Israel, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Short Fiction, Career Guidance

Location: Israel

Monday, August 22, 2005

Impressions from the Front

I apologize for the long ramble, but some have asked me to document my experience here.

Shabbat and Tisha B'av were the most moving experiences I can recall. Every prayer was meaningful, every song filled with emotion. The communal feeling of threat and the appreciation of the precariousness of life is palpable. I've fallen in love with the place. It is physically beautiful and the view of the Mediteranean doesn't hurt either.

This morning, I walked around the Yishuv with my friend Jeremy Brody, who miraculously made it in and out of the area. We walked through what had obviously been a gorgeous home, now gutted completely. Even the doorframes were removed. The owners left Israeli flags of various sizes all over the house. I don't envy the soldiers whose job will be to demolish the home.

We then saw a bit of the multitude of greenhouses and factories. They were enourmous operations. This convinced me more than anything else that those who think Alon Shvut or Efrat, Maale Adumim or Ariel or any place else in Yesha is safe from the immolation of the Left are completely deluding themselves. The economic investment and value of Gush Katif is worth several times over the economic value of the rest of Yesha combined. If the government is capable of giving away Gush Katif, they will be willing, ready and able to give away the rest. I forget the poem, but I think it went something like this: "First they came for the blacks, and I did nothing. Then they came for the gypsies, and I did nothing. Then they came for the gays, and I did nothing. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to help."

I've been sleeping on the terrace of my hosts' house. It's the only place where you don't run the risk of suffocating from the heat in this all-time high heat wave. On Saturday night I got to see a shooting star. On Sunday night I got to see a mortar -- which actually left a nice smoke trail. At 4am, after a fitfull sleep it was most unwelcome. The yishuv loadspeaker then asked everyone to take cover. I went inside. It was just too hot. I was too tired and cranky too listen to anybodies orders, so I went back to my spot on the terrace, for the hour and a half I had left to sleep.

We had an early morning minyan at the main gate of Gadit to prevent soldiers from delivering expulsion orders. They apparently did not make it until much later thanks to all the protestors at Kissufim. The army however had escorted two buses full of journalists. I was treated to a first-hand reminder how one cannot trust the media at all.

Some journalists encouraged a couple of the wilder local youth to bring over some barbed wire and then drag it violently back and forth over the road. All the media got their photo-op. Shortly thereafter the boys discarded the barbed wire and were not seen again. It was completely fabricated.

The davening at the gate was fairly meaningful though we were often distracted by vehicles that we were letting in and out.

Later on I made my way to Nvei Dekalim where I got to help Ruth Leiberman with some of her PR work and to see the wilder scene at the front gate there. It was encouraging to see the many soldiers that refused orders and left the area. The numbers of teens as well as adults that are ready and waiting to bodily resist the expulsion is truly impressive. You could see visible fear and concern on the faces of the security forces.

After helping with a few other odds and ends in Nvei Dekalim I make my way back to Gadit.

I pass a woman who spontaneously breaks into grief-stricken crying who is consoled by her friend.

I step carefully over the freshly torn-down barbed wired fencing that separated Nvei Dekalim from Gadit. It was a wise move to prevent the army from 'dividing and conquering'. To my right was a convey of trucks with large containers that was paralyzed by protesters and civilian vehicles. There is a touch of chaos in the air. A middle-aged man is yelling at a couple of dozen teenagers that the leadership decided to permit free passage for those that are moving out.

However, it's been discovered that the army has hired a number of such trucks to just drive around the yishuv to deepen the feeling that people are giving up. The psychological warfare is ongoing.

In the background are loud metallic noises. Usually it sounds like the dismantling of the greenhouses. Sometimes it sounds like gunfire from Khan Yunis -- I haven't been here long enough yet to tell you the caliber or the range, as most of the long-time residents can.

I keep walking. A massively built truck-driver gets out of his vehicle and tells a passerby "This kid is going to send me to jail again". The passerby asks him "Why"?. "Because I'm going to murder him" is the serious reply as he quickly walks after a teenager that just punctured his tire.

Tonight there was basically what amounted to a very large pep-talk. The crowd was visibly elated by news of hundreds of cars making their way to the south for us.

My feeling is that the tide is turning and I'm off to a barbecue that my hosts are serving.

Looking forward to a much larger celebration soon.



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