings and experiences in a diary. Galit Yitzchaki, in her 20's, has shared the poignant document with Arutz-7, providing a historic account of extraordinary proportions detailing spiritual faith, national disappointment and personal anguish. What follows are selected excerpts from Ganei's diary.

PART 1.  

...Towards evening we return home to Ganei Tal. A large prayer service is taking place in our synagogue, parallel to the massive one going on at the Kotel, where it seems there are a quarter-million people -- once again crying and praying, at a very emotional occasion.

Later, we saw on television the pictures from the Kotel, and we can't believe the tremendous amount of people who were there. The plaza was totally filled, and people said they stood around Jaffa St. and couldn't reach the Wall. G-d, please hear our prayers.

Kobi [my married brother] is getting ready to go home [outside Gush Katif], and will be taking Savta [Grandmother] too. We don't want her to stay here [for the actual expulsion] because it is very hard for her, and in general she thinks that we should pack up already and leave. Abba [Dad] wants me to pack up my room so that Kobi can take apart the cabinets, but I can't even think of such a thing. I discussed it with Ima [Mom], and she of course doesn't even want to hear of such an idea and tells me not to pack. I'm happy, because it is terribly hard for me to just close up my whole childhood into boxes.

Kobi took Abba's car and packed up all sorts of important things (silver, documents, etc.) and the stuff from Abba's office... Meanwhile, we're all glued to the radio and TV all the time, they broadcast non-stop from the Gush [Katif] and are documenting every step that goes on here. Our cell phones also don't stop ringing, all our friends are calling and sending text messages; everyone is worried and wants to help -- even those who don't totally agree with us; it's really heartwarming.

The nights are hard, and I can't really rest or sleep. The days? They're going by too fast... I don't want the end to come!

Thursday, Aug. 11

... In the afternoon, I walk around Ganei Tal with my camera, which is always on me so that I can take pictures of everything. I take pictures of the house from every possible angle, every room, almost every cabinet; our amazingly beautiful synagogue from inside and out, the nurseries, the old culture hall in memory of Rachel Lobel, and the new sports gym, our grocery store with wonderful Avraham, the basketball court where we spent so much time as children, and even the bus stops where we used to wait every morning for the van to take us to school in N'vei Dekalim.

My uncle Shiz travels back and forth to work in Tel Aviv every day, and then comes back to sleep with us. The problem is that he has an entry permit only up until today, and he left for Tel Aviv this morning. We tried to have it extended until Shabbat, but we were told that there are too many guests in the Gush. We're all worried. We ask Abba to send a request for a reconsideration, and after many faxes and phone calls we finally receive a permit for him -- because Abba said it's his brother and he needs him to help us pack. We all breathe a sigh of relief!

In the afternoon, Dvir and Efrat [my brother and his wife] arrive, and they're planning to stay until the end. Everyone joins in the hullabaloo, helping as much as they can. And then my cousin Talia's family say they want to come; her father feels that he has to be here, and somehow they manage to get an entry permit... and they tell us they're coming for Shabbat. Great, why not, another four people added to the gang, why not? The more, the merrier. OK, we have to prepare food for 20 people -- not so simple, but it's fun. They soon arrive, bringing food with them, and we all start working. Not to mention that we also have to prepare an extra large meal for Shabbat in honor of the Tisha B'Av fast that begins Saturday night. There's a lot of work, but everyone pitches in and the atmosphere is very pleasant.

In addition, we have the Dolinsky family from Jerusalem who has put up a tent in our yard and is staying with us until the end...

At night, I go with Efrat and Devorit for a short trip around the Gush. We get to N'vei Dekalim, and at the entrance stands a nice soldier, who says to us, "I'm very sorry for what we are doing to you; I ask forgiveness." It chokes me up; it seems that not everyone has lost his heart.

We get to the town hall plaza, it's filled with people, mostly youths, some are sitting on the grass and singing, others are talking, and most are gathered for a talk with Rabbi Yaakov Ariel of Ramat Gan. Some nice young kids met us at the entrance to give us a "Note to Arrestees," what to do if you get arrested. Scary like anything!

We walk around the N'vei Dekalim center, very moved at the tremendous amount of people we see in every corner. Nice girls are standing at a makeshift booth selling food at token prices (cornflakes and milk, hot soup, etc.).

I walk around the stores, I see where Abba's office was, and I want to cry. All the stores are empty, everything is packed up and desolate -- except for the pizza store, the only one still operating; it has never had so many customers as it has had in these past weeks.

