HOME May-June 2006 Featured Stories Background Information News On The Web



by Professor Eugene Narrett


Further Accounts of deportees from Gush Katif and the legacy of Rav Kook

People concerned with Jewish Israel know they must continue to consider perspectives, questions and new paths raised by listening to the voices of Jews expelled in August 2005 from their homes in Gush Katif. Their stories reveal the degree to which a government can act against its own people, and about the extent to which the powers of the world intend to see Israel constricted with section after section emptied of Jews.

The voices and stories of these people are poignant, illuminating and inspiring because, as will be clear upon reading, they have not been broken which they recognize to be the overall goal of the client regime that struck them on behalf of the powers.

The poignancy, perseverance, courage and faith expressed in the accounts below do not imply that all the answers are here: there probably is not any one right answer. But communing with the humanity of these battered but still vital people and hearing their experiences and insights is part of the healing and discovery of the way that will lead the Jewish people to settlement and victory in their land.

In Ein Tzurim, about four miles northeast of Israel's southernmost port city, Ashkelon, dozens of families from what had been Nvei Dekalim and Netzer Hazzani struggle to re-orient themselves to the daily facts of life and attempt to build for the future. In late May 2006 they were emerging from eight-nine months of being crammed in hotel rooms waiting for government permits and some compensation for their homes and businesses. During this time no synagogue was prepared for the people, another insult added to the injuries the government inflicted on them. The land where the new trailers ('caravans') are being placed and hooked up to utilities is raw. This part of Ein Tzurim is a construction site littered with building materials, heaps of rock, plastic bins with a life's belongings strewn about. I was told that "some of the children have moved so often that they refer to their bed as 'home.'"

Despite these experiences of loss and uncertainty, there have been about one hundred marriages among young people from Gush Katif since the expulsion. This itself is a powerful index of strength, life and faith by the afflicted people.

Anita, a farmer formerly from Netzer Hazzani, first Jewish town re-established in Gush Katif (1973) commented, "at first you can't believe that it's G-d's world because G-d cares and look at what's happened... [During the time since our farms were destroyed] we've lost our markets but we will learn about new soils and produce, to grow and to market our produce. We will work to create and then reach the light at the end of the tunnel."

This is a central and soul-saving Jewish insight into life and the nature of miracles. Through your own work, particularly in a community you create the light that enables you to reach the Promise. As the sages say, "man must begin and G-d will complete." This faith was emphasized by the Jewish people Mt. Sinai when in response to the giving of the Torah the entire nation said and reiterated "we will do," and "we will do and we will understand" (Exodus 19:7, 24:3, 7). Understanding, hearing truly, follows from doing what's right regardless of the percentages. Without this core approach to the challenges of life, the Jewish people would not be here today, producing, creating, and giving to the world whose mighty ones want to efface their example of active faith...

"Active faith" is a term denoting an approach to living that one hears about often from the Jews expelled from Gush Katif. It was the way they built their towns and made the sand dunes bring forth fruits, and it is the way they are rebuilding their lives and communities today, spreading their spirit throughout Israel.

The Gush Katif refugees speak often of fraternal national spirit: Am Yisrael ("the people of Israel") will be there for each other... this [expulsion of Jews] must never happen again in the Land of Israel." Their conviction, constructive purpose and the goodness in their own hearts leads them to say that the terrible experience of the expulsion "has brought the people closer together."

Seven to ten miles to the southeast, near the ancient fortress city of Lakish and in the village of Amatzia, refugees from Katif and other towns face the miseries of life in a construction site, of leaking pipes and sinks without running water, of the constant noise of earth movers, in trailers jammed within ten feet of each other. I heard many stories about the petty cruelties and broken promises of bureaucrats ("we have to beg and struggle for everything they promised us"). I saw the beauty of the surrounding land and heard the determination of people used to a long road.

"Life is crazy here but we are happy because soon we will rebuild. We want to be a community that gives as much as it gets."

In Shomriya, about five miles further south are families from Atzmona and Tel Katifa, the latter a beachfront community built at the northern edge of the main bloc of Jewish towns specifically to protect them all from Arab attacks from the Gaza area. Now they wish to continue their lives and mission, lives of informal but essential national service |to help protect the Jews of the Hebron area [a few miles to the northwest] and together to build a new community," commented Keren.

Struggling with sadness and disappointment, Hadassah from Kfar Darom, an isolated Jewish town in the center of the "Gaza strip," tells how it would be "raining mortars all night. We became accustomed to mortar attacks and miracles. Soldiers who were totally non-religious would say 'it is because of Hashem' that there are not more casualties." And she adds sentiments shared by many in and outside of Israel: "I was disappointed that some religious soldiers were confused about whether or not to follow orders." A former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Shapira issued a ruling forbidding anyone to cooperate directly or indirectly with the expulsion but this was not widely disseminated in the media. Moreover, the army brought other Rabbis who gave various contradictory directives to the young soldiers.

Some say that this failure of the religious ban on uprooting Jews from the Promised Land stems also from contradictory messages inherent in the teachings of Rav Avraham Yitzhak haKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel. "The teachings of Rav Kook were very much part of Gush Katif" one former resident stated, summing up the feelings of most. Rav Kook taught that the State of Israel was an important aspect of the promised redemption and re-settlement of the Jewish people and their sovereignty in the Land and that the state, if not any particular government, therefore had an element of holiness to it. Many politicians and religious leaders, especially those close to the government, used this perspective to ostracize and even criminalize those who asserted the impermissibility of such deportations. One of the painful results is that the teachings of Rav Kook, and the lives and example of the people formerly of Gush Katif have become sources of sustained criticism among some faithful and patriotic Jews. Working through this misunderstanding and clarifying the message of Rav Kook (who would have condemned the expulsion) are being worked out everyday in soul-searching, words and deeds.

