Roberta Feinstein BienenfeldRoberta Feinstein Bienenfeld made Aliyah with her husband in 1980; one year later, they were the 13th family on the original Moshav Katif. In 1986, she moved to N'vei Dekalim, where she was the 62nd family. In her pre-Katif years, Roberta was an editor and journalist. In Gush Katif, she worked in the plant nursery, raising baby's breath flowers, in tomato hothouses, in the packaging plant. Roberta was also the PR director of the Western Negev Initiative Center, and an unofficial spokesperson and tour guide for Gush Katif when it existed. Since the expulsion, Roberta has been living in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Ms. Olevitch wrote against the idea of "We Won't Forgive and We Won't Forget". As a Gaza refugee, I have the right to be as angry and as unforgiving as I please to the Arabs who never wanted to live in peace with the Israelis but just wanted destruction -- of my town.
Where grass grew and paths flowed and houses stood are now just ruins and sand. The trees, bushes grass and flowers that we planted and watered for over 25 years with that scarce product of Israel are probably now dead. My windows, my doors, the air conditioner that we couldn't get out of the wall and the attic, my children's crib - all gone.
The tree that my husband planted on Moshav Katif to give me something green because I was blue is probably dead, too.
No, I will not forget, nor will I forgive.
I will not forget the rightist government of Ariel Sharon, who turned left to save his sons, and the ministers that he bribed and those that he didn't, but who lacked convictions, like Binyamin Netanyahu and Limor Livnat, who are no better and should never be voted for again.
Ms. Olevitch bases her legitimacy on her degree and experience as a clinical psychologist. She feels that she has seen too many lives wrecked by anger. I cannot argue with that, but when someone kicks you out of your home, I feel that it is perfectly legitimate to be a lot more than angry or mad. I have been told by the social workers who are aiding the Gush Katif families that being angry is even healthy. "All reactions are OK," they said. "The only thing you shouldn't be doing is sleeping all day."
Ms. Olevitch feels that we have "no obligation to mourn". While I wouldn't call it an obligation to mourn, the reality is that we are in mourning. We have lost everything -- our homes, our jobs, our schools, our possessions, our lifestyles, our friends, our communities. We even did kriyah the day we became refugees. How can you be expected to carry on when you have lost everything? How can you be expected to just "move on" when you still have no permanent place to live or work? When your whole future is just one hazy "with God's help, it will be all right."
Ms. Olevitch, as many others, objects to the "We Won't Forget; We Won't Forgive" T-shirts. She feels that they lead to (pick one) stagnation and political conflict. She feels that now, since the exile is complete, we should go out and find some other project to keep us busy.
Barbara, what is wrong with political conflict? It is what makes democracy grow. Keeps it strong. It is the opposite of stagnation. Stagnation is when you have a dictator. What we want to do is not just place the blame where it should be, but publicly place the responsibility for the exile on those who were responsible and thereby, maybe, prevent future exiles.
We have suffered enough, but we are still suffering. We are living in tiny caravans or tents and have rain coming in. We feel the cold. We do not have our possessions because they were either destroyed or do not fit into our new, tiny abodes. We are suffering and we want the country to know. Why should the rest of the country just sit back and forget what we have gone through? We want the rest of the country and the world to be aware that we are still without homes, without money, without jobs. This is our project for now; we do not need to be the ones to save the rest of the world.
I say, let us heal, but in our own time, which I do not think will be very soon. We do not need any artificial reminders of our pain such as a T-shirt. We live with reminders of what once was every second of our lives. How could we forget? Our present lives are constant reminders of our past lives. It is not the shirts that are divisive. Unfortunately, we live in a country that is divided. Those that wanted us out are glad we have been exiled and are quite happy to keep punishing us, while they go on with their lives as if nothing has happened at all to over 8,000 people, men women and children who once lived in Paradise.
No, Barbara. We are not pitiful, nor are we to be pitied. We want to live our lives, but it is hard to do that without any money, a place to live, clothes, a home. Why do we have to take any loss at all? Who brought this about? We were doing just fine. We survived 5,000 mortar shells. We built beautiful communities. We brought millions to the coffers of the state through our agricultural products. We filled our lives with Torah V'Avodah (study and labor - ed.) and G'millut Chassadim (charitable deeds - ed.). Then, the army and the police came and marched us or carried us out of our houses. Made us pack or had other people do it. Many soldiers and other "good" Samaritans who came to help stole from us. My whole watering system was stolen, as I discovered when were allowed back in to pack. Other people have even worse stories.
The ability to heal is something that HaShem gives us. But if we are not allowed to get on with our lives, then we cannot heal. As long as we are stuck in temporary quarters, we are stuck in time and cannot get our lives back. The Jews of modern-day Gaza were the most nonpolitical people ever. All we wanted was a good life. We saw neither danger nor desolation, but a beautiful area that could be built up in Eretz Yisrael, a place where we could raise our children and they could run free. I believe, Barbara, that you don't really know any of the original residents of Gush Katif.
For Gaza residents to heal we need the government to at least give us some band-aids and medicine. It is the government who made us refugees and it is their responsibility to help us out of this status. Helping the Gaza refugees to resettle should be an urgent political priority. But what does the government do instead? It tries to separate us and break us, and make it as difficult as possible to get what is coming to us (albeit too little) so that we can move on.
No, Barbara. As long as we live, we won't forgive or forget -- even when we will be finally able to start the next stage of our lives.