'Why is God doing this now?'

Back in the wider media spotlight, evacuees debate Sharon's illness.

hebronsettler 298 88 (photo credit: Jewish Community of Hebron)
hebronsettler 298 88
(photo credit: Jewish Community of Hebron)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive hemorrhage last Wednesday has evoked mixed emotions for Gush Katif evacuees - and a resurgence in media attention. This week television cameras and journalists flooded the Shalom Hotel in Jerusalem, where many of the Neveh Dekalim evacuees still reside. "They clearly wanted to quote us saying that Sharon deserved it, that we rejoiced at the downfall of the man who expelled us from our homes. But no one can explain God's actions," said Rina Akerman. "I wouldn't have wished for Sharon to end his life this way - my father suffered a similar stroke that left him totally incapacitated for his last fourteen years. I am relieved Sharon has left the political world, but saddened that it had to be this way. I remember many years ago the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that everyone who deals a blow to the Land of Israel will fall. Sharon said he would succeed and no one would stop him - but he too is mortal," she said. "All the reporters ask if we are praying for Sharon's recovery. My response is to ask who is praying for the wellbeing of the Gush Katif evacuees?" Akerman added. "I am busy praying for the 9,000 people who lost their homes and livelihoods and all of those who fell sick as a result, and the families of those who died of heart attacks after the expulsion - don't they merit our prayers too?" Another evacuee, Ella Hoffman, told The Jerusalem Post that she had mixed feelings about Sharon's condition. "I always liked Sharon because he did a lot of good for the country - until he turned against us. Then I felt ashamed for him, and now I just feel bad for him, though I'm relieved that doctors have ruled out his return as prime minister," she said. "On Shabbat I prayed for God to bless him for the good that he did in the past... he is already paying for what he did to Gush Katif. It's late for us, but I don't believe that it is coincidental that the hemorrhage happened when they handed out expulsion notices to the Jews of Hebron - you don't touch such holy Jewish places," Hoffman continued. "Still, he did a lot of good before and I hope he survives." Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft, the Chabad rabbi who helped found Neveh Dekalim after being ousted from Yamit, said he was not surprised at Sharon's dramatic felling and was not praying for him. "That is what happens to someone who gives up parts of the Land of Israel," said Kirshenzaft. "It happened to Rabin, it happened to Begin - who fell into a depression after Yamit - and now it has happened to Sharon. This is not a new phenomenon and I can only hope that the next prime minister realizes that it is not a simple matter to give away parts of our Holy Land." Chavie Golan, a Neveh Dekalim evacuee now living in Nitzan, said that Sharon's sudden illness had presented yet another unsettling junction in matters of faith for the evacuees. "As a physiotherapist, I know what Sharon has ahead of him if he survives... it would be petty to rejoice... and Sharon's fall will not bring back my home and community. So why is God doing this now? "When I was expelled, it was not the loss of my house that I mourned, though I lived there for 25 years, because the bottom line is that it was just a building. More important to me is what happened to all the values we taught our children as we raised them there. We lived in Gush Katif because we believed that this was what God wanted us to do; despite all the dangers, we lived under a roof of self-sacrifice," Golan said. "Yet after witnessing years of miracles, suddenly one man - the same man who had helped us to settle there - expelled us. And now, just months later, this same man lies seriously ill, and I do not believe any other person is capable of carrying out further expulsions as he had the power to do. How are we to understand this?"