Students and professional builders have come from all over the country to help refurbish the structures.
Shirat HaYam's kids spending a morning in their front yard, the beach.

From there we go to Shirat HaYam[2] [a small community literally on the beach, where hundreds of people have gathered from around the country in tents]. We bring food to some friends, and we get to see our amazingly beautiful ocean. At night we return home, and thank G-d Shiz has already come back, bringing lots of food with him, more pizza for the children; a real abundance.

A fisherman from N'vei Dekalim comes to the beach to fish every morning. He immigrated from France 27 years ago after fighting for the French army in Algeria for years. When not casting his line or reeling in a catch, the fisherman sits and recites Psalms.

That night, Rabin Square has the largest demonstration ever in the history of the country, some half-million people protesting against the Disengagement. The Yesha Council leaders call on the people to start moving towards Kissufim and to block the whole area in order to disrupt the expulsion.

We try to draw encouragement from the rally, but we know that in a country where democracy is just another word, and its leaders are corrupt, even this gigantic protest won't make a difference. Once again, we're up until the middle of the night, connected to the TV and internet, searching for more information, a ray of hope, knowing that the rabbis have said it won't happen -- but nothing. The only thing that encourages us is the tremendous amounts of people managing to sneak into the area, despite all the restrictions and checkpoints. What total dedication to the cause!

PART 2.  
Foreword -- HF

( Exactly two years ago, during the Disengagement of 2005, over 8,000 residents of Gush Katif -- and possibly the same amount of visitors and supporters -- spent their last Sabbath there before being forcibly thrown out of their homes. Many of them recorded their impressions and feelings, as well as the events themselves, of those harrowing days. Galit Yitzchaki, a resident of Ganei Tal in Gush Katif for over 20 years, shared her historic and moving diary with Arutz-7.

Friday -- Sabbath, Aug. 12-13

Preparations for Shabbat [the Sabbath] are well underway; we're baking challah [special rich bread for Shabbat], and I perform hafrashat challah [the Biblical commandment of separating a tiny portion of the dough for Priestly use] on behalf of Gush Katif, and all the women join in as well. Dvir is turning 25 tomorrow, and we make challahs in the shape of the number 25...

Every few minutes, we get everyone in the house to say another chapter of Psalms. After everything is ready, we go out for another tour around the Gush -- Shiz, Devorit, Efrat and myself. This time we start from the southern end: In Morag, we can't believe what we see there -- lots and lots of tents and many families that have not yet packed or done anything towards leaving. What strength of faith!

There are lots of Shabaknikim [General Security Service agents] who are trying to find out about the non-residents who are with us. They sometimes make believe they are reporters and ask all sorts of questions; at first I don't get it and I tell them a lot, but then I realize who they are and I hope I didn't say too much and hurt my friends...

We continue northward and arrive in Rafiah Yam, where they have already begun packing and the place looks a bit desolate...

From there, we go to Pe'at Sadeh, where we find a community almost totally abandoned. [3] People even took their roof tiles off their houses, so as not to leave a thing for the terrorists who will come to live here, may their names be blotted out. The army has taken up positions here, and it looks like an army base. Some reminders that there was a thriving town here just a few hours ago can be seen at the bus-stops -- posters that say, "The old fool [Prime Minister Sharon] thinks he can fight the King [G-d]?" The reference is clear to all.

Then we get to Atzmona -- what a difference! Here, of course, everything is still standing; no one has packed and no one is planning to leave unless he is forced out. The flowers are blooming, the children are playing, all is regular. What strength!

Then to B'dolach... and again to Shirat HaYam... and then Abba and I drive our cars outside of Gush Katif, because they say that cars that remain here after the 15th will be towed away. We go to Kibbutz Alumim, and then we drive back by jeep. Of course we have to pass through the checkpoints, and it is really very disturbing and hard to get used to, but in the end we arrived home OK, thank G-d.

Just before the Sabbath begins, some youths from Karmei Tzur [north of Hevron], who have come to Ganei Tal to strengthen and encourage us, go around and give out challahs and letters of encouragement. It's heartwarming. Then the Sabbath begins; will this be our last one at home???

