Right Now, It Hurts

How's the evacuation going? It's tough. Even for someone who knew all along that there was no hope for Morag's existence. Even for someone who knew all along that there was no hope for Morag's existence, the evacuation is tough.

How's the evacuation going? It's tough. Even for someone who knew all along that there was no hope for Morag's existence as a Jewish enclave between the Palestinian cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis. It is very, very different from "just moving to a new home," as some people are fond of saying these days. At the front doors of the homes being deserted, in the kindergarten where toys remain strewn across the floor, along the paths on which agitated people walk, possessions in their hands, a refugee odor momentarily wafts in the air. At a time when the Palestinian terminology has been transposed to the Israeli form, producing "Jewish terrorist" and Jewish "infiltrators," the cold norms of refugee existence are for a short time touching the Israeli side.

The most famous of these infiltrators, Liron Seidan, who will be remembered for the teary exchange with his commander in Golani, Erez Zukerman, actually provided the comic relief in the dramatic day at Morag. Seidan found his way here, as well, so in love was he with his new role as the national conciliator, so much so that he was the first person to head out to conduct negotiations with the army and police forces. "Sit down and eat, guys," Seidan cheerfully offered. "The girls made spaghetti. After that, we'll sit down and talk." It wasn't long before the residents of Morag sent him away. They did not like his style at all.

Everything else was just hard. Hard to see the cynical use the settlers were making of their children, consciously intensifying the trauma being seared into their souls, hard to hear the curses and insults cast at soldiers and policemen, hard to see soldiers crying. The one-sidedness of the operation, which yields no immediate return, not even a ceremony for the signing of an agreement, only heightened the sense of "nothing matters." The words are repeated often by the evacuees, and are felt inside by the evacuators, who carry out their tasks in complete silence. They do everything with awe-inspiring, heart-rending gentleness: one hand grasps the leg of a settler being carried to the bus. A second hand is tenderly placed on the head to make sure his skullcap doesn't fall off. Some people are upset by this gentleness, which is so diametrically different from the brutality toward the Palestinians, but life is not comparative theoretical studies. Right now, it hurts here. And one can only hope that something will remain from the extensive preparation of the security forces, for how to act when it is Jews on the other side, when these same forces come up against the Palestinians.

Like the mourner in a Greek tragedy, a young man named Yosef accompanied the evacuation of Morag with a long elegy of lamentation. Seated on the edge of the roof of the synagogue as it was being evacuated, he sang the lamentation for over an hour. "My brother, I am an officer like you. How will we charge together in a future battle?" he cried out. "How did we find ourselves in this situation?" Four soldiers tried to talk with him, but it was fruitless. He did not threaten to jump, he was simply unable to move. Until his rabbi arrived and persuaded him to come down from the roof, into the arms of the soldiers.

The residents then make a ceremonial tear in their clothes, as if in mourning, and leave. Some on foot, others wish to be carried by the soldiers so as not to look submissive. Here and there, you can hear shouts from the windows of the bus: "Jews are being expelled from the Land of Israel." Visible from the same windows are Rafah and Khan Yunis, which surround Morag.

On the day of Morag's evacuation, the adjacent settlement of Pe'at Sadeh was already deserted. A ghost town. In the opulent home of the Hazan family, by the entrance to the settlement, the kitchen cabinets have been removed, although the shelves are still lined with mugs and glasses, and flowering plants in decorative ceramic pots still remain. At times it seemed that there was a certain logic about the homeowner's choice of what to take and what to leave behind, at times it seemed they had apparently hastily fled from the house. Only smoldering anger and affront remained in the empty home. The owners left no room for doubt. They had shattered the Jacuzzi in the bathroom in a fit of rage; it was rent with gaping holes. In huge letters, they'd written on the external walls of the house: "A land that consumes its builders," and "The blood of our brethren cries out from the ground".

Within a day, dozens of cadets from the IDF's Officer Training School moved into the two-story home, with their army cots arranged in every corner of the home and the garden, like squatters. One soldier opened his cot in the living room, right under the graffiti on the wall: "We will not be citizens of the state.?

As the last residents were being evacuated from Morag, and the entire Gush Katif was coming apart as if hit by an earthquake, a handful of Atzmona residents standing at the gate of their settlement with an Israeli flag in order to prevent the evacuation were reminiscent of the Japanese soldiers who continued to hide in the forests because they did not know the war was over. The young people at the entrance to Atzmona truly did not know. So immersed were they in their own all-out war that they had not even heard of the completed evacuation of other places.

Next to the gate, Rafi Peretz, a former combat pilot, was engaged in a lengthy conversation with an army officer with whom he is friendly. For 13 years, Peretz headed the pre-army preparatory academy at Kerem Atzmona, which had been evacuated a few hours earlier. He told his 250 students that the struggle over the continuation of the dream would go on. He told them, "Maybe the Holy One blessed be He does not want us to continue it here, in Gush Katif, so it will be somewhere else." Except that he does not yet have a place in which to apply this spiritual message. "The new term begins in three weeks. Not only do I not yet have a reasonable place lined up, I don't even have a floor," he said. Nevertheless, he dismisses any thought of a rupture between his students and the state. Several of his students will be enlisting soon, into the finest units in the army. Incidentally, Peretz has no idea at all where he and his own family of 14 will be going after the evacuation of Atzmona, which has been postponed until next week.

A few hours before the evacuation, it was business as usual at Kfar Darom. In the terms of this "castle in the sky," normality was four terrifying tanks positioned at the entrance to the settlement, to defend the residents, and a guard post that still looks out over the surrounding Palestinian settlements. The army and the residents enjoyed a symbiotic relationship here. The fact that this same army began the evacuation yesterday turns that relationship schizophrenic.

A few kilometers from here, on the roads of central Israel, the disengagement has already become a fact of life. The "oranges" are still filling the intersections, but they too have realized that the miracle did not happen. The wording of the posters has changed. "It is my brothers I am seeking," said one. At the entrance to Jerusalem, which now looks more orange than Gush Katif itself, a larger poster was being waved: "We will not forget, and we will not forgive." In the very near future, there will be a need to remove the road signs indicating the way to Gush Katif. Simply because there will no longer be a Gush Katif.