Thursday, March 24, 2005

Column: About the Trip to Gush Katif

How do you heap enough praise on the good and brave people of Gush Katif? That is the question I ask myself after returning from the trip I made last week with Dov Hikind and more than 40 Jews from the NY Metropolitan area to that besieged part of the Land of Israel.

The trip was such a success that Assemblyman Hikind, at a closing dinner at the Ramada Renaissance hotel, promised to bring a group of 1,000 supporters from the United States back to Gush Katif in the next month or so. That promise brought a long and heartfelt standing ovation.

What made the trip so important and successful to merit such a follow up? It turns on the issue of the isolation and demonization of the residents of Gush Katif by the Israeli Government and the Israeli and world press on the one hand and the breaking of that isolation and a debunking of that demonization on the other – thereby exposing not only the immorality of the plan but the immorality of the underlying slander that is its foundation.

How else can you explain the detainment and questioning of members of half the group at Ben Gurion by the police –- including my own mother, whose orange shirt of protest against the “disengagement” was enough not only to detain her but to get her picture very visibly into the Jerusalem Post above an article which started, “It was her shirt that did it.”

How could an orange shirt be so threatening? It is threatening because there is a fear of being found out in a big lie about who the people of Gush Katif really are. That fear is a road map for us to follow, revealing a serious weak spot that Sharon needs to protect – a place where pressure, if applied continuously and forcefully will leave him alone with his “plan” and the Jews of Gush Katif free of him and his evil decree. The more the truth is revealed and known about these good people and the more the demonization of them is debunked, the harder it will be to implement a tyrannical expulsion.

Not only did the trip give strength and encouragement to the residents that the evil decree will be nullified with the help of important allies at their side but it was extremely educational, uplifting and enjoyable.

One of the most important things the group learned, or was reminded of, was the beauty of this part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah and the one time home of Avraham. Slandered continuously by a hostile press who would make it seem a worthless, dangerous and horrible place, the slander has been used to paint the residents as crazy fanatics who, if they had any sense at all, would leave immediately of their own free will.

Go there and you will see a completely different picture, one that takes you well beyond the true madness of Arab Gaza that you see on TV.

You will see pleasant, crime free Jewish communities near the Mediterranean Sea sitting on beautiful sand dunes that stretch for miles. You will see hot houses with their flowers and vegetables growing out of the sand and a seaside resort, now empty and neglected, but soon again, hopefully, a thriving vacation spot. You will see local Jewish surfers ride the waves even today – youth who really do love their seaside home. You will see smiling children and proud parents – torah scholars and devoted and brave wives and mothers.

You will meet with many residents who will share the most amazing stories of the miracles of Gush Katif during the past few years as thousands of mortars and rockets have left almost everyone there with the clearest faith that they and their family and neighbors and friends are being protected through Devine Providence day and night.

You will also hear inspiring words from community and spiritual leaders like Rabbi of the Gaza Coast Regional Council Community, Yigal Kaminetzky and Avner Shimoni, Mayor of the Gaza Coast Regional Council.

David Hatuel, whose wife and all of his children were murdered along the Kissufim road in Gush Katif almost a year ago now, also spoke with the group in a way that makes you not only painfully and personally aware of the great tragedy that has befallen himself and others but of the great moral strength and goodness of heart of the community as a whole.

David Hatuel’s face showed and his words confirmed the great love and appreciation that he has for the people in his community that have not only seen him through his horrible tragedy so that he can survive, but have given him the strength that has renewed his countenance with light and his words with the power to inspire others – like our group – with hope and faith in life in general and in the immediate and long term future of Gush Katif.

I urge you to contact Charni Sochet in Dov Hikind’s office and learn more about the next trip. The phone number is 718-853-3981.

In May, another great trip to Gush Katif is planned with Americans for a Safe Israel and they are currently taking reservations. Call them at 1-800-235-3658 for all the details.


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