Somewhat Haunting

It is a couple of weeks now since the disengagement which means that enough time has passed to offer some comments with some perspective, but certainly it has not been long enough to say what this event means in the grand scheme of things.

We watched as our synagogues were burned and even though it was not a surprise it was still upsetting.

I thought that Rabbi Daniel Gordis had some good comments in something that he wrote that I will share below. He links to some footage that I found to be quite moving. I have watched that and this video many times.

“Despite the pain that defies description, the loss of homes and businesses, schools and yeshivot, batei midrash and parks, playgrounds and friendships, despite the wounds that will take not weeks or months, but many years to heal, the State won. It was, given what we had feared, an extraordinary statement by Israelis that despite everything — or because of everything, like the fact that we live in a contracting country — there’s a bind here that has triumphed even over this. Despite it all, most people here recognized that what was at stake wasn’t settlements, or homes, even people. What was at stake was the still fragile State we call home. The home we have is smaller, and will get still smaller. And in the face of that, there was really no place for ribbons.

That, at the end of the day, is probably why it went as smoothly as it did. No shots were fired. Nowhere. Thousands of people were evicted from their homes, their children would not return to the same schools, and in many cases, would have trouble finding schools to take them. They would never live in houses like those again, they would leave behind the cemeteries in which their children are buried (those graves were moved a few days later) … and they walked out peacefully.

Admittedly, the army and police handled it all magnificently, with very few exceptions. The soldiers sent in were not the eighteen and nineteen year old kids who might have been hotter under the collar, but reservists, with wives and kids, who’d been around the block a few more times, and would know how to handle the hurt, and the hate. The police, who normally wear uniforms with the word “Police” on the front, were issued new hats, and vests. The same color, the same shape. But instead of the word “Police,” just an Israeli flag. So that the settlers who saw the long columns of blue uniforms marching in to their communities, saw police, yes, but they also saw a long line of bobbing Israeli flags. The flag they love. The flag they know is the only one the Jews will have as long as any of us are alive, and far beyond that. And in the end, the residents packed up, and with tear-stained faces and the sort of dignity that emerges only from hearts bursting with anguish, just walked away from it all.

Twenty percent of the IDF’s officers are religious. And how many of them refused orders when it came down to it? Virtually no one. True, the army didn’t use most of the younger religious units. Why put those kids in such an impossible situation? But there were religious officers there, lots of them. You just had to watch the news and the videos to see. How many did you see refusing? I didn’t see any.

What I did see, during and after, was some of the saddest footage I’ve ever seen. For a heartbreaking sample, you can take a look here(ignore the first thirty gratuitous seconds … the rest is moving beyond words). Indescribably painful footage, true, but also the kind that makes us proud to be part of this huge experiment called the Jewish State. No arms. Tears, yes, but no violence. Disbelief. Soldiers knocking at the door, and when answered, cutting their own uniforms in the traditional sign of Jewish mourning. Because even for those on the left, there’s nothing to celebrate about Jews being evicted from their homes. Because even for the blue ribbons, this was not a victory. Who can celebrate, as their borders close in around them? There was nothing else to do but mourn. And wipe the tears away”

And I really appreciated what he said here:

“When I was a kid, I grew up with the image of Israel as a growing country. The absurd borders of the 1947 UN partition plan expanded to the borders of 1949 at the end of the war. The Sinai captured in 1956, and though returned, captured again in 1967, along with the Golan, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

My kids are growing up in a very different world. The “Exodus” (biblical, or the boat) is no longer about leaving someplace else and coming here. Exoduses now, it seems, are about leaving here. About contracting. And each one becomes more painful, and more dangerous, more controversial.

What do you do in the face of that? You can protest. You can vow to get Sharon out of office (only to watch someone else retreat in his stead, of course.) You can tell your yeshiva students to ignore the orders they’re given. You can compare Sharon (as some did) to a Nazi. You can lose hope. You can walk away in disgust (especially if you never lived here in the first place).

Or, you can roll up your sleeves, and get to work. You can put on a uniform, hoist onto your back a knapsack that weighs almost as much as you do, give your brothers and your parents a kiss, and head off to defend what’s left.

Because whether you were blue or orange during the summer that’s passed, none of that matters anymore. Because you know that this place isn’t about ribbons, but about chances. For a hot and horrid summer, we allowed ourselves to imagine that what mattered was the color of the ribbon on our car. And now, we know we were wrong.”

Today we mark the passing of Simon Wiesenthal who assuredly lived through much harder times and so I look at what we have seen and I cannot do anything but be optimistic about the future. There are a lot of challenges, but there are many who wait to take them on because sometimes that is just what you do.

The New Year approaches and it is up to us to determine what kind of year we will have.

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