A characteristic perspective and application of the teachings of Rav Kook were presented by Sara, formerly of Atzmona and a mother of nine who spoke at length about what had happened and about the way to re-build for an enduring Jewish future. She presented goals, principles and means in a strikingly articulate fashion, incorporating an impressive range of views and moods as she spoke.

"We have told our children that we will return to Gush Katif" she asserts, sounding the leitmotif for nearly every settler. "We plan to increase the size of Gush Katif communities to 30,000 within five years." It was somewhat unsettling that she noted that "the government and Histadrut [State Labor Union] had planned this ten-fifteen years ago" without any sense, at least expressed publicly, that the expulsion may have fit an outcome-based design encoded in the Oslo Accords...

"It's very difficult to start your life all over again," she mused and then reflected on a bitter and dangerous aspect of life in Israel since "post-Zionism" gained power in the media, universities and courts. "Many people have been taught to hate ideals of being observant and of living on the land... When Rabbi Kook heard an early Zionist Congress [dominated by secularists and socialists] asserting that the State would not be built on Torah he warned that subsequent generations would hate the land, would hate the [Jewish] people and would do ugly and monstrous things."

Sarah sought perspective on this accurate prediction and the resulting situation, the immediate example being the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the planned expulsions from Judea and Samaria by presenting a striking analogy.

"Being in the galut [exile] is like being in a coma. When a man wakes up from a coma he makes many mistakes and can hurt himself." Her analogy is that the State and the people are still recovering, still in a healing process that requires time and gentle care. Therefore, she insisted repeatedly, "we must build with education and not in anger. We would do again [face the expulsion, police and troops] the same way: no violence among brothers. The nation is very weak now, like a sick person that has hurt himself."

The metaphor is compelling but perhaps dual-edged; does not a sick and disoriented person who may hurt himself need to be cared for by others, a task that American administrations perennially volunteer to serve, -- to the lasting detriment and perhaps the destruction of Israel? Nevertheless, Sarah and others are committed to the way of absolute non-violence between brothers, however badly particular governments treat them.

"We believe that people will come back [to the true Zionist path of redeeming the land] more and more by example and energy and without anger, -- by faith, not with anger. We want a long-lasting success not like the Maccabees; they didn't last two hundred years." That's a fact, and so is the comparison with the mighty empires then and now promising "peace," security and alliance, increasingly meddling in Israel's internal affairs and accelerating the corruption of its rulers.

She reiterates her point: "our re-building [of the land] is education, and so is our non-violence. We are living in a very violent society. TV is a terrible thing, with hitting all the time. And of course there are the terrorists." Yet, she concludes, "You can't divide the land. I hope it won't happen... Next generation, maybe this generation will go back. Every generation has its task. Our Rabbi Tvi Tau taught us that no energy is wasted. This is a law in the physical and also the spiritual world. None of our work is wasted."

Perhaps the example, faith and hopes of such people will inspire enough deeds so that no Israeli government will do or consider expelling Jews again. Perhaps they even will lend their sustained support to re-settling the land. But many long time residents have great concerns about the self-perpetuating, dictatorial and anti-Jewish aspects and policies of the ruling classes.

Another woman, formerly from Netzarim and now in Yevul, in the southwestern Negev near the Egyptian Border echoes the sentiments and hopeful perspective associated with Rav Kook.

"Hard feelings are not good for Gush Katif or for Am Yisrael. All the time we must try to be positive. Despite the hard situation we have to live up to the ideal of being strong for Israel and for ourselves.

"We thought up to the last minute that the expulsion would not happen... We were still planting and building when the police came. We were doing the right thing, practicing active faith. We believe that this will carry us over."

The self-sacrifice, hope, work and fraternal love of these sentiments, and these people is very remarkable.

"Meanwhile we are here in the Negev on our way to Holot Chalutza [an area of dunes further southeast]. Tradition says this area has never been settled since the beginning of the world. It is a great blessing to turn a place of desolation into a place of life. We have a long road but the main reality is that the Jewish people have returned to the land of Israel and the main promise of Scripture is being fulfilled..."

These words epitomize the active faith and goals of the Children of Israel since ancient times. Coming from people whose lives have been smashed they are deeply impressive and clearly a source of great strength. Although complete non-violence and renunciation of anger about expulsion, past and planned is not a unanimous position among the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and their supporters it forms the basis for ongoing debate on means and tactics about re-settling the land which proceeds in many ways throughout the areas, from Jerusalem to the Negev, the ridges of Binyamin and mountains of Samaria. That is the essence of the entire Jewish approach to life and redemption: building, creating, and giving by every individual as if it all depended on him or her alone, honoring the practical and ethical fact of individual responsibility as stated in the Mishna: "it is not for you to complete the work, neither may you refrain from doing it."


Professor Eugene Narrett teaches writing and Literature at Boston University. He is the author of hundreds of articles, columns and reviews on politics, American culture and the arts. He is completing a study on Romanticism and the longterm decline of Western Culture. He writes often on subjects relating to Israel and Judaism and is a weekly columnist for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Massachusetts. His new book is Israel and the Endtimes: Writings on the Logic and Surface Turbulence of History available at This was submitted June 24, 2006

[Editor's note: You can read more of these new pioneers in Professor's article "The Israel Not Meant to be Seen," here.]


Return_________________________End of Story___________________________Return

HOME May-June 2006 Featured Stories Background Information News On The Web