Israel Resource Review 25th April, 2005


The Jewish Community of Gaza:
Acting Out of Faith
Micah Halpern

[Journalist Micah Halpern participated in the Israel Resource News Agency press seminar which toured the Jewish community of Katif in Gaza in early April. Here are his thoughts -db]


How can I best describe the Jewish residents of Gaza? As unrealistic.


How do the Jewish residents of Gaza describe themselves? As believers.

The Jewish community in Gaza today is still living an unrealistic dream. For the most part, they are unprepared to leave. They believe in their mission. They believe that, somehow, a miracle will occur and save them from the evil that everyone else predicts will befall them. They actually pray that God save their country from its leaders.

I've been to Jewish Gaza many times. I was there before it was a flourishing series of communities. I was there when Bill Clinton came to visit. I was there during troubled times and I've been there to vacation on the beach.

What I experienced just a few days before Passover on what will probably, necessarily, realistically, be my last trip to Jewish Gaza was different from all other visits. Each visit is like a slap in the face. Those people who have chosen to live in Gaza have done so because of their faith, because of their commitment, because they believe in their mission of settling the land. I have always found these pioneers to be truly inspiring.

This time, when all their hope should be lost but isn't, rather than inspire me, the Jewish residents of Gaza saddened me.

Their mission is now futile. They are doing way too little and doing it way too late. The die has already been cast. The meetings in Washington and Jerusalem have been concluded. They will be leaving their homes. Ready of not, reality is coming.

Had the men and women now clinging to their homes, their land, their businesses, the graves of their loved ones been more realistic they might have been able to mount a serious campaign. Had they been more realistic, they might have been able to open the eyes of many Israelis to their pioneering mission. But they didn't. And now, despite the millions of donor dollars, mainly US dollars, flowing in to support their right to continue living in their homes they will not to continue to live there.

Pe'at Sadeh is the exception to the Gaza rule. The residents of this community have agreed, with one voice, to evacuate and receive a relocation settlement. Do they want to leave? No, they do not. But if they must, they will. And they will be properly compensated for their loss. In the words of one Pe'at Sadeh resident, the settlement is the life insurance policy they are leaving for their children.

Iris Hamo, a 40 year-old mother of four showed tremendous maturity and heroism by taking this deal. She is not only leaving the home she has built for her children, she is leaving the original burial plot of a fifth child child, a four year-old killed in a car accident. Her baby will be re-intered in Israel proper after the redeployment. Preparing to forcibly leave your home is heart breaking, exhuming the grave of your child is soul wrenching.

The rest of the Gaza settlers see the Hamo family and their Pe'at Sadeh neighbors as traitors to the cause. Everyone else believes that Pe'at Sadeh has negotiated a deal with the devil, with the government that is deporting these families from their homes. Note the use of the word "deporting", it is not lightly chosen. It is precisely and deliberately used to invoke historical memories of Germany.

I'm always aware of security and possible terror. It's my job. And on this, my last trip to Jewish Gaza before the redeployment begins, all the proper safety precautions were in place for me and for my travel companions. An illusion of security was created for us by David Bedein and by his organization, Israel Media Resource Center.

But I know the truth. And any visitor to Jewish Gaza can see the tanks and armored personnel carriers planted on corners. So was I surprised when one very vocal resident proclaimed that Palestinian terror was not her inconvenience, but having to wait for secure army escorts in order to enter or leave her community was what inconvenienced her? No, I wasn't. This women is and will continue to be convinced or her right to live in Jewish Gaza.

She has faith in God. I found that to be very striking.

Each community representative I met with vowed not to resist or fight the army. Each representative also made it clear that they really did not think they would be relocated. Like Hannah and her father Hannan who was evacuated from the Jewish Sinai settlement of Yamit in the 1980's, they each refused even to confront the possibility that they were going to be forced to leave their homes in the name of an international treaty.

But they will.

Uprooting people from their homes in the hope of peace pulls at your heartstrings. Uprooting them without a peace agreement is an act of faith. It is an act of faith that the government of Israel has agreed on. It is an act of faith that the majority of Israel supports.

This piece ran on on April 25th, 2005

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Israel Army Radio:
Abandoning synagogues in Gaza,
No Legal Responsibility for Jews' Belongings

Dr. Aaron Lerner
Director, IMRA

IDF Radio reported today that senior security sources advised IDF Radio that in contrast to previous statements by Israeli Government officials that all synagogues would be removed from the Gaza Strip, only "symbolic elements" such are arks and memorial tablets would be removed.

Until now Prime Minister Sharon and others assured the public that the synagogues would be moves so that, among other things, Palestinians would not be able to be pictured celebrating as they destroy them (a repeat of the Palestinian "celebration" rampage in Nablus after Israel abandoned Joseph's Tomb and the Palestinians began tearing it apart and burning it).

IDF Radio also reported today that the evacuation law is being interpreted as stripping settlers the right to sue the moving companies in addition to the Government for any damage caused to their belongings still remaining on evacuation day.

The following is IMRA's translation of the relevant section of the law:

30. (A) the State will not be responsible to remove movable property located in the area being evacuated after the evacuation day.

(B) Despite what is said in Subparagraph (A), the State has the right to remove movable property held as movable property that was the property of an Israeli, as defined in Paragraph 23, or of an Israeli body, located in the evacuated area after the evacuation day. If the State removed the said moveable property per this Paragraph, it will do so while taking proper care.

(C) The State will not bear any responsibility for the loss of said movable property per this Paragraph nor for damage caused it, be it removed or not

Dr. Lerner quoted from IDF radio on April 25th, 2005.

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During Eviction, Israel Police Would Be Allowed to Employ "Reasonable Force" Against Children
Tamar Trabelsi-Hadad
Correspondent, Yediot Ahronot

The police would be able to employ "reasonable force" and detain children under age 12 who are actively involved in disturbances in resistance activities against eviction. This was recently determined by a special inter-ministerial committee headed by Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan.

What does "reasonable force" mean? According to the committee, this refers to balanced and sensible force, to prevent the minor from resisting being moved.

The committee, whose members included representatives of the police, the Justice Ministry and the Welfare Ministry, convened in light of scenarios predicting that minors under the age of 12, that is, under the age of criminal responsibility, would be involved in the activity against the evacuation of settlements.

During the discussions, the committee members referred to incidents in which children under the age of criminal responsibility attacked soldiers during evacuations, pulled their shirts or threw stones at them, but due to legal restrictions it was impossible to do anything about it. However, the license to employ force does not only apply to rioters during disengagement. The committee members noted that the age of delinquents in general is dropping, and last year 2,100 children were involved in various offenses, including knife attacks.

The instructions that will be given over the coming days to police officers who will be involved in the evacuation state that as a rule, there is no authority to arrest minors under age 12, even if they have committed an offense. However, in cases where children are actively involved in disturbances that border on an offense, the police officers will be permitted to employ reasonable force in order to remove and detain the rioters.

The minor will be detained until the arrival of a welfare officer. If this is a first offense, the officer will warn the parents. If the offenses are repeated, the officer will consider declaring the minor a child "in need" who cannot be controlled by his parents. This is aimed at providing a custodial response to protect the minors from themselves and from being exploited by others.

If the minor is declared a child in need, the welfare officer can turn to the court, which can compel the parents to pay a bond for the minor. If the parents do not uphold the court's decision, the welfare officer can turn to the court with a request to take the minor out of the home or impose a fine on the parents . . .

This piece ran in the April 25th, 2005 issue of Yediot Aharonot

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