An article in on the Ynet Hebrew news site depicting the suffering of the expelled over the past year - including family breakups, suicide attempts, unemployment, and more - has aroused a wave of comments. Despite the sympathetic nature of the article towards the former residents, the talkbacks show that Israeli society is still very divided over the issue.
Dozens of couples have begun divorce proceedings, and many others are suffering various difficulties between spouses, with children, and among themselves. Quoting a psychologist who has treated many Gush Katif couples, the article tells the plight of "men 50 years old and over who were used to working hard their whole lives and who now can't get out of bed..." Another psychologist talks of a woman who constantly relives the trauma of not being allowed to go to the bathroom for 30 hours while on the bus out of the Gush, and the resulting humiliation, and others who cannot remove from their minds the sight of long columns of black-uniformed soldiers coming to take them from their homes.
"Their gentle struggle against the evacuation created a situation in which the extent of their fury never found its true expression," one psychologist said. "A man's home is his castle - this is very instinctive. Think what type of fury erupts from a person whose home is destroyed - yet they never expressed it... Then their long hotel-stays greatly hurt the family cell, with the children far away from the parents' room, and the families not eating together for months - one of the most important aspects of religious family life... Then they put them into these caravillas, and now they are reduced to prowling back and forth there like lions in a cage."
The grave situation depicted in the article did not particularly move all its readers, however. One particularly hostile commenter, who evoked many objections by later talk-backers, wrote, "I feel only derision towards you. Get divorced, leave the country, become poor... I heard that some rich farmers who were expelled from Gush Katif are doing good business in Ethiopia; go there - it's good for all of you. And make room there for the new expellees from the West Bank; you can build settlements in Ethiopia."
A typical response to this writer was: "You are so full of hatred." Another one wrote, "I have trouble believing you are Jewish."
Most of the writers had some form of empathy for the settlers, even if they did not agree with them. "The disengagement was a correct move," one wrote, "it's just too bad that the evacuated residents are in such a bad state. In my opinion, it's both their fault and the government's fault. It seems strange to me that people who announced that they had lost all confidence in the country, waited for that very country to save them." Others criticized them for not having anticipated the expulsion in advance, and for "not raising their children properly."
In response to many of the more negative comments, one wrote the following:
"I have read all the comments up until now and I am shocked at what I see. Every argument, as far as you are concerned, has only to do with politics? Every time the word 'settler' is mentioned, it arouses your glands of [self] hatred and fury? Can't you simply read the article as it's written - a description of tremendous emotional distress of an entire public...? Where does this incessant hatred come from? Every single one of you, if you would sit face-to-face with one of these families and hear their story, would feel empathy and even sadness - regardless of your political opinions. Enough of this unending hatred!"
Another comment, signed by "Man of the Left," was entitled, "When I started reading the article, I felt nothing." It then continued,
There's this unspoken feeling we have that it's not our fault, but rather theirs [the expelled residents]. Those who feel that the settlers never should have been there, and that it was wrong for them to build communities there, cannot identify with the pain of being uprooted. Automatically the well-known phrases of wasted money and soldiers who were killed there start jumping up in our heads.
But in the middle of the article, I had another thought - that something is not right if I am closed to what is being described here. It describes not a disengagement - but a collapse. The collapse of genuine life. And to be honest, it's not totally their fault, because the State is that which decided on the direction of settlement as something that is justified. The State encouraged them - and the Stated crushed them.
I still think we had to leave Gaza - but maybe if it was in the framework of real peace... perhaps the idea that their loss gave us something significant would have changed something.
Furthermore: The State knew that the disengagement would happen; it was not right that alternate communities were not prepared... They were not only expelled from their homes - but from their lives... For this, I admit guilt.
One commenter wrote that the residents often treated the army as if "the army owes them something."
Largely in response to that, one young soldier wrote,
"I was there and evacuated Shirat HaYam, Kfar Yam, and some others... So first of all, [the above commenter] is either an idiot or has no idea what he is talking about. The large majority of the residents behaved in a way that cannot but be admired. They love every piece and stone of this country, more than what most of us can even comprehend, and are willing to sacrifice so much for concepts such as faith, common decency, and love of the Land... To call them lawbreakers is simply stupidity and a misunderstanding of the reality and the facts... The lack of support that the government and some parts of the country showed our brothers (!!!) whom we removed from their homes - that is what widened the gap between us and created the crisis, no less than the process of the evacuation itself... The high percentage of elite army fighters, officers and fighters in various IDF units among them is almost illogical. I talked to officers who lost their soldiers and people who were wounded in war or by terrorism in Gush Katif. Try, please, just to understand them, instead of hating them for nothing... I am a secular youth, aged 20, from central Israel, who was sent at such an early age to defend and sacrifice for the country in which we all live..."
One philosopher summed up the situation by reminding his fellow-countrymen that "at least we're home." He wrote:
Whenever an El Al flight takes off from Tel Aviv, after five minutes everyone starts complaining about the service, etc. But when they're on British Airways or Lufthansa, those same Israelis sit quietly, without making a peep, and even praising the airline. What's the conclusion? That if you move abroad you will be like Jews who are detached and scared, planning where to run to when the persecutor comes and thinking how to prevent your children from assimilating. Therefore, I'm not impressed with your cries for a second. You're just like the El Al passengers...
Others said that the government had truly done them an injustice. One wrote very succintly, "Sharon, Sharon! Too bad you're not around to see what you have caused!"
Another one summed up by noting the just-ended war in Lebanon and quoting Joseph's brothers in the Bible who said, "But we are at fault for seeing his suffering when he pleaded to us but we did not listen - and therefore this suffering has come upon us."