Khan Yunis / Old Bedouin's Visions Come True as Dugit Rises, Then Fades Away

Many years ago, when the road from Gaza to Tel Aviv was still open and people used to get into their cars and drive to the big city to work or vacation in Jaffa, there lived in the northern Gaza Strip an old Bedouin called Abu Ata.

Abu Ata, who died a few years ago, had visions, as people in the Siafa area near Beit Lahiya recalled yesterday, watching the evacuation of Dugit. They did not dare come closer, because the IDF fires at anyone who approaches the fence around the settlement. But even from half a kilometer away they could see that window frames had been torn out, that behind them were empty rooms and that under the red tile roofs someone was loading his car.

Abu Ata's visions sounded inexplicable at first, but gradually people learned that they were coming true.

Don't rejoice in your land, Abu Ata said in the mid-1980's to the owners of the orchards and fields northwest of Beit Lahiya, for the day is nigh when the hill near you will be all lit up. People shrugged and continued to rejoice in their land. But two months later, on the beach, a few dozen meters from their cultivated land, Dugit was built. The light in the Jews' houses and streets was always shining.

A few months or years later, Abu Ata spoke of a tribe that would come and rule for seven years - years of destruction and corruption. That too came to pass, they whispered yesterday, and to anyone who did not understand, they explained: that's the [Palestinian] Authority. Abu Ata also spoke of a spark that would come out of Jerusalem "and lo brother Sharon rose on al-Aqsa Mosque and the resistance began," someone explained.

Abu Ata also spoke of five who would be killed. Five people were killed in this region from a shell fired by the IDF - two farmers tilling their field and three national security policeman, who were standing in their positions.

Faraj Abu Rabiya, about 40, of Beit Lahiya, bought 5.3 dunams in the northwestern strip in 1987, where he grew fruit trees and vegetables. Two or three years later, this became his main source of living when the roads to Israel were blocked and he lost his laborer's work in Or Yehuda. But after the intifada erupted, the army came, uprooted his trees and demolished his greenhouses. The IDF raked over the sown land to destroy the crop and destroyed the wells and water pumps. All the green area down to the beach became a wilderness. This scenery is characteristic of all the settlements in the Gaza Strip: red tile roofs surrounded by greenery, surrounded by widening strips of barbed wire, building rubble and turned-over land, which was once green fields and plantations.

Three times Abu Rabiya tried to return to his land and three times the army destroyed his fields, in the name of protecting Dugit and its people.

A fence now separates Abu Rabiya from the rest of his land, "but I am forbidden to go there," he says. Asked what he would do in a few days time, after the disengagement, when he can go to his land, he says "I will die of happiness."