Did you know that the painful evacuation of Gush Katif occurred on Tish’ah B’Av, in August 2005?
Tucked away in a modest house in Nachlaot, Yerushalayim, the Gush Katif Museum displays a wealth of information on the history of Jewish life In Gaza and the story of Gush Katif. You walk away from this experience with a deeper understanding of what happened to the community members of Gush Katif, and a more profound appreciation of Hashem’s hashgachah over klal Yisrael and the Land of Israel. This museum is open daily, and it is open especially on Tish’ah B’Av night and all day on Tish’ah B’Av.
The museum offers tours in English and in Hebrew. The guide began with the history of Gaza and its connection to am Yisrael. The place name, Gaza, is mentioned in Parshas Noach from 5,000 years ago. He shared that Yitzchak Avinu was born in Gaza.
In 1929, the Arab riots and pogroms drove away the Jewish Settlement in Gaza. In 1948 until 1967, Egypt’s army controlled the Gaza Strip. In 1967, the Jews miraculously conquered Gaza. Three years later, Ariel Sharon pushed for Jewish settlements in Gaza. And 20 years of peace followed. Jews settled there from 1970 until 2005, when he disbanded the settlements.
Gush means an area, and Katif means to pick from a tree or the earth. Gush Katif was an agricultural place. In 1977, the area was a barren desert, and the Arabs said that no one would be able to live there.
The Jews built greenhouses. In 1980, Jews built the first houses in Gan Etel. They grew 2,000 trees, and grass. It was a miracle.
Gush Katif sent flowers and vegetables all over the world.
Orange became the symbol for the flag of the city. The main reason for the evacuations was Arab terrorism.
In 1982, Prime Minister Begin signed an agreement with Sadat of Egypt to give Sadat 17 settlements, as well as Yamit. Sadat didn’t want the Gaza Strip, but he demanded a commitment to give the Arabs autonomy. They could have policemen.
The museum guide related that this agreement was the promo for the evacuation of Gush Katif in 2005. The Arabs learned that they could destroy settlements. Sadly, in 1987, the intifada began. Hamas and Arab Jihad terrorist groups were born. Before these groups, there was the PLO, from 1964 to 1987.
Next, Prime Minister Rabin and Prime Minister Perez tried to make peace with the Arabs. They gave the Arabs 40,000 guns to fight Hamas but, unfortunately, this didn’t bring peace.
After the Oslo Agreements, which gave away territories to the Arabs, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Anwar Sadat were all awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The guide shared that, in his opinion, this agreement paved the way for a terrible time that was the opposite of peace. There were constant bus bombings and terror bombings in Israel. Arab terrorism was much stronger after 1987.
The guide noted that the lesson was clear: The more you gave to these terrorists, the more they beat you. The best way to deal with them is to be strong and then they back off.
Ten years later, Ariel Sharon was running for election as Prime Minister and he announced how he would not give back settlements. But after he was elected, he shocked his supporters by making a complete U-turn in policy. He approved the evacuation plan of 2006.
Following this, the people who lived in Gush Katif put up a struggle against the evacuation, which lasted a year and a half. As mentioned above, the evacuation began in August 2005.
In ten days, the IDF evacuated everyone. “It was a churban in the modern period,” the guide said. They destroyed houses and everything. The Torahs were saved and the menorah from Gush Katif was brought to the Kotel and now resides in the museum (See photo).
Everyone who lived there was very hurt by this. He shared that 70 percent of the people succeeded in recovering, and some succeeded in building new settlements. One couple, who were Holocaust survivors and had lived there from the beginning, left three weeks before the evacuation. They said it was too painful, recalling how the Nazis forced them out of their homes in Hungary and sent them to Auschwitz. They couldn’t bear to see fellow Jews forcing them from their home.
To this writer, the most impactful part of the museum visit was when the guide displayed the dramatic photos of the land of Gush Katif. The first photo showed a barren desert. The next one showed how the land sprouted and became fertile when Jews settled there, with beautiful flowers and lush greenery and vegetables. The final photo showed how the land is today – just a barren strip of land from which rockets are hurled by Arabs.
What a clear message Hashem is sending us1 He blesses the land when am Yisrael settles there; and when they aren’t there, it is barren. We should merit to possess it again and experience the coming of Mashiach in our time.
By Susie Garber