Yesterday, as part of a goal to visit a different museum every week, I went to the Gush Katif Museum. Gush Katif was one of the Jewish settlements in Gaza that was forcibly dismantled by the Israeli government in an one-sided effort to proceed with the peace process.
The museum did not take a political stance- and the rights of which people to live where is not what I would like to discuss here. I left the small museum with very strong impressions- not on government, political definitions or territory lines- but rather on the nature of the Jewish Israeli population. The part of the museum that struck me most was the video of the forceable removal of Jews from their homes by Jews. Yes, it was the fact that it took place- but I didn't need a video to tell me that- but more so, how it took place.
As I said, the hot political argument is not what I want to share or discuss here. I recognize that the question of land is a hard one. There is another story here that I would like to try to tell in words, although the video footage was so powerful I do not think myself properly capable.
Start with the settlements. For clarification points, settlements are not made by taking Arab families out of homes and then putting Jewish families in. They are built, from scratch, on, well,- controversial land. The neighborhoods of the many now-dismantled settlements in Gaza were lovely white houses with red tile roofs that give one more of the impression of a beautiful beachside suburb in California. Obviously, the people who chose to create these settlements felt very strongly about their right to the land on which they build - again, a point that I do not choose to discuss at the moment- but so strongly that they were willing to stay there regardless of the years of living under quassam rocket fire.
Then take the police and military personal that were required by their government to take these families out of their homes. They were following orders and had to take the hardest job in, the most personally trying aspect of, a very emotional decision. Everyone was told this was for the sake of peace. Whether or not dismantling the settlements in Gaza has taken us a step closer towards peace or set us back is a thorny and complicated issue that I do not want to discuss here.
So- What do I want to talk about? What impressed me so deeply? Not the "How did we get ourselves into this position?" Not the "What is politically right" Not the "What is morally right?" Not the "Who has rights to which land?" I'm sure if you care to explore those topics, you can find plenty of perspectives on these issues floating around. What impressed me is this: two groups of people, the settlers and the military sent there to remove them, whose very specific goals in this moment are exactly opposite- to stay, and to remove those who try to stay. Two groups from one people- the Jewish people. A hard place of strong beliefs, masses of people, right next two each other who are pulling in opposing directions.
What would one expect to see? What happens when two groups clash like this in many parts of the world? Rock throwed? Knifes yielded? Guns fired? How many people in the world, individuals and groups, value their own belief structures more than than human life? How many people are willing to kill or be killed for their idea? To not listen to "The Other" because their own ideas are right- Think of protests, mob scenes, terrorists, suicide bombers, war- It doesn't even have to be a life or death matter for people to die- how many people have been killed or injured due to sports fanatics? My team, your team, burning cars, we lost, kill the player that accidentally scored on his own team? When emotions and beliefs run high, bodily injuries and body counts can too.
But, that is not the story here. First- start with the government that let the entire process be filmed. (In fact, all Israeli military units are filmed constantly- there are video cameras on all the vehicles, one on each side.) Then take the settlers, who were literally pulled from their homes, carried out by the military as they hung onto objects, door frames and each other. Each person, thousands of them, carried out, yelling their perspective. But, did they try to physically harm the people tearing them from their homes? No. It was peaceful resistance of the most compelling sort. And the removing forces, did they try to beat the resistances into submission? No. Both sides, opposing, value life and agreed to no violence.
I feel my words cannot capture even 30 seconds worth of the footage filmed- of screaming, yelling, crying, praying, morning, weeping, pulling, carrying, lifting, removing, clinging, hoping, resisting- settlers holding onto settlers, weighted bags on their backs, bodies wrapped together, holding onto each other, clinging to their beliefs, yelling them out- military men and women reaching down, trying to pry their hands away, to pick up the resistant individuals, again removing hands that had once again grabbed on, four military personal per resistance individual, carrying them carefully so with all the kicking, resisting and trying to break free, to go back to the ground, injuries would not result. The moments before- trying to break into the buildings, to gain access, soldier next to soldier listening as settlers mourned and prayed. Settlers crying out the Shema, praying with all their might, tears streaming, clothes rent in mourning- and the soldiers standing there, some crying, some stone-faced, as they too said the Shema, praying. United and divided, divided but still united. Emotional torment, beliefs crashing, conflicts rising. And in the heat of the moment, in the sea emotions tormented in a storm of conflicting ideas, maintaining respect for human life.
One film I saw focused on a specific family being removed from their home. The father of the family also wore his army uniform. Why? As he explains to his children- yesterday when a soldier approached you, you ran away in fear. You mustn't be afraid of this uniform. Although we don't agree with the actions of these men in removing us, people in this uniform as also the ones that will protect and defend Israel. This film segment also includes the stricking moment of the father of the family and the head military commander hugging and crying together- not just dripping tears- clinging to each other and sobbing, gasping for air. Then they both do what they feel they are obliged to do- to remove the man you have just cried with by physically carrying him out of his home and to resist as much as non-violently possible every effort to be removed.