"On this day, so close to Tisha B'Av," Rabbi Kaminetzky said, "we will be able to better experience and remember the terrible sorrow of this calamity that the People of Israel underwent."
The 7th of Av last year was the date of a giant Tel Aviv rally against the Disengagement, in which some 300,000 people participated. Three nights later, just after the end of the Tisha B'Av fast, soldiers began distributing - unsuccessfully, in many cases - eviction orders, giving residents 48 hours to leave on their own before the forcible expulsion would begin.
The actual expulsion began on Wednesday, the 12th of Av 5765, Aug 17, 2005, and lasted for about a week.
Wide Range of Events
Jerusalem has been chosen as the central location for the memorial events, with films, presentations, lectures, personal accounts and panel discussions taking place throughout the day in the Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center. In the afternoon hours, a gathering will be held at City Park (Gan Ha'Ir, near the King George-Ben Yehuda intersection), and exhibits of the various destroyed communities will be on display. From there, a march will set out towards the Western Wall, immediately after the final letters are written in a new Torah Scroll in memory of the ruined towns.
The Scroll's cloak will be embroidered with the names of all the ruined towns, "with the idea that visitors to the Wall will read from the Torah and will thus be connected to Gush Katif," Rabbi Kaminetzky said.
"The Jerusalem-Gush Katif connection has important significance, and appears in the Bible several times. The Medrash teaches, for instance, that the reason why King David had trouble conquering Jerusalem can be traced back to the Patriarchs' abandonment of the Gerar area [present-day Gaza] to King Avimelech... Only when the entire nation desires the Gaza region will the Holy Temple be able to be rebuilt."
"Our bonding on this day with Jerusalem and the site of the Holy Temple also indicates that the destruction of Jewish towns by a Jewish government stems from a detachment from our sources, values, beliefs, and the Torah that illuminated Israel's way throughout the generations... We plan to disseminate special kinot dirges [of the type recited on Tisha B'Av] that were written about Gush Katif, in the hope that the public at large will include them in their Tisha B'Av prayers."
Rabbi Kaminetzky said that it would have been appropriate to memorialize Gush Katif with an annual day of fasting, but "unfortunately, many rabbis fear that doing so would be a 'decree that the public would not be able to fulfill.'"
Gathering in Nitzan
This past Monday night, hundreds of former Gush Katif residents gathered on a large lawn in Nitzan - home to the largest concentration of Gush Katif expellees - to view an emotional film of the Namir family's last hours in - and expulsion from - their home in N'vei Dekalim. Dr. Sodi Namir was the chief doctor in Gush Katif, endangering himself many times to save terrorist victims under fire. The Namirs currently live in Kiryat Arba, but plan to move soon to Yad Binyamin - the second-largest concentration of Gush Katif expellees.
Songs appropriate to the current Jerusalem-mourning period were sung, while, ironically, Israel Air Force craft flew overhead on their way to battle the Disengagement-emboldened Hamas in Gaza.
Yigal Kirshenzaft, head of the Chabad House in N'vei Dekalim and now in Nitzan, related the following story that occurred this week:
"A woman from one of the moshavim nearby, who considers herself a total secularist, came to our house and said, 'I came to ask forgiveness! Now, in light of everything that's going on, I feel the need to come and ask forgiveness from the expelled residents. I apologize for not having stood with you during your struggle for Gush Katif... How did we not see the truth?' She then left a donation for the Chabad House and left quickly before we could see the tears in her eyes."
Similarly, a Haifa resident currently under siege by Hizbullah attacks has written to Gush Katif expulsion victims asking for forgiveness. In an open letter posted on a Gush Katif forum website, Y. S. wrote in imperfect English:
"Some of us are without a roof on our heads. I closed my business since the beginning of the battle and I don't know what will happen. We are wandering between family and good people. Our family life has been impaired.
"I never thought that I, a Haifa resident for 30 years, would be a refugee in
my own land. Every thing sound so familiar from the close past. During 5 years you coped with bombs – and I didn't care. You buried family and friends - and I was indifferent. You found yourselves without a home, like that and you never had someone that listened to you.
"Even when you came to visit me to my house, to explain, to convince, to share your feelings with me – I refused to listen to you.
"It has already been a week. I am out of my house, without my regular routine, it is very hard to me – but the empathy, the support, and people identifying with our plight helped me go on.
"You, don't even have that...
"People from Gush Katif and the Shomron! Forgive me! Forgive us for letting you on your own. Forgive us for not understanding you.
"I am not a religious man, and not a mystic person. But we cannot ignore the deep relation between my attitude towards you and the price that I am paying now for my understanding."