NETZER HAZANI - Gush Katif is dying. The settlements are breathing their last. Some are reconciled, others are resisting. Some are fighting back, others are falling apart. Some are grieving deeply, others have broken hearts. The settlers have been defeated. Their greenhouses are withering. Their synagogues are empty. Their rooms are wide open. Their villages are ghost towns. Contrary to what was promised, most were not violent. Contrary to what was promised, most bowed their heads before the state and the law. So that now, as they go into what they view as exile, it is possible to begin the soul-searching - about what happened here.

Should they have been here? No. Was it necessary to remove them? Yes. The 30 years of pointless settlement on the Gaza coast had to come to an end. The great injustice done to the Palestinians had to be ended. Israel's great historic mistake had to be corrected. But there was something anguishing about the way in which the sentence was carried out. There was something chilling in the way Israeli secularism bisected Gush Katif's world of faith over the last year.

The disengagement is a fait accompli. But the significance of this act of total uprooting has yet to enter our consciousness. We do not yet know what damage it has done to both the uprooters and the uprooted, or what imprint it will leave on Israel's soul.

Dovish intellectuals were not here this week. Perhaps they are busy. Perhaps they have more important things to do. But the fact that the chief rabbis of Israeli secular morality did not see fit to make a genuine human gesture toward 8,000 fellow citizens who were forcibly uprooted from their homes is a fact laden with significance. It reorganizes Israel's normative framework. Soon they will discover that those who do not stand emotionally with their fellow citizens when their lives are being destroyed have lost the right to preach morality to them regarding the destruction of the lives of others.

The Supreme Court was also not here. The court was correct to approve the disengagement plan a few months ago. But it made a grave mistake by not coming to see with its own eyes the houses whose demolition it approved and the citizens whose lives it permitted to be destroyed. The court thus damaged its humane image. It made its legal, legitimate and proper decision on the evacuation without giving emotional and moral expression to its inherent cruelty.

The hard-heartedness of the intellectual and legal elites in the face of the catastrophe that befell the residents of Gush Katif will not be forgotten. It will seep into the groundwater of our shared lives and pollute it. The Gush Katif residents were not fanatics; they were not the fascist enemy; they were believers, unfortunate but good-hearted, who devoted themselves with all their might to a false ideal. They were residents of development towns and moshavim who gave their hearts to a belated and useless Zionist enterprise. They had the right to have the intellectual and legal elites listen to them and offer compassion and justice.

Gush Katif was a world of its own - a world of work and faith, of patriotic innocence and communal warmth; a world that touches the heart, that was established in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, as this world is being buried in the sand, Israel must sit shiva for it. For if the entire public does not know how to mourn the death of Gush Katif, its death will poison our lives.