(photo credit: AT)
Menashe Nagar's home was the first one demolished in the Gaza settlement of Ganei Tal on Sunday.
Standing by the rubble eating pistachio nuts, he told The Jerusalem Post this was done at his own request; he wanted to make sure the house was gone before he drove away.
"I don't want anything to be left for the Arabs," he said, throwing pistachio shells hard against the trampled grass.
The cranes razed in 10 minutes what had taken him four months to build. The house was only three years old.
As he spoke, cranes were busy chomping into and reducing to rubble a row of homes across the street that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had commissioned to be built when he was housing and construction minister.
In total, the Defense Ministry on Sunday destroyed 20 out of 90 homes in Ganei Tal, 34 out of 70 homes in Pe'at Sadeh and 19 out of 28 in Dugit.
Tomorrow they will finish all three settlements and start on Rafiah Yam, Morag and Slav.
The public buildings remain and will be handed over to the Palestinian Authority, except for the synagogues, whose fate is still being determined in court.
In Ganei Tal, dust rose against the setting sun, while settlers' overpacked vans sporting orange ribbons drove by. A number of settlers simply shook their heads.
When Nagar's wife called him on the telephone, he suggested to her, "Don't come to look. You won't want to see it."
His father-in-law's home next door, Nagar said, is likely to be demolished on Monday. No one has packed it up because his father-in-law wants it all to go, said Nagar.
He walked through the home, though, picking up a few mementos a mezuza and a photo of his daughter.
"Within two days, the whole settlement will be gone," he said.
Unlike his neighbor Nagar, Tubi Zion drove out of Ganei Tal before the housing demolitions began. He couldn't bear to watch.
He left with a sign pasted to the window reading, "They have evacuated me from my home," in a truck filled with as many plants as he could dig up from his garden.
The sight of his browning lawn, as he returned Sunday to pack, almost made him cry. He held back the tears, not wanting to cry in front of his son-in-law and friends.
Until Tuesday, Zion had remained optimistic that a miracle would occur, thwarting disengagement. Still, he started to pack, but waited to leave until the soldiers arrived at his door on Wednesday.
The symbolism of not leaving until that moment was important to him. "It was my way of protesting," Zion said.
One of the soldiers who arrived to evacuate him last week was his son's friend, he said. The two young men stood on his lawn, crying and hugging each other.
The demolition scene in Pe'at Sadeh was similar, with two bulldozers smashing through buildings as if they were toys, turning the idyllic seaside community into yet another pile of rubble.
"This isn't a happy job and it's not a comfortable mission, but it's our work and we have to do it even though no one is excited about it," said Shmuel Siboni, head of the Defense Ministry's infrastructure department. "We're used to building military bases... we've never destroyed anything before."
A resident of Pe'at Sadeh, Yehuda Peretz, who was allowed to return to his former community to watch the operation as a member of the press, said it was a very difficult moment for him.
"It's unfortunate and painful. I connected to the place and to the people and now I will see it destroyed. I have no tears left."
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