Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Evil Can Be Stopped

Please God, the evil can be stopped. At least, this is the upshot of the letter by a soldier who threw people from their homes in Gush Katif. The text appeared in YNET, and the translation is taken from here:

Letter from an Israeli soldier
Translation from the Hebrew by Toby Klein Greenwald •
Posted: August 8, 2008

To the people of Gush Katif:

I’m sorry that I evacuated you. I took families out of their homes forever, I put them on busses that took them to nowhere. I sinned against them. I remember every picture I took down from the walls of their homes in Gush Katif. I remember every girl, every young woman and mother I instructed to leave home forever. Now, three years later, I, a soldier of the evacuation forces, was discharged a long time ago from the IDF, but I still haven’t freed myself from the disengagement. Therefore I write my feelings today.

On the third anniversary of the evacuation of Gush Katif, I want to ask forgiveness. I am sorry that as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, I took an active and actual part in removing Israeli citizens from their homes. I want to ask forgiveness from you, the families who were removed; forgiveness from the precious women who I, with my own hands, removed “with determination and sensitivity” from their homes; forgiveness from the earth, the blossoming fields, the green lawns and the homes filled with life, from whom her sons and daughters were torn in one fell swoop.

I want to ask forgiveness for my stupidity and ignorance, for the fact that you spoke and explained and cried and screamed and I didn’t listen, didn’t even try to listen — locked in my opinions and my viewpoint. Where is the mutual caring? I was educated in a school and a youth movement where they taught us about mutual caring toward all parts of the population. Where was this education in the disengagement? In the blind obeying of an immoral command? I am not hiding the responsibility for my actions, even though I did these things not as a private individual but as a representative of the government of Israel.

When I put the evacuated residents on busses, I believe that they had somewhere to go. To my sorrow, today they can be defined as “refugees.” The government of Israel, the same government that sent me to take them away, forgot them and its values. I am ashamed that I did not check out these things before the disengagement, that I didn’t know that my friends and I were putting them on busses to nowhere.

Today the facts are clear. A very large percentage of the people removed from Gush Katif were not settled in permanent communities, a very large number of them needed, then and now, psychological treatment and rehabilitation. Many families fell apart. Children dropped out of schools. Many of the members of the community are broken and depressed without income. I know this may be extreme, but I feel that every broken home that was not rebuilt, that every child that needs psychological help, that every family that was not financially rehabilitated — they are on my conscience.

How did I dare — I, a little person who never built anything in my life — to come and destroy with my own hands entire lives that people built with such great labor? I remember one Ethiopian family I evacuated. The father of the family gave candies to his little daughter the entire time to give to us, only so she would not be afraid of soldiers. He asked to speak with us and to explain to us that since he came from Ethiopia on Operation Solomon, he wandered in Israel from one caravan camp to another and only here, in Kfar Darom, did he finally succeed in establishing his family. He asked that we not remove him by force, that he wanted to walk out on his own. He took the hand of his little daughter and his suitcase and when he reached the threshold of the door he collapsed in tears and cries, grabbed the doorpost and simply could not let go. Where is he today? Has he overcome what we did to him? Has he found himself again wandering between caravans? I don’t know…

I ask myself many times, “How could we do such a thing? How is it possible to tear from their homes women and children, men and youth, with such cold-heartedness? How did my physical hands obey the mind?”

Perhaps the answer is: Disengagement. Disengagement between the brain and the heart. It appears this plan was really named for the alienation it will cause between those who carried it out, and between the State of Israel and its values. I’m only 24, and already I have this scar. I understand that I was a young and confused soldier, eager to carry out orders, and when it was over, months later, I was shattered. We were all shattered. All of my friends, even my commanding officers, we were devastated there in the Gush. Only when I returned home and I began to absorb what I had done, did I allow myself to cry.

So please forgive me. Today, as a citizen, I see it as my duty to help you in any way I can to extract yourselves from the distress into which I, as a representative of the state, have plunged you. I want to strengthen you during the long and painful rehabilitation that was forced upon you. I am writing so that no soldier will ever again agree to carry out such a command in the future, a command that is totally immoral. They always talk among us about humanism toward our neighbors, the Arabs, but what about our neighbors the Jews? Are we not one society, that should take care of all of its people? I do not forgive myself. I hope that you — dear evacuees — will forgive me.

The author’s full name and details are known only to the editors of She can be reached at . The full version of the letter was read Aug. 6 on Israeli radio.

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