Wearing Out the Welcome Wagon

The settlers of Netzarim, who evacuated their settlement with great dignity, did not take the hint of the destruction around them, and chose to move to Ariel.

Jewish folklore tells about a guest who outstays his welcome and does not understand the hints his host drop. The longer he stays, the broader the hints become, until finally the host loses patience, grabs the man by his collar and shows him the door. Then the man says, "You see, all I needed was a little hint."

The settlers of Netzarim, who evacuated their settlement with great dignity, did not take the hint of the destruction around them, and chose to move to Ariel. It is not known now if they will be staying in the West Bank or whether the move was temporary and stemmed from the availability of accommodations there, at the College of Judea and Samaria. But the choice of the college as their next place of residence is certainly symbolic. They want to make clear that they have not given up their belief and faith that the territories over the Green Line are the land of their ancestors and Jews should be settled there.

They are not the only ones: 212 families from the Gaza Strip have chosen, at least for now, to move to settlements in the West Bank. Considering the destruction of approximately 7,000 homes of settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip, this is a strange perception of reality. The demolition has not yet ended, and some are already signaling that at least symbolically they will be building a house in territories also slated for evacuation.

The land of Israel is the homeland, and ostensibly settling it is not the same as the visit of a bothersome guest. But it is a shared home. Life cannot be tolerable in a shared home without taking the neighbors into consideration; those who do not internalize this find themselves in constant conflict, which makes their life hell. It could have been expected that the bitter lesson of hasty settlement in the Gaza Strip would in the future guide the steps of the evacuees. But it appears that some among them are considering building their house in Judea and Samaria. Moreover, among the evacuees from the Gaza Strip are families who were torn from Yamit. How long is life, that one can chose to waste it as a serial refugee?

Even if the move to the West Bank is a kind of defiant declaration of intent - more a wish than a real plan of action - it is a foolish step, destined to cause unnecessary suffering for those who take it. The uprooted from Gaza deserve comforting and stabilizing surroundings, not more changes and shocks. Both the adults and the children need a framework that will allow them to return as quickly as possible to a normal life of habit and order. Those who chose to live in an area destined for calamity of the type they have just experienced bring on themselves more hardships and distress.

The future of Ariel, deep in the heart of Samaria, is murky. The Palestinians and the international community have made clear that they do not accept Israeli presence in this area. The chances of Ariel being included in the boundaries of the state in a final status arrangement are uncertain. The government has so far refrained from including it within the separation fence. These are broad enough hints for level-headed people to avoid putting a heathy head in a sick bed.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did tell the Jerusalem Post that there will be no further disengagements, but even if he was expressing his sincere intent - who is going to believe him? Moreover, Israel has pledged to the United States not to build new settlements in the West Bank and not to expand existing settlements except within their existing boundaries (which have yet to be defined). These limitations to a great extent lock the demographic ratio between Jews and Arabs in the West Bank, and mean most Jewish settlement there will come to the same end as settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless, there are among the evacuees from the Gaza Strip those who have chosen to move to settlements in the West Bank (for example, more than half the residents of Morag have moved to Ofra), and others have expressed their intent to settle there permanently (for example, settlers from Shirat Hayam). It turns out that even those who encounter a locked door do not understand they should not enter.