Something to Mourn

Maybe mourning is the way to enable us to continue together in this painful and irreversible process of disengagement, to heal some of the wounds and to save ourselves from the landslide whose boulders are perched just above our heads.

For decades, the settlers have excelled at finding the weak points and illnesses within Israeli society and exploiting them to their own advantage. With a keen intuition, they operated in the gray areas of the Jewish-Israeli soul, in the places where fears, past nightmares, the urge for revenge and hopes for redemption are intertwined. They succumbed to the temptation - usually suppressed - of being drunk with power after thousands of years as a humiliated people. They indulged the human desire to bend rational considerations and the demands of reality to the unyielding concepts of messianic religious faith. Above all, they shined at exploiting the deep wound of the Jewish experience - that of the sacrificial victim - and convinced many into believing that sacrifice itself justified any action or injustice.

The lawless struggle being waged by West Bank settler activists against the disengagement plan, and their dismissive attitude toward what is dear to the majority of Israelis undoubtedly makes it more difficult to respond to the evacuation itself, to the violent uprooting, and sometimes obstructs the natural tendency simply to identify with the pain of those who are being uprooted.

Perhaps this is also because the settlers have often turned themselves into a kind of monolithic, impersonal body. They do not even hesitate to use their children as accessories to their protests and provocations. Nevertheless, supporters of the withdrawal and all those who for years have struggled against the settlers would be erring if they were to deny the human and ideological complexity of their political rivals in their most difficult hour and treat them like political and religious arguments rather than human beings. That would only aggravate the serious illness of Israeli society, the overwhelming and mutual dehumanization process that is the necessary precondition for any confrontation - and, God forbid, for war.

We should all take a deep breath right now and remind ourselves that, in the final analysis, the days to come are days of mourning for all Israelis. Mourning for the personal and ideological pain of the settlers whose dreams have been shattered; mourning for the fact that Israel was drawn into such a dangerous and unrealistic adventure like the creation of Gush Katif; mourning for the fact that the state brought itself to the place where it was forced to do such a violent, warlike and brutal thing to thousands of its citizens; mourning for the abyss that is being created inside our home, and for the disaster that could befall us very soon; mourning for the situation in which we are trapped, Jew against Jew with a foreign, naked hostility that stands in complete, existential contradiction to our own interests.

Both "blue" and "orange" Israelis can mourn today for the passion, the pioneering spirit, the purposefulness that for years pulsed through Gush Katif and which will soon dissipate like smoke, and for the fabric of life there that will be shredded come tomorrow. Mourn, too, for the enormous energy that could have achieved so much had it been directed toward reality and not illusion; for the evacuees whose lives have been changed forever and who will probably always bear the scars of what will be done to them tomorrow; for the men and women and children who gave their lives for their faith - or for their naivete; and for the hundreds of soldiers who were killed defending the hopeless settlement enterprise. We should all mourn bitterly for the terrible human and material cost to the entire nation.

At the end of the day, the uprooting of the settlements and the people is an act in which all Israeli citizens have a role and responsibility, whatever their beliefs. Anyone who is part of the democratic system that made this decision is a signatory to it. Perhaps the most humanitarian and ethical way for any Israeli to participate is to expose himself to these feelings of mourning, to attempt to confront them in all their unbearable contradictions. Maybe that is the way to enable us to continue together in this painful and irreversible process, to heal some of the wounds and to save ourselves from the landslide whose boulders are perched just above our heads.