We put on our Shabbat clothes, and go to the synagogue. It turns out that the electricity went out, leaving total darkness -- so everyone went out and gathered there; so many people, faces that I never saw before. The boys were on the asphalt, the girls on the grass, everyone standing and praying -- I've never heard in my life a prayer service like this, crying, screaming, begging... I look around, the girls are hugging and crying, girls who don't live here at all are standing and crying; my heart is torn. In the meantime, the electricity has returned, but no one goes back inside, and it turned out for the best in that the prayer was much more special. It was just an amazing Kabbalat Shabbat prayer, with Carlebach-style singing, reaching to the heavens and tearing apart worlds, the most emotional Lecha Dodi prayer I ever heard, and everyone with the same prayer in his heart: Please, G-d, tear apart this evil decree!!!

...We have a great Sabbath meal, 20 people, lots of food, laughing and happiness, as if there were no decree of expulsion hanging over our heads. We get to know the Dolinsky family; they are just amazing and very special people. At 11 PM, the Ganei Tal "strengtheners", the visitors, invite us to a communal Shabbat event at the cultural center. We remain there talking and laughing until late.

The next morning, prayer along the same lines: crying, pleading, singing, and then our "guests" once again treat us to a wonderful Kiddush with lots of food and good spirit, as if they don't live in tents and shelters. Fantastic organizing! Rabbi Kadosh [of Ganei Tal] and Rabbi Vishlitzky [of Jerusalem] have words of strength, they call us "heroes," and then there is dancing and song -- unbelievable and unending excitement, even the guys who never before danced or sang Hassidic music join in.

... Later, we begin to eat the pre-Tisha B'Av meal, I ask Shiz to give us a little class about the significance of the day, and that it should help save Gush Katif. Finally, the fast starts, and we feel a double destruction -- we're fasting for the destruction of the Holy Temple that happened 2,000 years ago, and for Gush Katif that is about to be destroyed, Heaven forbid...

Sunday, Aug. 14

Thank G-d, the fast passes OK, we return from the synagogue, recite Havdalah, break the fast and hope and pray that the days of destruction are truly over and that from now on we will see only light and miracles... We sit around afterwards watching television, such a pleasant atmosphere; it could have been simply the greatest, if only the circumstances were different.

At 11 PM, I decide that I have to take another trip around the Gush. I'm dying to see Kfar Darom [set off to the north from most of Gush Katif]; I throw the idea into the air, and of course a few people jump on it. So we get into the jeep and start off for Kfar Darom, but the army checkpoint doesn't let us through. I get upset, get out of the jeep and try to talk to the officer -- but talking to trees and rocks would get me further. We realize that it's a waste of time, turn around and head back into the Gush.

We go to Netzer Hazani, where we haven't been yet. We see the synagogue, in which the women were right then gathered for prayer. We see the wonderful youth walking around or studying Torah or sitting together, and we see the writing on the walls of the clubhouse center: G-d is the Lord, and the like. The soldier at the entrance sings to us, 'No matter what, I won't expel...' Cute.

We continue on to the town of Katif, where a bunch of youths are gathered in the little coffee corner hut that was set up for the soldiers who we used to love so much. The traffic circle entrance is painted all in orange; in general, the whole Gush is full of signs made by our great youths, signs with messages of strength and encouragement. What fantastic youth! There are none like them in the whole country.

From there we go to N'vei Dekalim. We meet up with blockades on the road -- it turns out that some of the visiting youths decided to block up the area, the whole road is full of youths. Some of them are a bit over-wild, they burned tires and smashed an army jeep that had expulsion maps, breaking its windows and flattening its tires. Their rabbis got angry at them because this is not our way. We can't get into the town, so we walk in by foot. We see all the youth sitting on the road, receiving a briefing as to how to continue the struggle. Rabbi Aviner arrives to give support and encouragement. There, too, we see signs telling soldiers to say, "I just cannot do it."

It's late and we're tired, and we set off for home. But Devorit and I are unable to sleep, and we walk towards the gate. The plan was that the soldiers and police were supposed to arrive around now in the communities in order to distribute the expulsion orders. We in Ganei Tal, as in most of the other towns, decided that we would not let them in -- and therefore it was decided to have 'civil guards' at the gate. The youths took over, deciding who enters and who does not, and setting up 24-hour guard duty; if the army is seen, everyone will immediately be alerted to come and block the entrance. 18-year-olds are in charge, with kids of all ages, even 8-year-olds, and they're protecting the community.

