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"I'm studying organic [sic] and acrobatics," wrote eight-year-old Shir Lalom of Ganei Tal to Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "It will be very sad for me to give up all these things, and also it is not at all fair to expel us from here." The word "expel" and its derivatives recur in Shir's short letter no less than 11 times. Her parents, who appended Shir's words of wisdom to a letter that they themselves wrote to the finance minister and to the katif.net Internet site forgot to tell their worried daughter that there is life after Gush Katif, including organic and acrobatics.

And Netanyahu, like that fellow who remembers that it was necessary to clip his dog's tail, but out of so much love snips it bit by bit, is demanding that the evacuation of the Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip be done "gradually," in order to "narrow the alienation in the nation." Education Minister Limor Livnat also supports the proposal to prolong the tortures of the "expulsion" for the little children of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

According to a study in the area of children at risk carried out by the Adler Center for Child Welfare and Protection at Tel Aviv University, even without the bonus of the anxiety about the "expulsion" from their homes, the Jewish children in the Gaza Strip are paying a very high price. The study, which was conducted in the spring of 2002, found that a child in 7th to 9th grade who lives in Gush Katif had been exposed on the average to 10 terror incidents (out of 17 that occurred during that period) - five times more than a child of the same age from Rehovot. No wonder that the researchers at the time found among these children the highest rate of severe post-traumatic stress disorders (13 percent as compared to 7.6 percent in the previous year).

Dr. Avital Laufer of the Adler Center and the Judea and Samaria College, who carried out the study, has been following the children of Gush Katif with concern. Apart from the anxieties that derive from the prolonged situation of uncertainty regarding their fate, explains Laufer, these children have to deal with the collapse of the values that fortify people and protect them from existential anxieties. "It is easy to imagine the pressure on a child who all these years has been taught that he is fulfilling an ideology, and all of a sudden the government is saying that this ideology is no longer valid and that it is an obstacle to peace."

Laufer says that it is hard even for adults to deal with this combination of uncertainty and a clash of values with the establishment. This is infinitely more difficult for children who for months now have been falling asleep with the fear that heroic Jewish soldiers, flesh of their flesh, will wrench them from their beds.

Shir from Ganei Tal is a little soldier in the psychological war that the Jewish settlers in the territories are waging against the disengagement. If we are fated to disengage unilaterally from Gaza, here is another good reason to shorten the process. The compensation plan is ready and the Israel Defense Forces have also almost completed their preparations. The Palestinians in any case aren't part of the deal, because of the government's position, and the Egyptians aren't going to lift a finger until the government finally decides what it wants and when.

So they shouldn't pull the wool over our eyes with a "civil war" or "alienation in the nation." The psychological damage to the approximately 3,000 Jewish children in the Gaza Strip is more real than all the threats by settler apparatchiks. The government should immediately pass a law that will offer their parents a fair "absorption basket" in the State of Israel.

At the same time it should announce publicly a close date for the departure of the last civilian and the last soldier from the settlements. On that day the Gaza Strip will be closed. Everybody out, and no one goes in. There is no need for a special police unit and sophisticated equipment for dispersing demonstrations.

It is necessary to teach the settlers a lesson about bluffing. Are they the only ones who are allowed to brandish unloaded pistols of "bloodshed?" Are they the only ones who are allowed to gamble that we are going to take seriously the possibility that they mean what they are saying? How many parents will gamble that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not really mean to leave their children all alone? Those few who play with their fate will have to wait until the last minute in order to make sure that the government of Israel is not abandoning little hostages.