'You have no future in this country'
At the height of the fury and the humiliation, the children of Hebron wandered around among the men in uniform, trying to figure out who was Jewish and who was not - who is from "our" seed, and who is from the seed of Amalek. At a time when most Israeli children were spending their summer vacation at day camps and on trips, splashing in the sea and in swimming pools, the children of the Hebron day camp looked as though they lived on another planet. Glowering with hatred, with huge skullcaps and long curly earlocks, children age 10 and younger walked among the men in uniform and examined their dog tags.
Anyone whose non-Jewishness was discovered received the appropriate treatment: The wild, bleary-eyed little ones mercilessly hurled curses and insults at them. They are mere children and already experts in racial theory. Every possible epithet was hurled at the soldiers, but they, perhaps on orders from above, were silent as though catatonic. Their faces showed no emotion.
The children of Hebron are very reminiscent of the children at the summer camps of Jesus - those who live in America's Bible Belt, who have been poisoned by religious ideology and have become the spearhead of Christian fundamentalism.
"If someone comes to kill you, kill him first!" shouted one of the children at a Border Policeman with a non-Jewish name [both Russian and Ethiopian immigrants and Druze were among the security units present], moments after the evacuation of the families from the market began on Tuesday. The youngster brought his face close to that of the soldier until they were almost touching. "It says in the Torah that I have to kill you. You are from the seed of Amalek ... You are a goy [gentile] and you are not allowed to tread on this holy ground. Get out of here, you and your friends!"
A "Jewish" soldier tries to calm down the rebellious child, and in response is treated to a barrage of curses: "You're not Jewish at all. You're a Nazi. We'll kill you and all the Nazis who are here." Other children, dripping with hatred, surround the group of soldiers and observe them with amusement, as in a zoo. Their mothers sit on the side and observe their glorious progeny, barely concealing their enjoyment.
Several meters away, a woman named Anat Cohen is trying to disrupt the evacuation of one of the houses. Emaciated, barefoot, wearing a head-covering, she mercilessly curses the soldiers. While she is still shouting, salvos are heard nearby: The Palestinians in the city are celebrating the end of the matriculation exams and are firing in joy. The Jews are convinced that these shots represent Schadenfreude, and Cohen becomes hysterical: "Get up, dogs!" she shouts at dozens of security personnel. "Get up! They're firing in your honor so stand up in their honor. The Arab enemy is firing salvos in your honor, for what you are doing to the Jews."
A father and son, ultra-Orthodox Jews from New York, look at the destroyed shops and their hearts fill with sadness. They speak Yiddish to each other; the son, Shmuel Landau, photographs the soldiers who are sprawled in every shady corner. Now it is 10 A.M. and the evacuation has been completed. The soldiers from the Home Front Command are sawing and dismantling and sealing up every possible opening in order to prevent the evacuees from settling in again.
Shmuel plans to show the pictures to his friends from the Amshinov Hasidic sect in the United States, which numbers only a few hundred followers in Israel. "They aren't Jews," he says, pointing at the hundreds of men in uniform. "We are the real Jews." His father nods in agreement: "You're asking about the soldiers, so I'll tell you. They aren't Jews. Look at them, they're Russians, Ethiopians and Druze. And even those who call themselves Jews are not Jews. They're Zionists and leftists."
"Israel's big problem is Zionism," continues Shmuel. "It severed the Jews from the Torah and from Jewish values. You have no future in this country. In the end you'll all leave and only we will remain here."
"Israeli" is a dirty word in this hate-crazed enclave in Hebron. Not one of the hundreds of residents here defines himself as such, as though Israel were a penal colony. Even after the state has showered them with protection, resources, assistance and even sympathy, these people consider Israel to be a foreign government. Israeli sovereignty has replaced the sovereignty of halakha (Jewish law) and in that way has decreed for itself the status of an enemy in every respect.
Except for the presence of the soldiers, there is no sign here of Israeliness, everything is Jewish: the street names, the hateful slogans painted on the shops of the Palestinians, the long beards, the skullcaps. There is dirt in every corner and the Hebrew spoken here is poor as well. There are no secular books and no Israeli culture here. Most of the children have never set foot on the soil of Israel per se, and most of the adults have been there only rarely, mainly for medical treatments, family celebrations and consolation visits to mourners.
"I have nothing to talk to you about, you are not my nation and you are not part of my nation," declared one of the veteran residents of Hebron's Jewish Quarter, who wished to remain anonymous. "You are my enemies and I pray for the day when we will get our revenge for what you did to us in Gush Katif and what you're doing to us in Hebron. I hate you more than the Arabs. You will pay forever for what you did." He is 53 and a father of eight. On the day of the evacuation this week, he got up early and reported to the battlefield with his children.
"We didn't go all the way with you because we decided to wage a passive war," he said. "We are leaving the major war for the end. You have no future in this country, so tell your friends to make use of the time still left to them. We will be victorious with the bellies of our women."
Crisis of faith
The disengagement from Gush Katif gave rise to a crisis of faith of a kind that the settlers have not experienced since the 1967 Six-Day War. Even in their worst nightmares they didn't imagine that the government would go all the way and uproot Jews from the "holy" ground of Gaza. For years they became accustomed, or to be more precise were allowed to become accustomed, to dictating to the government how to behave. Suddenly former prime minister Ariel Sharon came onto the scene and changed the modus operandi. Even at the height of the crisis they followed the words of the rabbis, who declared "It will never happen," believing that in the last moment a miracle would occur and prevent the decree. Since the disengagement many settlers have severed themselves from the outside world. The shock of the uprooting is a still-oozing scar.
Already during the first attempt to go up to the evacuated West Bank settlement of Homesh, about half a year ago, the weakness of the government vis-a-vis the rabbis' determination became evident. One thread, as strong as steel, links the evacuation of Amona to the ascent to Homesh, to the attempt to return to the destroyed Gush Katif settlements and to the events of Hebron: a determination to erase the disgrace of the disengagement from the settlers' consciousness. They will never again evacuate willingly, they will never again go like sheep to the slaughter. In light of this, the hatred for the state and its institutions has increased, and the status of the fundamentalist rabbis, many of them members of the rabbinical council of Yesha (Judea and Samaria), has been strengthened even further.
Two years after the evacuation from Gush Katif the government is facing an internal threat with strategic implications for its future image. This is a fateful moment in the tense coexistence between those who favor secular values and those who cherish halakha. It is not clear whether hundreds of thousands of skullcap-wearers will continue to see themselves as part of the state if a peace accord is reached that will require a major evacuation of West Bank land.
In such a case the army, which is a reflection of the society in which it lives, will posit an existential dilemma between those who favor the sovereignty of the state and those who favor the sovereignty of the halakha. For the first time since the territories were annexed to the State of Israel in the Six-Day War, it seems that Israel will not be able to avoid this expected confrontation. The first signs were seen this week during the evacuation of Hebron, when dozens of soldiers preferred the halakhic decision of rabbis to orders from their commanders.