Right-wingers threaten Yonatan Bassi

Baruch Marzel tells disengagement liason: "I, my children...will pursue you."

bassi walking 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
bassi walking 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Right wing activists verbally threatened and insulted former Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi at the start of a speech he gave Tuesday night at Jerusalem's Yakar synagogue. Although it has been 20 months since some 8,000 Jews were evacuated from Gaza the activists said their anger at Bassi for his role in the Disengagement Plan had not subsided. "I, my children and grandchildren will pursue you," threatened activist Baruch Marzel of Hebron, as he stood near Bassi and pointed his finger at him. Both Marzel and fellow activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, neither of whom were Gaza residents, created noise at the start of Bassi's speech and refused to cede to a request by the audience that they sit quietly or leave. "Are you going to evacuate us?" asked Ben-Gvir. Turning to the 30 audience members, Ben-Gvir posed a second question: "How did you invite him? Do you know the number of lives he destroyed?" One member of the audience responded, "Not everyone is of your opinion." Eventually Bassi left the head table to go and sit in the audience. Marzel stood up and walked over to Bassi and continued to yell and point his finger at him. "You are a criminal, you should leave the country!" said Marzel. After a standoff that lasted about 20 minutes, the audience was asked to head upstairs, and Marzel and Ben-Gvir were barred from the event. So instead they shut off the electricity in the building. As people searched for a flashlight so Bassi could read his notes, the electricity was restored. Once the situation was quiet, one audience member asked Bassi, "Are you hurt by demonstrations like that?" Bassi responded: "A person gets used to these things." He added that what concerned him was the fate of the nation and not his own personal experience. He then read from a letter he received from a fifth grade Jerusalem boy after the evacuation. The boy spoke of his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, who had lost his siblings and parents but had created a new family in Israel and built a home in the Sinai community of Yamit before it was returned to Egypt in 1982. The boy told Bassi that his grandfather had taken it hard when the soldiers came not to defend the families that lived in Yamit, but to give their homes to the enemy. But, the boy wrote, his grandfather survived that, too, and rebuilt a new home in the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim. He told how his grandfather had fought the encroaching dessert to plant a green lawn - not because it was beautiful, but because he believed it was good for Israel to develop the area. In the letter, the boy said his grandfather had also planted two trees, which became a symbol of survival for the family. On the night before the family was forcibly evacuated from their home, his grandfather debated cutting down the trees, but opted to leave them standing so that if there was ever a chance to return to Gaza, he would know where the house had stood. After the evacuation, the boy wrote, his grandfather was very sick and spent time in the hospital. Now, he said, he has to live with a triple pain - the loss from the Holocaust, Yamit and Neveh Dekalim. Bassi said he had responded to the letter by recalling for the boy his experience as a 19-year-old soldier in the Sinai during the Six Day War in June 1967. At the time, he said, he had served with a friend, Dov, whom he admired. "Then, in the battle for the Sinai, he was killed right next to me," recalled Bassi in the letter. At the war's end, he brought the young man's father to the spot where his son was killed, said Bassi. This father was a Holocaust survivor who had also lost his wife and children during World War II. After the war, he had remarried and had a son that was his whole world. As that nation celebrated its victory, this man sat and mourned his own private loss. "I learned from this an important lesson about the disparity between the salvation of the collective and individual loss," said Bassi. He added that he had also learned that a nation makes decisions that assist the collective even, when they harm the individual. He told the audience that what was needed was a culture of understanding, given that there was no justice on either side of the map. The most important thing, he said, is that we do not lose the sense of compassion that has marked the Jewish people for 2,000 years in the Diaspora.