So Devorit and I decide to join up and see what's happening there; it wouldn't hurt to have someone there who's a bit older... And in general, I feel the need to do something... 2 AM, we march towards the gate, we sit there with the cute kids, and later other adults come as well, we're sitting and talking -- and suddenly someone announces that he saw a large army convoy on its way to the Gush. We look around and see that they had paved themselves a way amidst the sand dunes around Ganei Tal, because they knew it would be hard to come via the main road. We are simply in shock to see the tremendous forces they have, bus after bus after bus of soldiers and equipment, and all this for what? To fight us... If they would have dedicated a quarter of this amount to fighting terrorism and the mortar shells, we never would have ended up in this disgraceful situation.

We right away begin to fear that they will take advantage of the night, and the fact that most people are sleeping, to get in to the town. So we start calling people, and within minutes the news spreads like wildfire and the gate area becomes filled with young people, as if it was the middle of the day and not 3 AM. Everyone is waiting for the fight; we lock the gate and wait for the moment. Throughout the whole time, we keep getting reports from the other towns that the army is on the way...

PART 3.  
Foreword -- HF

( Two years ago today, August 15, was the first day Jews were no longer legally permitted to live in Gush Katif. It was two days before the beginning of their forcible eviction from their homes during Ariel Sharon's Disengagement of 2005. Barely anyone of the more than 8,000 Jews who lived there -- and certainly none of those estimated by some as the same number of visitors and supporters -- left on this date, however. Instead, they waited for the soldiers to come and personally distribute eviction orders.

In most cases, the youths of the various Jewish communities barricaded the gates and did not let the soldiers enter. In the town of Ganei Tal -- where long-time resident Galit Yitzchaki was spending these last days writing down her experiences and impressions in her diary -- many youths, and Galit herself, waited with great tension at the gate for the forces to arrive. Finally, at 3:30 AM, Galit left for home to get some much-needed sleep -- into which she fell only after some more hours of tossing and turning.

Living for months under the threat of being thrown out of your home and community by one's own government and army, and watching the threat come inexorably closer and closer to actual implementation, took a tremendous toll on many of the residents.

Monday, Aug. 15

The day of expulsion has arrived. I wake up at 8:30 in the morning -- there's a lot of noise and you can't really sleep -- and try to hold myself up after another night of no sleep, but finally I break down and go back to sleep. This was too bad, because unfortunately this causes me to miss all the action...

Today is the army's Operation "Hand to Brothers," two days during which we can leave voluntarily and the army will even help us pack and leave. But Wednesday, Aug. 17, whoever is still here will be subject to the forcible expulsion. They call it "with sensitivity and determination" -- May G-d have mercy!

At 9 AM, the soldiers came to the gate and wanted to come in to give out the eviction orders. Immediately, everyone came out to stop them; Ima says, and the pictures show, that it was just an amazing sight. Our guys locked the gate and didn't let anyone in, and everyone from the yishuv [community], including our guests and vistors, prayed there and danced with Torah scrolls and sang, and the soldiers stood there totally helpless. Finally, they just gave up and left, and it was a great thing to see.

When I woke up, Shiz and I and a few others decided to go to Kfar Darom to buy some food; the store there is still running and they have a lot of goods, and we don't know how long we'll be here like this -- maybe they'll put us in siege? So we go there, but the soldiers there have different orders and they actually don't let us in. We wait for a while in the car; it's hard to believe how they treat us, as if we're dangerous. I try to talk to one of the soldiers, but he just says, 'Without a permit you're not going in.' There's also tension because Shiz and Anat are not official residents, and can be thrown out on the spot. We give them my parents' ID numbers to remember by heart, and Anat wrote them down on a box of eggs so she won't forget. Finally, we buy what we need and get back OK.

Not everyone in the yishuv agrees with the gate-blocking approach. There are those who want to let the soldiers in to give them the eviction orders so that they can feel that they are being thrown out and not leaving on their own. This led to arguments among people, and one man even dared to yell at our 'visiting' youths that they have no right to block the gate. Abba of course got upset at him and yelled, and soon they just sent him home so he could calm down. The situation is very delicate and very unpleasant.

Finally, in order to ensure that there would not be a big split amongst us, it was decided that if the army comes back, they should be let in, and everyone will decide if they want to let them in their house or not.

