Menachem Tzion, born in Gush Katif, 16 years ago, during the expulsion

My conclusion: may we never again hear words asking one Jew to sacrifice not himself, but his fellow Jew, for the "common good.". Op-ed.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch ,

Gush Katif
Gush Katif
deposit photos

Happy 16th Birthday, Menachem Tzion

"How do you feel now about the Gerush (Disegagement), sixteen years after my ambulance crew pulled you out of the Kfar Darom bridge under Arab gunfire, and took you to Soroka Hospital to have your baby? I'll tell you that I asked your husband, Meir that question, that morning as we drove through the countryside, and this is how he answered:

'How would you feel if they were stealing your home, your memories, your life? '".

This story started for me on Thursday, August 11, 2005. I got a phone call from Amir Dana, paramedic:" Do you want to come with us Monday, we're going to Gush Katif?"

"I wouldn't miss it for anything!".

I'd been in Gush Katif only a few times over the years: a concert with Mordechai Ben David and Dedi Graucher, and then a few trips over the eight months previous to the Gerush. Those last trips were family outings, protest marches against what was obviously an evil disaster about to occur. We marched together with thousands along the ocean, we videoed kilometer after kilometer of beautiful greenhouses, the packing plant, neighborhoods, etc.

It was obvious that the man known as "The Bulldozer", Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, was going to pull the greatest pogrom against Jews since World War II. Given the Army, the Police, and media, even Aryeh Hirsch could have pulled it off.

In a country in which it is so hard to make a living that to get Olim(immigrants) that they advertise : " We never promise you a rose garden"(some selling point), Sharon was determined to throw 8,800 Jews out of their homes, destroy their farms (their livelihoods) and demolish their spiritual centers: synagogues, yeshivot and schools. These beautiful people had come to Gush Katif in the late 70's and the 80's, finding what even the Arab Gazans rejected as worthless, sandy land- and made a desert bloom- eventually producing 10% of Israeli agriculture export.

And Sharon's motive for this evil destruction? According to MK Zvi Hendel of Ganei Tal, who famously proclaimed: "As the height of the court files against Sharon grows, so correspondingly the depth of the Disengagement grows". Israel's Left was going to bring Sharon to trial, for supposed corruption in obtaining his vast farm in the Negev on his relatively lean salary as a politician- said Hendel - unless Sharon were to do the Eviction of every Jew from Gush Katif. If Sharon would give these "bloodthirsty" Leftists their scapegoats, only then would they "Etrogize" him: i.e., protect him like a Jew protects his prize Etrog for Sukkot.

It worked. 55,000 soldiers and police descended on Gush Katif, to evict (the media and government called it "evacuate", as much an Orwellian misnomer as "Disengagement") the poor victims, as well as thousands of Israelis who came to Gush Katif to try to prevent the calamity. Meanwhile, our ambulance crew of Beit El-ers arrived: paramedics Ofer Yaakov and Amir Dana, with volunteers Shimon Sabag and Yosi.

It was boiling hot. We arrived at Magen David Adom in Netivot, stored our gear, and picked up hundreds of bottles of water. We spent the day distributing the water to parched hikers, all trying to enter the Gush. We also entered the Gush a few times, for people with minor ailments.

Evening was descending, and we drove around the main square in Netivot. There were thousands of Israelis, mainly youngsters. Suddenly, I ordered the driver to stop; in another of those heavenly "coincidences" that only happen in Israel, my eye had spotted my 19 year- old son Shimon. We had given him our video camera to record history. We got him and another hiker into the ambulance, and told him we'd been in and out of Gush Katif all day, and would drop him off there.

However, when we got to Kissufim, about 10pm, this time we were stopped by an Army officer who claimed that no more ambulances were allowed into the Gush. I argued that in an hour the team would switch, and a new officer would probably let us in. But Shimon decided he'd rather be let off in the fields, to walk in. We did get in an hour later, but Shimon had worse luck: he spent all night, videoing hikers thru the fields. Sometime near dawn, still videoing, he suddenly received blows to the head. A Yasam-nik (gorillas added by Sharon to the police to do the evictions of Gush Katif, Amona, etc.) arrested him, took him to Tzomet Gama, and then to Kissufim where he and tens of others were bussed to Tel Aviv and told to " get yourself home".

About 2 am we were back in Netivot, MDA offices, when a call came in to come to the Kfar Darom Bridge, to pick up a woman in labor. The radioman woke us up, and off we went. We started across the bridge, when a חיילת (woman soldier) ran toward us, with some חיילים sprinting behind her. She was waving her arms and yelling:

"Go back! Go back! The bridge is under fire!"

We turned around and got off the bridge. Waiting, the radio said to try again to cross, but again we were waved back. Finally, after something like 15 minutes, we got across and met another ambulance. The husband came out to us, and then the woman in labor was brought by the MDA team. We took off across the bridge and to Soroka hospital.

After a few medical details, we settled back into our seats, and I asked the husband:

"How do you feel about all this- not the baby - I mean, this Hitnatkut?"

I got the answer you read at the opening of this article. In about 35 minutes, we got to Soroka. Forty five minutes later, the woman gave birth to a baby boy. We headed back to Netivot MDA. I slept a bit, davened and told the crew: "I can't take much more of this. Bitter husbands, crying Gush Katifers and soldiers. After lunch, drop me off and I'm leaving".

I called my wife, and after a few more little trips (not into the Gush, they wouldn't allow us in) I had the crew drop me off at 2 p-m at a Tzomet (crossroads- Gadim, maybe?) outside Ofakim. I was in the middle of empty fields, and that's how I felt. A bus to Be'er Sheva arrived, and from there I took the 3:45 train to Tel Aviv. Switching trains, I met my wife and three littles kids in Hadera. All I wanted to do was to get as far away as possible. That night we were in northern Alonei Habashan, in the Golan Heights.

