Remembering Gush Katif

It’s been nearly five years since the Disengagement, ההתנדקות, a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and civilians from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in Samaria.  And it happened during the month of Av, a particularly sad time in the Jewish calendar.

Five years ago I was interning for The Israel Project, which toed the government’s line about the move been a difficult stride toward peace with the Palestinians.  I recall that as part of my job, I would print out the front pages of the major newspapers from the Newseum website and track overall coverage of the Disengagement.  Faces cried out as Jew evacuated Jew.  Israelis dressed in orange, some with tzitzit flying in the air, shouted as they were torn away from their homes, taking their belongings and Sifrei Torah along with them.

neve dekalim

The former Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim in Gaza.

They were names and faces, on the other side of the planet.  I happened to feel actually that they were extremists. And I logged them.

Six months later, when I came to Israel on a Birthright trip, I temporarily lived right by some of these people, who were housed in hotels after being booted from their homes.  Somehow it didn’t sink in.  I was there on vacation, and they were there… indefinitely?

About a year later, at, I worked on the Faces of the Fallen, an interactive, online memorial to the U.S. soldiers who fell while serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I didn’t know any of those people either.

Since moving to Israel two years ago (initially to study) during the first nine days of Av, I’ve gotten to personally know a few of the people who were forced to move with their families from Gush Katif.  I’ve even done some website work for JobKatif, a non-profit that helps these people find new jobs, as more often than not their livelihoods were also tied to this land.  Sometimes I feel like it was kapparah, atonement, for having been so cold to fellow Jews in the past, for not understanding or trying to understand the difficulties for the Israelis, for and against the Disengagement.

I know that for many Jews living in the United States, these families were also an icon, and so too Israel in general.  It’s that thing, over there, that we need to support, because somehow it holds us together while we live over here (America).  For some the Jews dressed in orange were icons of extremism, or passion, or idealism.  But the fact of the matter is that they were fellow Jews, holding on to what too many of us are afraid to hold on to, our Jewishness, and our right to the Land of Israel.


2 Responses to “Remembering Gush Katif”

  1. 1 C. July 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    I read an article very recently about how so many of these families have not yet been given opportunities to resettle, etc. In fact, in a public forum with Consul General Assaf Shariv last year, I asked him whether he felt the Israeli Govt did enough to help the evacuees and he answered frankly: “In short, no.” And then of course he proceeded to launch into the usual rhetoric about the families that went willingly vs. those who didn’t, but the bottom line is that many who did leave willingly are still not settled.

    I am thankful for the Israeli gov’t but sometimes it surprises me how such an intelligent and sophisticated group of people seem to go about projects with a lack of preparation (case in point: flotilla).

    Without any assurance that their plan would even be effective in reducing rockets etc. (it wasn’t), they at least should have taken as much time as they needed to make sure the evacuees were settled before they pulled the plug.

    I am very proud, however, of the many families that despite living in very non-ideal resettlement communities have perservered and actually built new greenhouses from the ground up and are, quite amazingly, producing a beautiful bounty amidst an arid desert.

  2. 2 Jack Rosenblum July 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    We should all remember what happened when we forced out
    the people of Gush Katif, what happened to them and
    the failed results of forcing them out.

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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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