The Expulsion From Gush Katif

Gush Katif Resource to educate and enlighten

Extracts from the Book

Gaza’s Best-Kept Secrets-Rockets from Gaza and Gush Katif

By Michael Freund 

Approximately forty years ago, on the outskirts of Gaza City, a team of archeologists was busy conducting a dig not far from the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. As they removed the layers of dirt and soil that had accumulated over the centuries, the excavators discovered what would prove to be one of the most remarkable finds in the Land of Israel: the remains of an ancient synagogue dating back some 1500 years.Needless to say, countless Jewish houses of worship from antiquity have been found throughout the length and breadth of the Holy Land. But what made Gaza’s synagogue so unique is that it remains one of the largest, and oldest, ever found.


How about that for a little-known secret about Gaza? Of course, nowadays the area is better known as the strip of land from which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew in August 2005, uprooting thousands of Israelis from their homes and paving the way for the rise of a Hamas-led Palestinian regime. But Gaza has a rich and vibrant Jewish history to it, one that stretches back across the millennia, as the discovery of the ancient synagogue made clear.

That history, however, was callously tossed aside, when the Sharon government decided to pull out from the area. In retrospect, the recklessness of that move has become all too apparent, as Gaza has been transformed into a launching pad for rocket attacks against the Jewish state, leaving southern towns and cities across the Negev, such as Sderot, in the crosshairs of Palestinian terrorists.  

The fiasco of Israel’s retreat has led many of those who supported the move to publicly admit the error of their ways. In November 2007, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labor Party told an Israeli radio station, “I admit and I confess that I was among those who strongly supported Ariel Sharon [and the withdrawal]. Today I say, with my head held high, ‘We erred, we made a very big mistake.'” Other senior Israeli military officers, pundits, journalists, and politicians have likewise acknowledged that the Gaza pull-out has proven to be ill-advised. These include Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Moshe Ya’alon, the former IDF Chief of Staff; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, the former chairman of Israel’s National Security Council; Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, the commander of the IDF’s Central Command; and even Maj.-Gen. Gershon HaCohen, who served as the commanding officer in charge of the withdrawal. 

But the effects of the pull-out were not limited to one part of the country or another. In fact, Israel’s hasty retreat set the stage for its disastrous war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Don’t believe me? Well, just ask Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal, who served as commander of IDF ground forces at the time of the Gaza retreat. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper in October 2006, here is what the general had to say: “In the year preceding the withdrawal, the army trained mostly for dismantling communities, and that prevented it from preparedness for the war in Lebanon. The training for the withdrawal not only prevented preparedness for such a war, but dragged it away from the consensus as a people’s army. It is nearly certain that the excitement of those who led the decision and implementation of this is directly tied to the big failure in Lebanon.” Furthermore, added Gen. Ron-Tal, “I still cannot understand how Israel gave up parts of its land willingly and with abandon, and how the residents connected to that land were turned into criminals, instead of raising their dedication as a banner of preserving the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.”  

And neither, I might add, can many of us understand it either. Indeed, it is still hard to accept that the forcible removal of Gaza’s Jews took place, or to believe that we could have possibly reached such a low point in the history of our nation. After so many years of struggle and sacrifice, those once celebrated as pioneers by successive Israeli governments were demonized as obstacles to peace and treated with contempt by much of the Israeli media. The Israel Defense Forces were deployed against the citizens of their own state, with the express purpose not of defending the Jewish people but of exiling them from parts of their ancestral patrimony. And withdrawal under fire, once derided as capitulation to terror, suddenly became official government policy. 

Israel’s Left, of course, was gleeful, trumpeting the evacuation of Gaza as signaling the end of the dream of “Greater Israel.” But I believe they could not have been more mistaken. For even in the face of uncertainty, the dream of return lives on. It might take years or even decades to achieve, but of one thing we can all be sure: The Jewish people will eventually bounce back, just as we have throughout history. And soon enough, the sand dunes of Gaza will once again most assuredly be ours.

– – –

There are plenty of military and security reasons to justify Israeli rule over Gaza, if only because it serves as a gateway from the west to seizing control over the entire country. Conquerors throughout the centuries, from Titus to Napoleon to the British, all entered Israel by way of Gaza, setting the stage for its eventual capture. Thus, to abandon Gaza and leave it in Palestinian hands is to ignore the key strategic role that the area has played throughout history. More importantly, though, it ignores the fact that Gaza is an intrinsic part of the Land of Israel, the Jewish people’s G-d-given patrimony. In Hebrew, Gaza is referred to as “Aza”, which means ‘strength’ or ‘might’. This might suggest the main quality that is needed in order for Israel to regain this strip of land, a quality that is sadly lacking among many of our current political leaders. Or, perhaps, the message it conveys is somewhat deeper: namely, that only if we muster within ourselves the strength to stand on faith in these most trying of times, will we merit to see G-d’s promise as contained in the Bible quickly come to pass. 

