More on Disengagement

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From SHARING THE PAIN, Hamodia, August 5, 2005

Agudath Israel of America published last week “A Call to Share the Pain of Acheinu Bais Yisrael,” which called on all Jews “to pause and share in the pain of our Jewish brethren in Gaza.” The statement went on to describe those about to be evicted from Gaza as “idealistic, dedicated Jews, [who] are being forced by circumstances entirely beyond their control to give up their homes, their yeshivos, their shuls and their cemeteries, to be relocated abruptly to new surroundings.”

As one of the great Torah leaders of American Jewry told me recently, even if one were to believe that the Gaza withdrawal is the correct course for the long-range security of the Jews of Israel, those being uprooted from Gaza are still in the role of Yitzchak Avinu on the way to the Akeidah.

The statement of Agudath Israel of America can be seen as a response to those who have complained about what they perceive as the apathy of the chareidi world to the fate of the residents of Gaza. Whether a statement which maintains studied neutrality as to whether the “imminent withdrawal” is “politically or militarily correct” will alleviate that pain remains to be seen. As someone wrote in response to a recent piece of mine on the subject, “There is no greater chutzpa that to support the harm that is being done to a person and to simultaneously express sympathy for that harm.”

As a logical matter that is surely untrue. Even the most popular government decisions often have a harsh impact on many innocent individuals, and there is nothing inconsistent about supporting the decision and sympathizing with those individuals who suffer as a consequence of that decision. But we are dealing here in the realm of emotions, and some very raw emotions at that.

Much of the chareidi press has been filled with stories about the disengagement. No Israeli paper, for instance, has devoted as much space to security concerns raised by the disengagement as the English HaModia. And there is widespread sympathy for the plight of those about to be uprooted from their homes in the chareidi community.

But it must also be admitted that there is apathy as well. It is hard to imagine that there would not be more concern if a much smaller number of chareidi families were being evicted from their homes in a similar fashion.

A good friend visiting from the States last week confided to me that he “went ballistic” when one of his daughters complained that she did not know where she would now get bug-free vegetables. He asked her to imagine how she would feel if Lakewood decided to use its power of eminent domain (under the recent Supreme Court decision on the subject) to raze Lakewood Yeshiva and all the houses of yeshivaleit nearby, in order to build a huge shopping mall and upscale apartment buildings. Would her primary concern then be the quality of her lettuce?

Those of us who do not have close friends or relatives in Gush Katif have to combat this apathy and to ponder the tragedy that is taking place, as the statement of Agudath Israel of America urges. The human tragedy of what is likely to befall more than 8,000 residents of Gush Katif is very great indeed. Rarely has a democratic government willfully inflicted such deep harm on a certain segment of the population.

A leading American Rosh Yeshiva recently spoke to me with great animation of a visit he made to Gush Katif a few years ago. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the communities built there by Jews who are careful about mitzvos – kala k’chamura. Indeed, it would be hard to find many other such idyllic communities as those in Gush Katif in Israel, and it is almost impossible to imagine that this verdant landscape and thriving agriculture was wrested over the last three decades from unpromising sand dunes.

Residents will be moving from 400 square meter, two-floor houses, surrounded by large yards and gardens, to metal caravans of about quarter that size. And those are the lucky ones who even know where they will be going in another two weeks. Those being evicted from their homes can only take with them the possessions that will fit in two containers, and those containers will be stored, perhaps for years, on sweltering Negev army bases, where the heat inside the containers will exceed 194 degrees Fahrenheit.

Except for the smallest of the tight-knit Gaza communities, the residents will not be able to move together with their friends, or even their children and grandchildren, who today live in adjacent homes. The thriving Gazan agricultural sector, which produces $100,000,000 in exports a year will be largely destroyed. Even those farmers who reestablish their hothouses in the Negev will lose two growing seasons, and many say that they no longer have the strength rebuild today what they built twenty or thirty years ago.

The compensation offered by the government will not allow the residents to purchase homes remotely comparable to those in which they currently reside. Nor will the growers be compensated for their losses from the move or provided with compensation adequate to cover the costs of starting anew. Even Ha’aretz admitted this week, “The state is not ready to absorb the disengagement evacuees, despite all the efforts made thus far. . . [S]olutions, if they do exist, are very partial.”

