(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A fast day has been called for Wednesday in commemoration of the synagogues of the Gaza Strip that were destroyed following the disengagement.
The 8th of Elul marks the fifth year according to the Hebrew calendar since the completion of the withdrawal from 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, followed by the destruction of at least 30 synagogues.
Four communities in northern Samaria were also destroyed.
The call for a fast day, begun on a limited basis four years ago, was affirmed by the Committee of Rabbis of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, which described it as a religious act, and not political.
“Clearly there is a political element,” committee spokesman Rabbi Daniel Shilo said, “and sure, politicians will be involved, but the meaning is religious – that Jews were separated from the Land of Israel.”
The Komemiut right-wing nationalist movement, which was also behind calls for the fast, has organized a rally to be held at 6 p.m. at the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“According to us, the Land of Israel is not politics,” said Komemiut secretary-general Yehuda Amrani, echoing Shilo.
But Amrani went on to blame the disengagement for later events, such as the hail of Gazan rockets on southern Israel and the kidnapping of St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit.
Rabbis who have joined in the call are not requiring congregants to fast, but are leaving it up to individuals to choose whether to abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours.
Organizers said the fast day and rally were not scheduled to coincide with current events, such as indirect negotiations with the Palestinians and the pending expiration of the West Bank settlement construction freeze.
“We want them to understand that they shouldn’t expel us from the Land of Israel,” said Shilo, who is the rabbi of a synagogue in the Kedumim settlement, referring to Israeli leaders.
“We want them to understand the importance of Jews being in Israel.”
Under the rubric “Expecting to Build,” the evening rally will be preceded by prayers and Torah study. Community leaders and MK Uri Ariel (National Union) will speak to a crowd expected to number a few hundred.
“We will remember and never forget: The ugly fire from years ago has yet to be extinguished,” Uriel said in a statement released ahead of the fast.
“We will return and be consoled with the rebuilding of the [Katif] Bloc.”
It is unclear how many people will fast, since calls for the fast days were spread through advertisements and not community rabbis, although Shilo said the calls have been taken up by more and more people since they began four years ago.
To mark the previous two anniversaries, Komemiut organized rallies at the Western Wall, but this year moved the venue to the recently restored Hurva synagogue.
“We are hoping that the future of the synagogues of Gush Katif will be like the [restored] condition of the Hurva synagogue,” Amrani said.