But things developed a little differently. At 4 PM, the army came back, we all ran to the gate, which was locked of course, and people from the yishuv started to talk to the soldiers, trying to reach their hearts. They surrounded them and started singing "Ana B'choach" (Please, G-d, with the strength of Your right hand, free our nation from its bonds), and many of our neighbors were crying, saying Psalms, etc. The press was buzzing around the whole time, broadcasting from the scene, waiting for us in every corner. Shulamit Berger took a megaphone and started speaking very impressively to the soldiers. The scene was a very hard one. Again, the soldiers saw that they would not be able to get in, and they turned around and left. At one point, Druze MK Ayoub Kara arrived, with an orange ribbon on his shirt, and he gave a heart-searing speech, more Jewish than Jewish.

My legs hurt, the sun is beating down, my eyes are burning, we go home slightly encouraged to rest and eat; an army marches on its stomach, after all.

10 PM -- We go to the Culture Club hall for an evening of song organized by the Tubi family, to relax the tensions a little bit... Assaf plays the organ, Ezer on the guitar, so much fun, there's a real atmosphere of unity. But could it be that this is our last community cultural event? Only G-d knows. Meanwhile, we sit here singing until 1 AM, enjoying every moment.

I get home and sit down to write until 3 in the morning, I just have to get it all out; my eyes are dying to close, but the heart needs to get out everything that's going on. Once again, a night with barely any sleep.

Tuesday, Aug. 16

I wake up to a day where things don't look too good... Apparently, it's starting to have its influence on me both physically and emotionally. I don't feel so well. Ima comes to see what's with me, and suddenly everything erupts within me and I collapse. Then Abba comes to see what's going on, and I'm crying and not understanding: "Why, G-d? Why???" Aba and Ima try to encourage me, saying that whatever has to be, that's what will be, and that we must be strong -- but it doesn't help so much...

It really seems that a miracle does not appear to be on the horizon, and the evil ones are determined to carry out their cruel mission. To my sorrow, I've lost hope. We decide that we have to start packing quickly, because who knows when they'll throw us out, and maybe we won't be able to pack everything. Sadly enough, it looks like there's no choice, the die has been cast and there's no way back... We still try to have faith until the last second, because our Sages say that even if a sharp sword is on one's neck, he should not despair of Divine mercy, but still, we can't just be apathetic...

I try to rest a little and calm down. I have no appetite or strength to do anything; just this feeling of total lethargy.

Shiz and I decide: We will fill the house with graffiti; let the walls, too, absorb some of what is in our hearts, and when the expellers come to throw us out, let them see with their own eyes what our hearts are feeling.

On the big wall in the living room I wrote, "We will not forget and we will not forgive. Yitzchaki Family, Ganei Tal, may it be rebuilt."

On a second wall, I wrote, "[Arik] Sharon, we hope you suffer the same hell that we are experiencing."

On the wall where our beautiful breakfront cabinet had stood, Shiz wrote, "Here was a cabinet of Torah books. G-d, why have You abandoned us?" and, "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah."

Outside, on the entrance wall to our home I wrote, "Our parents and grandparents were expelled by the Germans, and we -- by Jews. We will not go like sheep to the slaughter. The Nation of Israel lives!"

Suddenly, Ima came into the house, crying and weeping when she saw what we had done. "Why? Why? Why?"

At 9 PM, the movers finally arrive, many hours late. Instead of the eight workers they promised us, we get three boys, starving and dead tired after two nights of no sleep and lots of work... Luckily we also have a lot of people at home who can help, and suddenly another 5 great yeshiva boys show up from somewhere and they help us pack and load up; they work harder than the movers. At 2 AM, we're still not half-finished, and everyone is dead tired and there's barely any place to sleep. Then comes the news that Ganei Tal is going to be evacuated tomorrow. The tensions keep getting stronger...

It looks like it will be our last night in our house...

PART 4.  
Foreword -- HF

Two years ago this week, on August 17, 2005, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police began forcibly removing, from their homes, close to 9,000 Jewish residents of Gush Katif in Gaza and northern Shomron - Ariel Sharon's Disengagement plan.

Wednesday, Aug. 17

The day of the expulsion has arrived. Who would have believed it?

I wake up after a night of barely sleeping, take a quick shower to freshen up -- today is going to be a hard one, after all -- and of course put on my orange shirt which reads, "Please, my G-d, protect my Ganei Tal."

The girls are up already, they have made us some kind of great breakfast; even though the kitchen is totally dismantled, thank G-d there's no lack of food. I mean, we just bought lots of food only two days ago to last for a few days; who would have believed it would go so fast... Little by little, the men return from prayers and sit down to eat something. I can't even look at food now; just the thought of it makes me nauseous.

