Friday, August 19, 2005

Ha'Am Im Gush Katif

Ever felt guilty that while you certainly sympathized with the victims of the piguim or the disengagement or whatever tragedy was going on at that point, while sitting in the isolation of Teaneck or even Raanana you couldn't help or even really feel a part of the people who were actually there?

Today, in some small measure, I can feel that I really took part, and made a difference, in the events.

The government was too irresponsible to find housing for all the Gaza expellees in advance. Since Gush is on break and there are only ten or so students (all foreign) around, the yeshiva offered them the use of its dormitories until the students return in two weeks. Thus, 300 ex-residents of Netzarim will be joining us at Gush next Sunday night.

We found out about this at 10:30 or so, and soon left morning seder (yes, even in bein hazmanim) in order to tidy, sweep, and wash the 180 or so rooms of yeshiva housing, alongside the Gush maintenance staff. Over the course of the day, five or six students who were out of town were contacted and came back to help us. By 6 PM, we had finished preparing the large majority of the rooms for visitors.

Needless to say, this was not how we'd planned to spend the day. To make things even better, most of us ten were kicked out of our own rooms! (If you were lucky, your room became a "machsan" in which you could stay along with the property left in several nearby rooms which had been evacuated. I was not lucky.) Right now, every possession of mine except the clothes on my back is locked in such a machsan. I'll sleep in my empty room until the evacuees come, but after that, who knows.

Someone here suggested that we were experiencing a small portion of what the Gush Katif residents are going through. I would revise that by distinguishing between types of suffering. In terms of simple inconvenience and disruption, our troubles might actually be comparable to theirs. In terms of the much greater pain of being expelled from the home you built or grew up in, having your livelihood destroyed and your personal and national dreams crushed, there is of course no comparison.

Nevertheless, I'm still forced to make some sacrifice due to the disengagement, and what is more, my efforts should make things easier for those who are suffering much more than me. With the same purpose in mind, there are fliers in the Alon Shevut synagogue asking people to come help a certain farmer reconstruct his greenhouses on a new plot of land, as well as for a program in which each Gush Katif family is paired with an Alon Shevut family to welcome them and to help them out for their first few days after being expelled. I'm sure this is not particular to Alon Shevut, and that many other communities are doing much of the same.

It is much too late to try to prevent the disengagement, no matter how many people are still holding out in Homesh or Atzmona. Right now, immediate logistical and emotional support to those who have left is the most meaningful - and most satisfying - service that the rest of Israel can provide.