BESIDES THE SUFFERING OF THE GAZA RESIDENTS and the trampling of civil liberties, there is one other aspect of the disengagement that should particularly concern us, as we approach Tisha B’Av. “Hashem is taking back the Land,” in the words of one of our generation’s leading ba’alei hashkafa.

We often see most clearly the Divine Hashgacha in the way Hashem turns the hearts of leaders: “Like streams of water is the heart of a king in the hand of Hashem, wherever He wished, so He directs it” (Mishlei 21:1). If today we witness a prime minister, who is considered the father of the settlement movement, and who less than two years ago proclaimed his commitment to the Gaza settlement of Netzarim to be no less than that to Jerusalem, ramming through the withdrawal from a part of the Land, with the scantest of national debate, there must be a message there for all of us.

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7 Responses

  1. Saul says:

    It seems to me that there is a parallel between the experience the “Dati L’umi” crowd is having with the yishuvim and the experience the “Chareidi” world is having with the yeshivah/kollel stipends. Both groups placed a tremendous focus on a reltively new implementation of a timeless fundamental of Yiddishkeit (limud Torah/Eretz Yisroel), both relied for support on an entity steeped in a history of secular motivations, and both have now seen that entity “betray” them. Perhaps everyone has something in common after all.

  2. Netanel Livni says:

    Hanan,

    Of course the northern settlements do not protect yeshuvim like sderot that are located to the east of the Gush, but they do protect Ashkelon to the north. Further, the army’s presence in Aza is what gives them whatever little edge they have in making it a little harder for the kasam factories to operate. Without a presence, the Arabs will be able to manufacture far greater weapons that will reach much further.

    I do not want to mislead you. My opposition to the plan does not stem from security concerns (although there are many) nor from civil rights concerns (I will gladly do to the Arabs what Sharon would do to the Jews). My concern is a Religious one. This plan goes against several essential commandments to settle the land and to not allow gentiles a foothold in the land. It also constitutes a retreat during an obligatory war and many other prohibitions. See Rav Shapiro’s Shlit”a psak on http://www.inn.co.il/news.php?id=120599 for details on the many halachic issues involved plus sources.

    As far as the secular yeshuvim are concerned. Of course they also have intrinsic holiness, but it is hard to fight for a yeshuv like Ganim or Kadim when its own citizens want to leave. Therefore most of the battle against this plan focuses on those settlements (mostly religious) that do not want to be kicked out of their land.

    I apologize if the previous posts were a bit personal. I tend to have strong emotions regarding the expulsion of Jews from their land.

  3. Hanan says:

    Natanel-

    Whether your talking about Civil Rights is irrevelant. The post itself brought it up (along with other posts). And it bothers me that civil liberties (or the lack of) would be brought in to play on our sympathies more as if they are the only ones in Israel to have their liberties trampled on. My sympathy lies not in the Arabs, but all the Jews in Israel. Just because I feel that Jews should not be in Gaza does not mean I sympathize with the Arabs. I don’t honor fanatasism, whether its from my brothers or anyone else (i.e. those that would committ suicide if forced to leave) And your still missing my point. I was saying that we never talk about those settlements that are not known to be religious. The discussion is always based on Gush Katif and like you said before, its Talmidei Chachamim while there has never been a peep about, for example, Ganim, which is not known as a Religious settlement. Its funny that you can even call me a leftist, because if you knew me, you would know Im definetly not on the left. But I guess one cannot have an opinion thats outside the main sphere of the right without immediatly being accused of having sympathy for the enemy.

    Regarding security, I know very well where Dugit, Nisanit etc are located, but you call it an essential buffer zone. Funny, it has not been doing such a great job at it. Like I mentioned before,Sderot has been bombared numerous times. I fully agree with you, the armies presence there will be fully gone, but that just means that those soldiers and resources can be put to protect the main Israeli borders and not the settlements.

  4. Netanel Livni says:

    Hanan,

    who is talking about civil rights? I am talking about Jewish rights and Jewish souls. Souls that are intrinsically holy whether or not they are talmidei chachamim and souls that I feel for much more than I ever could for an Arab simply because they are my brothers and not my enemy. The level of sympathy leftists like you feel for the enemies of the Jewish people and the level of disdain you show with every word for your own brothers astonishes me.

