The Last Night of Netzer Hazani

For three days, Netzer Hazani had moved toward accepting the inevitable. After an agonizing decision-making process, they asked the army to bring in containers to pack up their lives. Netzer Hazani made preparations for a symbolic ceremony of protest, after which they would leave.

At 4:30 P.M. yesterday, the members of the moshav gathered for their last meeting under the heavily laden mango trees on Itzik Cohen's lawn. They were waiting to hear whether a hotel had been found for them in Ashkelon and permanent housing in Ein Tzurim.

Just then, the ultimatum came. The chief of the Southern Command staff told them by phone that they wold have to leave by midnight. If they did not, they would lose their rights to be present while their houses were packed; they would be removed by force; they would be put on buses and sent to a hotel in Eilat.

They went into shock. Months of efforts to prevent violence, along with a painful move from messianic belief to acceptance of reality, had ended. They clenched their fists. One after another, they stood to announce that they would not be humiliated, they would not go to Eilat and they would not leave by midnight.

Rachel Yefet, who only yesterday had begun to pack, said, "When they want to move fish from the Gulf of Eilat the fish get three years to adjust. But they throw us out right away. They're not willing to wait two days until the containers get here, for us to save what we have accumulated in thirty years. They are so intent on crushing us."

Bryna Hilberg, whose son died in a Naval Commando operation in Lebanon, said her worst fear was to leave her son's grave behind. She is not convinced the army will be able to evacuate the grave if withdrawal becomes complicated. Hilberg said the state was acting like she doesn't exist. As if she was worthless.

Dalit Yonati is even more bitter. "I feel like I am disengaging from my body, like during a rape. This is the selling of Joseph, whose brothers threw him into a cistern full of snakes and scorpions. But don't forget how the story ended. This one will end the same way."

The last night at Netzer Hazani went badly. The residents decided to leave and establish a tent camp. In the modest homes of a village about to disappear, helpless mothers are hurriedly packing everything they can.