May this – one of Gaza’s most precious of secrets – finally become revealed.



Diaries of The Last Days of Gush Katif

Toby Klein Greenwald   

Tuesday, August 9

My husband, Yaakov, and I get up early and drive down to Atzmona to baby-sit our granddaughters. Our daughter, Naama, is part of a Gush Katif women’s theater group and today is their last performance – at a conference in Bar Ilan University. Her husband, Avner, a career officer and captain in the IDF, will be home late. She takes her 3-month-old son, Oz Naftali, with her, as she is still nursing him. I think how appropriate his name Naftali is – for it is after my father, who died this year, who loved to travel. Oz Naftali has also been all over Israel with his mother’s theater group. They perform an original play that expresses their doubts, their fears and their faith in these troubled times.
The community of Atzmona looks like it does every other day. There are no moving containers, no unusual activity. No one in Atzmona is packing. This is a community with no televisions and no secular newspapers. Many of the residents are teachers in yeshivot and schools. The others are farmers who are a part of Atzmona’s successful agricultural community. Their farming industry has paid off well, but they live modestly, with mid-size homes surrounded by lawns and flowers. But some of the homes, including our daughter’s, have black indentations in the outside walls – from the shrapnel of mortars that have fallen here. One fell 20 feet from our daughter’s home, among the blooming yellow alemandra plants. We drive with our granddaughters, Tehila and Shirel, to NeveDekalim, seven minutes away. Our plan was to take them to the petting zoo, but there is a sign that it is closed, some people say, because of the nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av, when one doesn’t partake of entertainment. But as a former camp director, I know that zoos are among the few activities allowed, and I suspect it is closed because some of the animals have already been transferred to other zoos. My suspicions are confirmed by a friend who lives in NeveDekalim, who tells me how they gently tied orange ribbons around the donkeys’ ears before they sent them off to Kibbutz Saad, so everyone would know they were from Gush Katif.  

The lawns and shopping center are full of vibrant young people, reading, playing basketball, eating and just talking. It is a blazingly hot day. The local ice cream and coffee shop, well air-conditioned, is brimming with soldiers, local residents and visiting journalists with laptops. We stop in at the local medical center to visit the girls’ other grandmother, Ruti Cohen, whose sister and brother-in-law were shot dead three weeks ago by a Palestinian policeman on Tzir Kissufim, the main road leading in and out of Gush Katif. This is Ruti’s first day back at work. As she holds Shirel on her lap, we watch a dentist wheeling the contents of his clinic out of the center. A doctor and several psychologists who have come from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh to volunteer their time look in and say hello. Magazines about the Land of Israel are on the tables in the waiting area, along with toys and dolls. We continue to a large and beautiful playground. While my granddaughters climb and slide, I lie on my back, look up at the sky, and wonder what God wants from us. I look at the sun and the sea, and at the immense beauty that has been created here, from out of the sand dunes.  

Later that day, when it is cool enough to go outside, I play with Tehila and Shirel and their friends. We sit on their grass and catch imaginary fish, make imaginary honey, prepare imaginary challas for Shabbat. But when I suggest that we (pretend to) pick oranges and make orange juice, they run to a bush with red flowers, pick some branches, pull off some of the red flowers, pretend they are oranges and suck the nectar. They tell me this is a trick they have learned on their way to pre-school – to suck the nectar from the red flowers.  

Later, the farmers from Atzmona drop off a large sack of potatoes in front of every home – a gift. The girls make a game out of pulling the potatoes out of the sack, one by one, and lining them up in front of the kitchen door. This keeps them busy for about 30 minutes. Such are the activities of children growing up among farmers, with no TV.  Naama, Oz Naftali and Avner come home together. Yaakov and I have already fed and bathed the girls. I have made Tehila five pigtails, as she asked, and a little braid for Shirel. They hide under the sheets and jump out at their father. I take Oz Naftali out for a long walk to help him quiet down, and stop to visit a friend who is the sister of the Rebbetzin of Atzmona. Chaya is a parenting adviser, and she tells me how she is trying to explain to the women that it is “okay” to put some cherished objects into a backpack at least, even if they don’t want to pack, that they should save the children’s special collections and other items, in case they are lost when the soldiers come to pack.  

I fall asleep broken hearted…..

This Article Originally appeared on, a leading Judaism Website  




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