Thursday, August 18, 2005

Disengagement

The disengagement plan went into action 3 days ago, the morning of August 15th. 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank are included in the evacuation plan. After a summer of distress, disagreement, disappointment by some, and approval and satisfaction on the other, Israel is one big emotional mess.
As the saying goes "Two Jews, Three Opinions", in a State full of Jews, there are more than enough opinions. So for those of you that want to understand what people are thinking, it's hard to explain, but the basic breakdown is as follows:
Those on the political right, especially the extreme right, vehemently oppose the disengagement plan. The land being evacuated is part of biblical Israel and they feel a Jewish connection to it. Also, those settlers that live in the West Bank and Gaza are upset because they moved to these neighbourhoods under a government initiative (some neighbourhoods were initiated by Ariel Sharon himself), and they feel betrayed.
Understandably, the settlers do not want to leave their homes. They feel their lives are being stripped from them. Stickers and signs everywhere say "a Jew does not expel another Jew (from his home)".
Many people that oppose the plan say that the main reason they oppose it is that they feel the land is being given away for nothing: no negotiation, no agreement, no peace. So what for? They feel we are giving away a bargaining tool, and say that if there was a promising agreement at hand, they would be willing to disengage.
Some people have taken it to a whole other level (which I find disturbing): comparing the evacuation of Jews from their neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust.
Other Israelis support Prime Minister Sharon's decision. These are not only people on the left, but also in the center, and on the right. There are various reasons for agreeing. Some feel that enough soldiers have died protecting the Jewish neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip, and feel that it is not worth more young Israeli deaths. Some understand that the location of the neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip deem them indefensible, and that we will have to give them up sooner or later. Others feel that Israel needs secure borders, and by pulling out of the Gaza Strip, Israel can better protect against terrorist infiltration into Israel. Also, the soldiers that were in Gaza will be relocated inside Israel and Israel will be able to better defend itself. Many feel, as the Prime Minister said on December 18, 2003: "If the Palestinians do not make a similar effort toward a solution to the conflict, I do not intend to wait for them indefinitely." In other words, if there is no partner for peace, Israel will take measures to secure its own borders. Some people hope that this initiative will change the world's view of Israel as an aggressor and make the world realize that Israel is willing to make sacrifices for peace (although others doubt that this will happen), and is even taking the first step even when there is not a promising future in sight.
This poster is a play on words and says: "The People are with Gush Hashish" (one of the areas being evacuated is called "Gush Katif"). This poster is trying to promote the reduction of violence throughout the disengagement.
Throughout the summer, I have spoken to countless people: neighbours, friends, family, cab drivers, waiters... about disengagement. I am constantly shocked by the political awareness in this country. People know what is going on, and care.
Today I was walking down Ben Yehuda with Seth and Carmit, and there were hundreds of people there opposing the disengagement: religious men were praying, youngsters were holding signs, teenagers formed a circle on the ground and were singing Israeli songs of hope. Two people were arguing over whether the disengagement was right or not, and a huge crowd formed around them.
It was also heartwarming (and heartbreaking) to see how emotional soldiers have been getting: countless shots of soldiers that entered families' homes to evacuate them, who hugged the families, cried with them, and said: "I'm sorry". We are, after all, with all of our disagreements and different opinions, one people. We have to be able to lean on each other.

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