Friday, August 19, 2005

Random Disengagement Thoughts II

1. In an article written for the New York Times today from Gadid, Steven Erlanger and Greg Myre quoted a Gadid resident as saying somethig that I think explains why there is all the hysterical protest against leaving Gaza, and why so many "mainstream" Israelis do not understand it:

Laser Amitai was a policeman here. But he left the force when he decided to remain in Kfar Darom against the wishes of his government. Mr. Amitai lost his wife, Miriam, in a school-bus bombing in November 2000, early in the latest Palestinian intifada, and he is widely respected here.

On Thursday, his brother, Levi, an officer in the Border Police, came to persuade Laser to leave. The two men and their sister sat in the living room, talking quietly, hugging and crying. Laser Amitai said: "This is not about our house. We are here today fighting the battle for Zionism."

What a lot of people do not understand is that the settlers are not weeping and wailing over their houses. If it was just the house, they would probably accept the situation with the same stoicism with which they have dealt with all the other challenges of being settlers in the Gaza Strip.

The issue here, for them, is that by pulling out from Gaza, Israel is making a statement that it is willing to give up geographic power. To religious settlers, it is the twilight of a Messianic dream. To them, having control over more land is the same as having more strength as a nation, and having more national strength is the same as knowing that God is smiling on us. It is the same as being able to tell oneself that we are doing something right, and that the day is imminent when Israel will be secure in an unquestionable way, a way that brings glory not just to Jews but to the name of God. It is the same as being able to tell oneself that pretty soon we Jews won't have to worry any more about anti-Semitism, or terrorism, or Holocausts, or pogroms, that all those things will become distant memories as we move into a peaceful, secure, wondrous future.

That is what they are weeping and wailing over. To them, leaving a piece of Israel in the hands of others is the same as turning their backs on God, or realizing that God has turned His back on us, or both -- or those are the same. It is the beginning of believing that the State of Israel is not necessarily the start of a smooth path to Messianic redemption, but a very human enterprise with very human flaws, which sometimes has to make sacrifices to other very flawed human beings.

When you consider that to the people crying on TV the Gaza settlements were synonymous with Jewish pride and Jewish destiny, it's no wonder they are wailing and clawing and having to be dragged away. If something I equated with Jewish destiny were being ripped out of my hands, I would do exactly the same thing, because that is what Jews who care do. Most of us who live here would. That's why we stay here, sending our kids to the army and knowingly risking being killed or injured in terrorist attacks. Because for most of us, at some point, Israel ceases to be about our homes and begins to be about something much bigger than any of us.


2) It's been an emotional week for everyone here, whether one was pro-disengagment or not. This week, a friend of mine sent a mass email to his friends, at the end of which he compared a certain aspect of the disengagment to the Holocaust. I was enraged and sent him an email telling him so. He very kindly sent out another email to his list, apologizing to anyone he offended.

Well, then the "reply all" messages started coming back, telling him not to allow himself to be silenced, that the disengagement is like the Holocaust, etc etc.

At first, I responded on- and off-list to some of those messages. Until I realized that the Holocaust isn't what this is all about. What was really happening is that we are all very, very upset, and it's easier to argue over whether and how much the disengagement is like the Holocaust than it is to simply address how angry/confused/sad we all are.

(Still, the Holocaust analogies are ridiculous. Don't even get me started!)


3) The House of Joy has gone dark. Literally. It used to be pink. Looks like I'm not the only one who reached the end of my emotional rope yesterday. Please go there and spare a thought for her, even though she has disabled her comments.

The part of her last two posts that hit me the most was the reminder that those young girls who parked themselves in one of the synagogues in Neve Dekalim are not crazy, out-of-control weirdos. They are sweet, sincere, idealistic girls. They are good kids. They are the kids who are usually the most obedient, the most respectful and sweet. They are the girls who, out of everyone around, probably have the most passionate love for the state and people of Israel. So where do they go from here? It all comes back to my questions yesterday about the future of the Dati Leumi (Religious Zionist) movement.

I hope that out of the pieces of what is left of their dreams for a Greater Israel, they build something that will lead to a truly Greater, albeit geographically smaller, Israel.


4) In contrast to House of Joy, my local grocery store owners, who to me represent the "Israeli on the street," are ecstatic at how smoothly the disengagement has been going. This from people who were staunchly anti-pullout.

Them: We're so happy. It's almost over, and there has hardly been any violence. The army has been phenomenal. We truly are part of a great country. It's all gone so well. Such a kiddush Hashem. [sanctification of God's name]

Me: Um, have we been watching the same news reports? Because 44 security people were hurt, and a bunch of protesters too. They are pouring strange chemicals onto police officers. It's horrible. What are you talking about?

Them: Oh, that's nothing. Nothing serious. We were afraid there would be really serious injuries or that someone would get killed. But look, nothing has happend that has led to an escalation of violence. It's under control! Oh, what a glorious people we are!

I don't know. When did I enter a Twilight Zone in which my anti-disengagement grocery owners are relieved at how it's going, and I, the conflicted one, am still so . . . conflicted?


5) I saw something on Dov Bear that I thought was very wise. Yes, Dov Bear. Wise. I know, hard to believe!

Dov Bear on making an area off-limit to Jews:

though Jews certainly have rights, to Gaza for instance, they also have brains. And sometimes, it's simply not smart to exericse your rights. This is one of those times.

That's part of my attitude toward the wisdom of getting out of Gaza. If you have the right of way and start crossing the street in front of a speeding car, the car will hit you. You'll be right, but you'll be dead.

Sometimes, it's better to be smart than to be right.


6) Is it just me, or has the mourning period known as the Three Weeks, which officially ended last week, been kind of extended this year? I feel like this whole week has been under a post-Tisha B'Av cloud.

Still, Shabbat is coming. Shabbat Nachamu. "Nachamu, nachamu ami," says the prophet. "Be comforted, be comforted, my people." There is so much to think about. So much to feel. But the nechama, the comfort, is there, somewhere.

Shabbat shalom. Shalom. Truly.

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