The workers are outside packing up what is left, and I bring them food and drink. It hurts me to see how they are being used; at one point, one of them who looks like a dropout-type says this whole thing is really hard for him and he doesn't understand how the country can do this to us... Should I tell him that I also don't understand? I walk around helpless, not knowing what to do with myself, climbing the walls, stuck to the camera and documenting every moment.

Around 9 AM, I hear loud noises from outside. I run outside and I see a horrific sight. On our main street, our street, a giant group of policemen and soldiers are marching, you can even hear their strides, they're so precise and organized, dressed perfectly, with sunglasses and hats, and with little Israeli flags all over. These flags are the only thing differentiating them from other armies in history...

It is just terrible. They stop next to the house of the late Yehudit Maor, her young nieces are standing next to them crying bitterly, and with heart-breaking pleas to the soldiers not to do it. Their brother Ruby is getting it all on camera. The soldiers, with a distant coldness, continue to march as if nothing was going on.

The girls tell them that this is their aunt's house who just died this past Purim, five months ago: "This is all we have left of her; how can you do this?!" I quickly come up to them and start crying together with them, everyone is hugging and crying. Little by little, everyone starts to hear the cries and they come out and join us and yell at the soldiers and cry a lot. The Zeira family takes an officer and tries to convince him not to do it. Some girl soldiers can't take it and just start crying bitterly; the officer -- a Druze with cold green eyes -- without batting an eyelash immediately gathers them together under a tree and orders them to drink water and calm down.

They advance towards our house. Uriyah comes and he also starts to cry; how do you explain to a 13-year-old boy why he has to be thrown out of his house? Meanwhile, everyone comes out of the house, everyone wiping away tears. Ima [Mom] comes out, she is totally hoarse from the last few days, trying to talk to the soldiers, telling them that they're so sweet and how are they able to do such a thing like throwing people out of their homes? She reminds them that it will pursue them their whole lives. Someone tells a young Ethiopian female soldier that she knows how hard it was for her and her family to come to Israel, so how can she now throw people from their homes? Then Abba [Dad] comes out, totally trembling and broken, and he yells out, "We come from a Holocaust survivor family, how can you do this to us!?"

But the soldiers continue marching up the street. Two more neighboring families join us, everyone is crying, begging the soldiers to refuse the orders: "How will you be able to live knowing you banished Jews? What will you tell your children? How will you be able to face yourselves in the mirror?" But nothing helps, they are programmed to carry out the mission, they have been brainwashed. I'm pretty hysterical by now, screaming at them that we will publicize all their names and that they will go down in infamy.

But not one righteous person can be found in this Sodom. They go from house to house in masses, they cover the whole town, and they inform the people in each house that they have until 1 PM, and that whoever doesn't leave on his own by then will be forcibly taken out.

I get back to the door of my home, totally exhausted and broken. I lie down on the floor and start crying hysterically, I just can't stop. But I'm able to ask Shiz to go get Abba, because I'm really afraid for him...

Things calm down a bit when the soldiers leave, and we actually finish packing the last things and send our giant container on its way. Many things remain on our lawn because there was no room.

We have three hours left. We sit on the grass, trying to calm down; everyone is so tense, the house is already nearly totally empty, just a few things are left. Then we abruptly and unanimously decide to destroy the house; we will not allow any terrorists to get to step onto even one tile of our holy house.

Abba takes a big hammer and Yoav takes a big metal piece and they start smashing everything. They break windows, mirrors, toilets, shower stalls, doors, electric outlets, whatever cabinets were left, and even the marble counter in the kitchen. They take everything apart and just smash away. We pass the hammers from hand to hand, trying to take out all our tensions and frustration and anger on the house itself. Everyone feels the need to just unleash everything that was bottled up. They take the wooden fence on the upstairs porch and break it and throw it on the grass, and even the staircase leading upstairs they cut and break. They go upstairs and break the solar panels and the roof tiles, and leave the house almost totally destroyed.

We take out our anger even on the food that's left. Anat writes on the wall, in ketchup, "Jewish blood is not wanton." We wipe things on the floor... It's unbelievable that just yesterday we had a palace here -- and now it's just a garbage dump. My heart breaks as I take pictures of everything.

