Faith and Fear in Kfar Maimon - Part I

What began as the March to Gush Katif became an event that will be remembered in Jewish memory as a watershed event.

Moshe Kempinski

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Over 3,000 years ago, during these very forty days, twelve men walked across this land to gain insight and inspiration. Ten of these men walked in fear and trepidation. Every where they looked confirmed their worst fears about themselves and their deepest concerns about the inhabitants of this land. They saw themselves as "grasshoppers" and felt unable to possess the land that had been promised them by the Almighty.

It was impossible not to think about those steps taken in fear and trepidation as we watched tens of thousands of Jews walking through dusty fields, roads and highways, attempting to participate in that awesome event in Kfar Maimon.

What began as the March to Gush Katif became an event that will be remembered in Jewish memory as a watershed event.

It began on Monday morning when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, gripped with the same fear that characterized the spies of three thousand years ago, sent police cars into all the neighborhoods of the country to stop all the buses that were planning to make their way to the Gush Katif march. As we boarded the buses from the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem ,policemen arrived and confiscated the licenses of the bus drivers. One of the residents approached two policewoman ,shakily showing them the picture of her son who was killed by Palestinian terrorists.

"Are you going to try to stop me from crying out his cry?" she asked, and the policewomen turned aside in shame.

After much heated debate, the empty buses left, leaving a very angry group of people. Just before the officer in charge left, I ran over to the patrol car and said, "Are you telling me that if we drive down, we will also be stopped?"

He took off his policeman cap and revealed the kippah he was wearing, and he said carefully, "I have had no orders regarding stopping private cars." I thanked him and many of us got into private cars for the drive to Netivot.

As we drove out of Jerusalem, the mood was very somber. The very forces that were supposed to protect our rights and liberties, the police and judicial system, were being used by a frightened administration to destroy those rights and liberties.

There was a sense of futility and impotence that was almost crippling. Yet, we all sensed that we had no choice; we felt compelled to try to make it to Netivot, the starting point of the rally.

As we made our way to the south of Israel, we began to see a wonderful phenomenon unfolding before our eyes. Hundreds and then thousands of cars were making their way southward. On the sides of the streets were young people wearing the distinctive Gush Katif orange trying to hitch a ride southward.

Three thousand years ago, ten very frightened spies were taking very frightened steps in this same area. Three thousand, one hundred and sixteen years later, their descendants were taking very determined and faithful steps into the promised destiny.

At Netivot, we stood for over an hour as we waited to get into the area designated for the prayer gathering and rally. We saw cars packed in with people, with the roofs of the cars packed with sleeping bags, food and diapers. Tens of thousands of people, young and old, had gathered in spite of the dire predictions of the media and the sad experience with the police earlier in the day. Tens of thousands gathered to protest against the fear gripping our government.

After the impressive and emotionally laden rally was over, the masses of people began their eight-kilometer walk to Kfar Maimon. It was a march of determination dressed in orange that snaked its way into the dark night. The radio was describing how Sharon had ordered almost twenty thousand soldiers and police to stand and attempt to bar this orange army of civilians.

I looked around me and could not understand. Why would this ragtag group of elderly grandparents, parents and young children frighten Sharon so deeply? Twenty thousand soldiers was the number of soldiers conscripted during Operation Defensive Shield, launched against the terrorists after the Park Hotel massacre. There was something very disturbing and wrong about this similarity of numbers.

The irrational fear behind these numbers was but the tip of the iceberg.

[Part 1 of 2]