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Six Years Later: Journalist Recalls Expulsion Film

Veteran Israeli journalist Rino Tzror recalls the emotional film he made about the Gush Katif expulsion.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/16/2011, 12:42 AM

Six years after the expulsion from Gush Katif, veteran journalist Rino Tzror went back on Monday to the documentary he filmed about the expulsion, “The Girls’ Prayer.”

Considered one of the most prominent and emotional documentaries filmed during the expulsion, “The Girls’ Prayer” documents the final hours of the great synagogue in Neve Dekalim, where about a thousand girls had entered just prior to the expulsion and prayed to the heavens for a cancellation of the expulsion decree.

Tzror, who began following and documenting the residents of Gush Katif a year before the expulsion, abandoned his post as a journalist during those difficult hours, as his heart went out to the girls who were praying.

“I had never seen this kind of event before,” Tzror told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website on Monday. “I’d seen heart-rending prayers but in smaller clusters. I never even thought, a year before the disengagement, that eventually I would reach such an emotional connection to the residents of Gush Katif.

“My heart would have gone out to them regardless of the process we went through,” said Tzror, who noted that from his political perception the disengagement was the right thing to do, yet noted, “The big difference was in the moment I told myself I wanted to be open to listen, that I wanted to come and experience the people and the dilemma firsthand, and not be a poster or someone who came from a certain political camp. This means not constantly thinking about giving a political answer and contradicting everything, but being open.”

Adding to Tzror’s personal willingness to document the expulsion was what he called the pastoral appearance of Gush Katif as an ancient land.

“If you stay in Gush Katif long enough you get closer to people, lovely people, and then you go into another story of pain and physical rupture,” he said. “I think that in the end I fulfilled the task of presenting things as they were.”

He referred to the girls’ prayer in the synagogue at that difficult hour as “heavenly. To hear a thousand girls praying in one tone was something I had not heard until that moment, and others who saw the film said they had not heard such a thing either. These young girls spoke directly to the Almighty. They sought him and spoke with him. Everyone has moments of talking with G-d in their own language, but I never saw people talking directly this way, and at times you almost identified a request that one cannot help but respond to.”

In a somewhat surprising remark, Tzror said that he himself believed that there is no way that such a prayer will go unanswered. “I actually thought so,” he revealed and added that he was personally surprised to come out of the synagogue and find that the prayer had not been answered and the expulsion decree not cancelled.

During the film, Tzror explains the meaning and the location of each prayer. He explained that the detailed explanations are meant to draw in crowds for whom this material may be unfamiliar.

“I knew I wasn’t going to tell this story to the readers of Arutz Sheva,” he said. “They know what we are talking about they are they have the experience. The great significance of the film is that it connects between languages, and I am basically an interpreter for the secular. I know my dear friends find it very difficult to understand this language, the words, the meaning behind them. I do not have to explain to a religious Jew that a sentence has been taken from Psalms or from the Friday night prayers. This was the main achievement of ‘The Girls’ Prayer', that I could connect and bridge between this language and the secular audience. The fact that I found that connection and the secular audience learned the language of the people and understood what they went through, caused the secular people to weep along with all the people of Gush Katif.”

Tzror recalled how the film’s premiere screening, which was held in Sderot, was attended by a varied crowd which was composed of residents of kibbutzim, residents of Sderot, residents of Gush Katif and from Tel Aviv, along with his friends from the journalism industry. During the screening, he said, he looked at the crowd and saw a unified response.

“It dawned on me that everyone in the crowd, right and left, was crying. With a smile I told myself I’d found a common denominator. I think there is common ground and it just needs to be found.”