Day 3: The Nine Days

A new week in the Gush — and I have a feeling it will bear a different tone than last week, which was filled with euphoria. This week will be filled with more solemnity, as we are counting the nine days leading to the destruction of the second temple — and the planned destruction of Jewish communities in Gush Katif.

Everyday at Gush Katif brings something new — a new friend, a new experience, a new idea, or a new understanding.

I heard that a group of students against the expulsion, the “Orange Cell,” had landed in the Gush, illegally of course, and I thought I would become acquainted with them. They were roughly my age, some of them were secular, and the leader was pretty cute and charismatic. He flirted with me too, although I later realized that he flirted with almost every female.

They invited me to join them at Morag, the southernmost settlement and the most precarious. It’s surrounded by three Arab villages, which make them a popular target for mortar attacks. Morag is slated as one of the first to go.

A 50+ year-old man with a grey beard, a teacher, welcomed us into his home to get acquainted.

He explained that there were 40 families in Morag and that they were split regarding their dedication to refusing the pull-out, but he believed that the media exaggerated the percentage of families who would leave willingly. He for one was not going to give in to the government’s psychological scare tactics. He’s been through this before. He was expelled from Yamit.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he related. “My family and I didn’t pack a thing. I can’t be a part of this. So I’ll have less money but my soul will be intact. Maybe I’ll have less to give my grandchildren, but I know they’ll be proud to say that their grandpa did the right thing. That’s
priceless, isn’t it?”

And from what it seems, kids really won’t resent their parents’ decision to forego larger compensation in exchange for standing up for their home. In fact, the man explained that it’s the children who strengthen them and who encourage them to stay. Even after all the mortar attacks they have suffered, the kids have never asked to leave.

At Morag I understood something for the first time. I used to think that maybe some of these residents are simply holding on to the quality of their life — their nice homes, their nurseries. But it’s more than that — they’re holding onto Israel.

Many settlers believe, as I’m beginning to learn, that their presence is vital to the spiritual and physical strength of Israel. They act as a buffer zone that prevents attacks in Israel. They bear the mortar attacks that would hit other Israeli towns and kibbutzes outside the Gaza border had they not been there. They prevent the Palestinians from moving freely within the territory — stopping them from transporting weapons, information, and hate.

The dispersed settlements also allow the army easy access throughout Gaza so that they could monitor Arab activities. Sometimes it’s easier to protect a border by being on the other side.

Instead of thanking these settlers for their bravery, the government and the media is abusing them.

They live and breathe Israel. Meanwhile, a lot of people inside “little Israel” who play with their fate by casually advocating disengagement are often those who dream of an American, Australian, or British passport. They curse the day they were born into such a difficult country.

If you would ask me whom I would trust when it comes to Jewish security, it would be those who make it a preoccupation to love Israel and the Jewish people.

Now, with thousands of us supporters here, I too am a part of this supposed “self-sacrifice.” I have only three changes of clothes, I cannot always shower everyday, sometimes I sleep on bare mattresses. I give of myself to take care of kids, to work in the nurseries, to clean houses — anything to help. Sometimes, I think that the more difficult it is for me, the more privileged I am.

As a self-proclaimed egoist, this all seems so strange to me. But I know that ultimately I’m not doing any of this to save the lives of these settlers or the Jewish nation. All of my self-abegnation, as that of all of those here, is a very selfish act. We know that we are protecting our own lives since we are all future targets — and we are all becoming stronger, as individuals, through every step we take here — seeking truth, pursuing justice, and standing-up for what we believe in.

Like the man said, you can’t put a price tag on that.