The evacuation of Gaza is now completed, and the world has been watching closely. As a proud member of the Jewish People, I have nothing but admiration for the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, for the humane way they carried out this most difficult military assignment. Most soldiers train to fight against their enemies; the Israeli army was specially trained to evacuate their own families, friends, and sometimes even their own rabbis and teachers. In fact, there was nothing easy about this assignment; according to the NY Times, an Arab reporter on the scene asked his anchor in Dubai, “Did you see the soldiers crying?” Yes, we all saw the soldiers crying and anyone with a heart and soul had to be moved by their compassion coupled with their calm discipline under exceedingly trying conditions. More tears were shed than blood, and that speaks volumes about the talent and the humanity of the Israeli Defense Forces.
I believe that on both sides, something precious was lost and something precious was found. On the Israeli side, what was lost were the hopes, dreams and aspirations that the settlers had for their future in Gaza. Some settlers had lived in Gaza for over thirty years; they were encouraged to build their homes there by Ariel Sharon himself. They showered their love onto the land; for them, Gaza was a gift promised by God, and the sadness of leaving overshadowed the pride they must have felt at making the dry land bloom. This land which had started out uninhabitable, became a land rich in crops and vegetables and flowers and food. Losing their homes, and their Divine sense of mission, brought palpable grief to those who had to leave. And who can blame them?
And what did they find? The Israelis gained the respect of the world community. Or at least they should have, but the sounds of the world’s nations’ applauding have been muted, to put it mildly. What other nation could have pulled of what the Israelis did, with so little violence, and with no loss of life? In addition, the exit from Gaza is yet another step toward Israel gaining back its Jewish majority. With the rising Arab birthrate, the demographics had begun to work against the State of Israel retaining its Jewish majority. The Jewish State is entitled to have a Jewish majority and so now it will.
On the Palestinian side, what was found was new land to settle, for the new country they hope to create. In the nascent Palestinian State, Gaza will serve as the living laboratory. Here is where the Palestinian nation will birth itself; here is where the societal norms will be created, where true freedom for all, women as well as men; where quality education for the next generation, which will recognize the State of Israel as a neighbor not an enemy; where the creation of jobs and a fair economy, will all take hold. What a find!
What have the Palestinians lost? It seems to me that they have lost forever the ability to blame Israel for all their problems. For now, it is all up to them; they must be the ones who will begin to translate the harsh words of their prayers into the hard work of their hands. They must be the ones who will begin to lay down their armaments and their harmful rhetoric in favor of publicly proclaimed peaceful intentions and the desire to live in peace with Israel.
Lost and found-we only learn anything important about ourselves by how we respond to the losses in our lives. Both Israel and the Palestinians have suffered great losses this past week. Perhaps these losses will lead to a greater realization that what has been found will contribute to a world of peace. What a find that would be for the whole world.
Rabbi Mel Glazer
Temple Israel of the Poconos