Monday, July 30, 2012

Seven years after Gush Katif

Seven years after Gush Katif

Emily Amrousi

A photo from 1977 shows the plot on which the Vesertiles' house in Ganei Tal will be built. There are four barefoot children in the snapshot, with yellow sand dunes in the background. It is a desert, without a speck of green anywhere. No birds, no flies, no beetles.

In a picture of the same location from 2005 there is already a modest house surrounded by dark green grass, and hundreds of trees heavy with fruit. Many birds, flies and beetles compete for a place amidst their branches. 20 minutes after the photograph was taken, it all disappeared. The birds, the trees, the house — all of it flown away.

Shlomo Vesertile kept the magnets he had on the refrigerator, commercials to businesses that have been wiped out: an appliance repairman who also does plumbing; a plant nursery and gift shop (open on Friday!); a Torah scribe (will come to clients' homes to check their mezuzot) and many more.

The community of Gush Katif was a miracle. It grew on a strip of land where thousands of mortars fell to great clamor, yet almost without hurting a soul. A heavenly dome of iron had protected it. A place where green leaves grow out of seas of sand until it becomes a mighty agricultural center, must have a guardian angel watching over it. Such a remote location, which in a few short years fills up with schools and places of Torah study, with cowsheds and kindergartens and factories, cannot develop without divine supervision.

Gush Katif's quick uprooting had also defied logic. Human language does not possess the ability to describe the destruction of 26 communities within five days.

August 2005 set a new record for outgoing flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport. Israelis were fleeing, leaving the deportees behind. Thousands had escorted the casualties of Gush Katif as they were buried for the second time on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. They walked together in the sweltering sun, without a single government representative. Justin Bieber has 20 times more Hebrew Facebook pages than Gush Katif.

Ashkelon recently inaugurated Gush Katif Street, which just last week suffered missile attacks from launch pads set on top of Gush Katif's ruins. But even people in Ashkelon do not remember.

Sunday will mark seven years to the disengagement, yet those who were wounded in it remain alone, even in remembering: They commemorate "their" memorial day, yelling inside a glass bell jar, while the rest of the country has already forgotten.

And yet, a slight cord of emotion still reverberates throughout Israel: Kadima has been expelled. This stronghold for its corrupt members, this party that led the disengagement is now crumbling. It is standing naked in the town square and everyone is pummeling it with tomatoes.

Generally speaking, the majority of those who were in power at the time of the engagement have since disappeared from our lives: The disengagement Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Moshe Karadi made a hasty exit following severe conclusions drawn in the Zeiler report; the disengagement Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz was ejected from his seat after a stock market scandal and a failed war; the disengagement president was ousted in disgrace. Within a few years of pitting brother against brother, during the summer of the Jewish year of 5765, all the major figures in Israel were replaced. Fourteen ministers vanished from the political limelights after the disengagement, many due to criminal activities. You would be hard-pressed to find a democracy where such a turnover occurs without a coup d'├ętat.

Could there be a judge and jury at work here? Not really. They were just unworthy. After a long game of political musical chairs, thank God it is all behind us.