Netzer Hazani / After the Siege, the Energy Is Gone

How does a community come to an end? After young people set the gate on fire, an officer from an elite unit living in the settlement warns them not to raise a hand against the soldiers. To let them know that there is no place on earth with the love of Netzer Hazani. And so this place, even in its death, cannot exude hatred.

A few minutes later, to the sound of the shofar, the crowd begins to disperse. And while the Matzliah family is setting fire to their house, Anita Toker is pacing, lost, along the pathways of the settlement she built out of the sand 29 years ago. Her son Avi, a young and bearded reserves officer, is looking at the neighbor's house going up in flames and weeping. What terrible treachery the state committed against us, he whispers.

Around 1 P.M. two air force officers appear at a door. They introduce themselves by name and rank, but they have nothing else to say. We have four children, Galit Yonati flings at them, and a 56-year-old father who might die of sorrow. You have to understand. I've been here since the age of three. I lost my brother here. Why are you doing this to us? Why did you agree to do this?

The officers are pale and polite. If you like, we'll help you pack. If you need time, we'll come back in 20 minutes. No, we don't know where you're supposed to sleep tonight. If you have the phone number of the Disengagement Administration, we'll ask.

The officers return with backup - another officer and three female soldiers. One of them with a small video camera. Galit's monologue heats up: You'll be sorry, we'll all be sorry. It's not only our house you're destroying, it's the whole country. I'm sorry, I don't want to hurt you. I have nothing against you. I'm so confused. I don't know what to take. I don't know where we'll sleep tonight.

After a year and a half, all the arguements have been exhausted. After four days of siege, the energy is gone. So while she argues with the soldiers, Galit packs. She has accepted her fate.

At 2 P.M. they're outside. Galit Yonati leads the convoy of the uprooted: her husband, her son, her three daughters. She and the soldiers are carrying green plastic bags. The soldiers are also carrying the babies' car seats. You succeeded in your mission, Galit calls to the hundreds of blue uniforms on the central lawn. You have turned us into refugees.

From all over the settlement, families are moving toward the synagogue. Some are singing, some quiet. The community meets in front of the synagogue for the last time. Yehuda Almasi, Arieh Israeli, Menachem Mazuz, Benny Yefet. The people who 29 years ago sunk their faith into the sand; their innocence, their lives.

The sign is given and they remove the Torah scrolls from the synagogue. They bring down the flag and sing "Hatikvah."

At 8:30 P.M. the first bus leaves from the gate. Ami and Galit Yonati point out the new greenhouses they put up only two years ago. A police car with its lights flashing drives alongside the long line of buses on the Kissufim road. This is where Itamar Yefet was killed, there Avi Fakhima was killed, and Rabbi Arameh. At 9:30 the buses cross the Green Line. No one greets them. No government official with a kind word. And still no answer as to where they'll stay the night.

When the bus finally gets to Jerusalem, long after midnight, I find myself helping Bryna Hilberg drag her suitcase up the hill. Look at me, I am 56, a mother of six, she says. I gave my son to this country. Now I am giving my house. And the country treats me like an enemy.

Thousands are waiting at the Western Wall to salute them. It is clear that the story is not over. It has just begun, with thousands dancing with Rabbi Arameh's Torah scroll around the uprooted who are carrying it. With the death of Netzer Hazani, the story of a new uprooting has begun.