Remembering Gush Katif

jh website aug 13

What’s the difference between an evacuation and an expulsion? The people of Gush Katif, the bloc of Jewish Settlements in the Gaza strip, who were razed to the ground exactly ten years ago, will tell you that it depends on who you ask.
The Israeli Unilateral Disengagement Plan from Gaza was conceived by the prime minister at the time Ariel Sharon, in April of 2004. He began the long and laborious project of gaining support for what seemed to be by many an unwise strategy. While the majority of Sharon’s Likud party members voted in a referendum against the plan (65%) Sharon amended the plan and had his cabinet vote on it after dismissing two cabinet members and coming to a compromise deal with yet another. The dwindled cabinet approved the plan 14-7 and thus Sharon began to plan for the Israeli parliament vote in the fall.
On February 16, 2005 the law of the Israeli Disengagement from Gaza was given final approval by the Knesset, which led to massive protests and demonstrations of the many Israeli citizens who strongly objected to the plan. The army began to train special units to learn how to forcibly evacuate families from their homes. The government amended and changed laws concerning the sums of compensation money it would allocate towards helping the inhabitants of Gush Katif resettle in new areas and rebuild their lives that had been destroyed.
Economically, the evacuation/expulsion made no sense. Gush Katif was a truly profitable agricultural, biotech region. Ten percent of all Israeli produce was grown in Gush Katif. Sixty five percent of all Israeli organic export produce was from Gush Katif. The area also produced 95% of all cherry tomato exports, 90 percent of all bug free leafy vegetables, 60% of Israeli herb exports, 45% of tomato exports, and 60% of all of Israel’s geranium exports. The 350 family-run agricultural businesses built hothouses over approximately 1000 acres of land with an estimated value of over $80,000,000. These businesses employed 10,000 people, 5000 Jewish workers and 5000 Palestinian workers. Everything was destroyed, and, today, ten years later, a large percentage of the businesses have not been rebuilt and a large number of the people forced to leave are unemployed.
Strategically, the plan made no sense. Undeterred by warnings from strategic experts, Israeli government officials told the Israeli population and the international world that the evacuation would lower terrorism and bring more security to the region. Strangely, it did just the opposite. After evacuating all Israeli citizens from the area, the IDF withdrew from the Gaza strip. Since then, over 14,000 rockets have been fired at millions of Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip (an average of 4 a day for ten years). Israel has been forced to activate three major military operations in which many soldiers were killed, in order to stop the missiles and the digging of underground terror tunnels.
Perhaps what really made no sense about the evacuation was the humanitarian perspective. People who had paid taxes, served in the Israeli army and raised families for decades in the Gaza region were forcibly removed from their houses and not given any viable options to continue their lives. Business owners and farmers were forced to leave everything behind and register for unemployment. The government demolished the houses of Gush Katif, yet the former residents continued to pay their monthly mortgages. People were sent to live in hotels and guest houses for months and then sent to live in temporary structures. It’s ten years later and many still have no options for employment or appropriate housing. The physical and emotional hardship took its toll. Couples divorced, teens turned to drugs and some developed suicidal tendencies, and a disproportionate number developed chronic or fatal illnesses.
Yet the people of Gush Katif, as a whole, remain strong. Many stayed together as organic communities, waiting years for the government to allocate living areas for all of their members. Some were able to save their equipment and hothouses and have somehow managed to acquire land. Many of the children of August 2005 have gone into the army or national service. And many have gone on to marry and build families. The dream of Gush Katif lives within them and every year, on the anniversary of their expulsion from their homes and communities, they journey to the Kissufim crossing. Kissufim, a nearby town, literally means “yearning”, and is the closest checkpoint within Israeli borders before crossing into Gaza. They stand at Kissufim and attempt to see the area where their homes once stood.
And they dream to return.

Published: August 13, 2015
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites. To view your favorites click here
This video has 2 votes