I fell asleep, but the kids got the news on the TV. "Look, there's Dasi G (a friend from Beit El)- the soldiers are dragging her out from under a bus, to throw her out of Gush Katif". I went outside.

Just before midnight, I turned on the car radio. Two fellows from Galei Tzahal were interviewing Yedidiah Meir, the reporter. They asked him what he's doing.


"Why would you be crying?", one asked Yedidiah.

"Shouldn't you be crying, with thousands of Jews being thrown out of their homes, for nothing.This won't end well. It's all so sad".

"What are you talking about? People get thrown out of their homes all the time- they don't pay their mortgage, they are evicted. Happens all the time. "

"You can't be serious. Not eviction of thousands, for no good reason….".

The next night, I was stunned again: there was mother, son and husband on the news- back home in Kfar Darom.

I'll give my take on this. Then I'll give that of the mother:

Mine: about 4 weeks before the Disengagement, Sharon gave a speech to all of Israel. "It pains me, but you must leave your homes in Gush Katif- it's for the common good of all of us, etc." . A few days later was Shiva Assar b'Tammuz- July 24, 2005. My wife got the brilliant idea that since we hadn't been to the Yad V'Shem Holocaust Memorial in some ten years, this was a good day to go.

It was THE day to go-because there, on the wall of the room containing a large model of the Lodz, Poland Ghetto, was the speech given by Judenrat Chief Chaim Rumkovski on September 4, 1942:

"A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. The Germans have asked me to give them children younger than ten years old, and well as the elderly over 65. They are asking us to give up the best we possess. I never imagined that I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. Brothers and sisters, hand them over to me! This is for the good of us all, so that others may survive."

I was thunderstruck. Sharon's speech, nearly word for word. Rumkovski had even made an allusion to Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding and near- slaughter of Isaac on the altar. Thus my conclusion: may we never hear words asking one Jew to sacrifice not HIMSELF, but his fellow Jew, for the "common good". Redemption of Israel will come only when instead of Jews sacrificing brother Joseph for the "common good", Judah stands up to the world and is prepared to sacrifice HIMSELF and fight the might of the Egyptian Empire in order to protect his brother Benjamin.

However, that's not the take of a mother in Israel. In 2005, I had written down the names of the husband and wife from Kfar Darom: Orit and Meir Bar-Eli. I'd not look at those names till today, but the name now rang a bell: the new Rav of our town, Beit El, is Rav Ariel Bar-Eli. So I called him and asked him if he had a relative named Orit.

He did. "That's my sister-in-law"

"And what's the name of the boy who's sixteenth birthday is today?"

"For that, I think you should talk to them".

Rav Meir had been a rabbinical student in Gush Katif. He was now the Rav of Asael, in the southern Hebron hills. He demurred to his wife, to tell the story. She wanted to ask me what I remembered of that night; I cut that short, and she proceeded:

"We were worried about our other six kids (they now have twelve, Mr. Rumkovski), so we had arranged papers to get BACK HOME thru the roadblocks (you can't make this stuff up - this is the very language of Holocaust stories. But Heaven forbid to make comparisons- I do; many don't, and so they learn nothing of value from the Holocaust, and repeat perfidious, Rumkovski-like Jewish behavior in Disengagements. He, by the way, was murdered in Auschwitz by Jews who felt betrayed by his little speech).

'So Meir went home that first morning that the baby was born. I got home 36 hours later. Despite having the proper papers, the 50 minute trip took three hours, as soldiers kept blocking us. But I felt it vitally important that this son have the merit of living in Gush Katif. Not just be born there, but to live there:

'I'd lived 25 years in Gush Katif. My parents still lived in Nvei Dekalim. The people: with their brotherhood, their bonds of friendship, their mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice). We always looked at the people of Kfar Darom, and said:'Wow' (they were the ones who were constantly attacked by terrorists). And when Meir and I got married, we went to live in Kfar Darom, and it was even more:'WOW !!!'. Not just looking at these great ones from afar, in general- but getting to know them personally, up close- the brotherhood, the friendship, the self-sacrifice and idealism for Eretz Yisrael.

"Thus we moved mountains to get home. There was another birth after ours, from Tel Katifa, but they didn't manage to get home. We had been told that the eviction from Kfar Darom would be Sunday (August 21) – so we wanted our son to LIVE in Kfar Darom for a few days,and to experience a Shabbat at home. We even thought that we would convince the soldiers not to do this eviction.

'But it was not to be. The next morning, Thursday, Meir came to me:"Don't be alarmed, but there are four soldiers at the door, to evict us. The turn of Kfar Darom is today!' But at least our son got to live one night in Kfar Darom."

I asked Orit her overall take on the Hitnatkut:

"הנתק,המרחק, החוסר היכרות- זה מה שגרם לפירוד

The detachment, the distancing, the lack of recognition- this caused the division, leading to behavior and verbal expression that caused a feeling in this country that 'these people are not of us- HEM LO SHALONU. Our mission now is לחבר ולקרב- to unite and bring society closer, so that such a thing could never happen again between brothers- to bring Geula, salvation and redemption to Israel".

Oh, the name. We say it every week, on Shabbat, in the blessings after the Torah and Haftorah readings in Shul:

רחם על ציון כי היא בית חיינו

"Lord, have mercy on Zion, for it is the house of our lives. To Israel which has lived through deep humiliation bring salvation speedily in our days. "

ברוך אתה השם. משמח ציון בבניה

Blessed are You, Hashem, who gladdens Zion with her children.

Happy 16th Birthday, child of Kfar Darom, Menachem Tzion.