    As far as security is concerned. If you look more closely at the map, you will see that Dugit, Elei Sinai, and Nisanit are at the very north of the “strip” and constitute an essential buffer for Ashkelon and Ashdod. The southern gush towns make it very difficult for the Arabs to smuggle arms into the rest of the strip. Also, don’t forget, that without the settlements, the army presence in Aza will be greatly reduced and the Arabs will have greater freedom of action to terrorize the Negev towns. Why do you think the Knesset just allocated 3.6 million shekels to set up early warning systems for Negev towns that never had a kasam fall within 15 miles of their border?

  5. Hanan says:

    Netanel

    You missed my point. It was regarding comparing what they are going through to Yizthak Avinu. In fact, you missed the whole thing. I specifically referred to the fact that C-C does not look at the suffering of others as well such as people that have to leave their West Bank homes. Why not talk about them, is it cause you say, they are not Talmidei chachamim? What about all the other settlements in Gaza that are being dismantled. Are they all talmedei chachamim? Do you feel sorry for them as well? Cause I sure have not read anything about that. And all of a sudden talk about their Civil Rights. Im not condonning ANYONES civil liberties to be trampled on. But its funny to me to bring up that topic and use as if now we should feel even more for their suffereing. If an Arabs civil liberties are trampled on will there be a post on that here? Its also funny that we even talk about Civil liberties considering its the Government that has given them these Civil Liberties in the first place. If you want to talk about democratic ideas such as civil liberties at least realize that this democratically elected gov’t that is telling them to leave, is also the democratically elected gov’t that gave them the land in the first place and also (coincidentally) the same democratically elected gov’t that gave them these Civil Liberties.

    By the way, can you explain to me how Gush Katif is a buffer between the Arabs of Aza and Jewish Cities of the southeren Negev. From maps that I see, Gush Katif is located near the egyptian border near the southern end along the beach. How exactly is it a buffer zone in between Rafah and Khan Yunis and the Jewish cities of the Negev?

    “What will all of those who support this crime say when Kassam rockets start falling on Ashkelon?”

    Ashkelon is north of Gaza, how would Gush be a buffer zone in the first place. I have friends in Sderot that have been bombared with Kassaming. I don’t think that Gush Katif has been doing such a great job of being a buffer zone there.

  6. Netanel Livni says:

    I am surprised that a post like Hanan’s got through. These are people that were fulfilling the mitzvah of Yeshuv Eretz Yisrael MeHadrin min HaMehadrin. They exemplify a type of misirut nefesh that we have not seen in ages. They have created model communities. They have a tremendous amount of Torah learning and the Gush is home to some of the greatest young talmidei chachamim and masmidim alive today, especially Rav Shmuel Tal shlit”a (see that approbations for Tal Chaim which included enthusiastic haskamot from gedolim across the entire spectrum of the Torah world).

    The people in the gush also create a buffer between the Arabs of Aza and the Jewish cities in the southern Negev. What will all of those who support this crime say when Kassam rockets start falling on Ashkelon? These are Holy Jews and Hanan’s comment reflects neither rachamim, baishanut, or gemilut chasadim.

  7. Hanan says:

    “those being uprooted from Gaza are still in the role of Yitzchak Avinu on the way to the Akeidah.”

    What? We are now actually comparing them to a person that we consider holy? That they are actually being sacrificed for some reason that it is above our understanding? These people are not holy and they are not being sacrificed. Im indeed a fan of Cross-Currents but I can’t say that I am pleased to see that it has become a medium for “Anti-Disengagment Propaganda.” Never once have I heard on this site about the fanatic residents in Gush Katif that threaten Suicide if they taken out of their homes. How does that go along with Jewish values? The Suffering of the Residents of Gaza? What about the suffering of those that need to leave their homes in the West Bank. Did we forget about them. And then the whole shpeel about the lack of Civil Rights given to those people in Gaza. You are obviously using this as a means to get some MORE simpathy from your readers. Civil liberties are an issue and a problem with everyone not only the poor settlers.