There's a little time left, and I go outside with Yiftach and Efrat to pick fruits off our trees; Abba says it's forbidden [by Jewish Law] to uproot the trees, but we want to make sure that they won't be able to benefit from our fruits. Our beautiful trees -- lemon, mango, pomegranate, loquat, apricot, pomela -- they're all going to rot... And the beautiful garden that Abba and Ima worked so hard is already dried out; even the plants feel the catastrophe.

We go next door to the Zeira family; their container is here and they haven't yet begun to pack. The soldiers are helping them, but it's too hard to watch it happen.

1 PM is nearing, Alon is sitting upstairs to be our lookout to see when the soldiers are coming. We gather outside for a last group picture of the whole family outside our front door. And then we go inside and wait tensely for the soldiers to come.

Finally they come, and Abba asks them to look at what we wrote on the walls, while we are hugging and singing, at Abba's request, Ani Maamin [I Believe with Perfect Faith in the Coming of the Messiah] with the same tune as those who walked to their deaths in the gas chambers. The crying is simply heart-breaking and everyone is near collapse...

We try to pull ourselves together, parting from the only house we have ever known. Itiel is totally broken; he's also a soldier and he sees his comrades-in-arms throwing him out of his home. He refuses to leave, he wants them to drag him out; I tell him that he can't let any soldier touch him, that he's holy compared to them.

We leave the house, and the soldiers take a last look around, checking to see that, Heaven forbid, no one remains inside. We pile all the suitcases we'll need for the coming days onto Shiz's jeep, and then we go towards the synagogue for our last gathering and for an organized departure. On the way I see a lot of people near Rabbi Kadosh's house, many many soldiers and reporters; we come closer and we see the rabbi in his house with his whole family reciting Psalms, shrieking and crying, refusing to leave.

Little by little, the whole yishuv [community] is there, standing at the rabbis' house, everyone is broken. Abba also comes, he starts crying and yelling; I'm so scared for him, and I ask one of his friends to take him away from there... Everyone is broken and near collapse, the heart-rending crying continues the whole time, people are reciting Pslams, trying to talk to the soldiers -- maybe this one last time we'll succeed, but no, they're as cold as ice, they hear nothing.

Some of the female soldiers take the rabbi's daughters out, they're crying, then the rabbi comes out with the rest of the family, and we walk with them, singing and crying, towards the synagogue, everyone is embracing and supporting each other.

Everyone gathers at the synagogue, including those who were with us for the last few weeks, and we pray our last Mincha [afternoon] service. It is the most chilling prayer service I have ever heard; there's no one there who's not crying and screaming out Avinu Malkeinu [Our Father, Our King].

After the prayer, our neighbor Shoshi Slutzky, well known for her writing ability, reads aloud a poem she has written for the end of Ganei Tal; it is accompanied by sobs and wailing from every direction. Then Rabbi Kadosh gives a last speech, encouraging and strengthening us, and the tears keep coming. At the end we sing again Ani Maamin and Ana B'koach; everyone hugs the Holy Ark and refuses to leave. Children, men, women, everyone is crying and hugging, everyone is asking Why? Why? How can they do this to us? But there is no answer...

One by one, everyone gathers his stuff and, just like refugees, we walk towards the buses that will take us out of the Gush. Some people have their cars here, and we drive in a slow convoy, headed by Dovaleh's car that has orange flags and a large sign reading, "We are the refugees from Ganei Tal."

I'm in a car with Shiz and a few others, in a long convoy of cars like a funeral procession, driving north. We pass, for the last time, the Kissufim Checkpoint; we won't be humiliated there any more... All along the way, we see signs along the way reading, "We're with you," "We love you," "You are heroes," and more. At every intersection there were crowds of people supporting and encouraging us...


The residents of Ganei Tal are still living in temporary pre-fabs in Yad Binyamin, with no idea when work on their permanent homes in nearby Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim will begin.


1.  Ezra HaLevi, "Photo Essay: 250,000 Attend Kotel Prayer To Annul Pullout," Arutz-Sheva, August 11, 2005,

2.  Ezra HaLevi, "Photo Essay: Life in a Gush Katif Tent City," Arutz-Sheva, July 25, 2005,

3.  Note by HF: A sad parting ceremony was held at the town two days before. Read Arutz-7's coverage at Hillel Fendel, "Parting Ceremony from PeĀ“at Sadeh," Arutz-Sheva, August 11, 2005


Hillel Fendel is Senior News Editor at Arutz-Sheva

This article appeared as a four-part series in Arutz-Sheva (


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