Disengagement evacuees discuss new strategy

Crowd determined to prevent disengagement from West Bank, vow to return to Gaza Strip.

gaza evacuees gather 224 (photo credit: Abe Selig)
gaza evacuees gather 224
(photo credit: Abe Selig)
Voices roared passionately inside a classroom at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem Tuesday night, as people gathered to discuss what they considered to be the failures that led to the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, almost three years ago to the date, and a possible return to Gush Katif. Organized by a group called Homesh First, which represents families who were evacuated from their Gaza homes in 2005, the night featured a panel in which various aspects of the Disengagement were discussed, followed by a series of speakers, including two ministers of Knesset, in which hopes and plans for the future were laid out. "We don't have to wait for 19 years like they did in Gush Etzion," said MK Uri Ariel. "If we can succeed in getting our message across, we can return to Gush Katif." But the majority of the evening was spent discussing the 2005 Disengagement and possible avenues that could be taken to prevent another similar evacuation, this time in the West Bank. The discussion panel laid out four areas of interest that were to be focused on in preventing another evacuation. Handling the media, struggle, leadership, and refusing military orders were discussed boisterously by the crowd. "To make a mistake twice is the work of the devil," bellowed a man named Michael. "We shouldn't be discussing what to do in the event of the next evacuation, we need to make sure we don't get to that point. We need to make sure there are no more evacuations at all." Others explained their opposition to current government plans to cede land to the Palestinians as part of future peace agreement. "We're Jews and this is our land," said one woman, Chaya Witkin, who participated in the discussion group. "But this message is not being related. Before the disengagement, we had 200,000 people gathered for demonstrations multiple times, and the government didn't hear us. Only in democratic countries do they see demonstrations and react. Something more needs to be done." Other issues were brought to the table as well, including the ordering of bicycle helmets to protect people who may try and physically obstruct a future evacuation. The order to lay weapons down and leave private-issue handguns and rifles at home was reiterated multiple times. "God forbid someone misunderstands me right now and doesn't do this," said one man to the crowd. "But nobody brings guns. We are all still Jews, and all guns - rifles and handguns - will be left at home, period." While a majority of the crowd came from former Gush Katif communities or the West Bank, some had come from Rishon Lezion and Rehovot to take part in the night's dialogue. "I'm connected to these people because I think that what happened in Gush Katif was a national crime," said Elee Arad from Rehovot. "I want to prevent it from happening again." Arad, who is not outwardly religious, went on to explain that the borders of Israel are laid out Biblically, and are not meant to be toyed with by the hands of men. "But the nation of Israel doesn't know any of this," he said continued. "I want them to know, so there won't be any misunderstanding, there won't be any more fighting between us." The night concluded with speakers, both political and rabbinic, who spoke of the pain felt by Gush Katif evacuees, and the lack of care provided to them by the government. "Here we are, on the 4th day of Av, mourning the destruction of our holy temple," said Rabbi Schreiber, who had been a spiritual leader of the Kfar Darom community in Gush Katif. "The sadness can be felt very much here as well," he said. But we must continue with our message. A message of hope and a message of life, to see our goals come to fruition."