Daily Israel Report

Last Gaza Community, Netzarim, Uprooted Today

Netzarim, the last Jewish community remaining in Gaza, was forcibly evacuated Monday by IDF troops.
By Scott Shiloh and Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 8/22/2005, 9:24 PM / Last Update: 8/22/2005, 8:58 AM

The residents held a ceremony in which they marched around the community's perimeter holding Torah scrolls and the large menorah that had stood atop their synagogue.

(Pictured above: The menorah of the Holy Temple being carried away by Romans, as depicted on the Arch of Titus, juxtaposed with the Jews of Netzarim carrying away their community's menorah upon order of a Jewish government.)

From Netzarim, the new refugees will head to Kibbutz Sa'ad, where a ceremony honoring the community is to be held.

Afterwards, the community is headed en masse to the Western Wall for prayers.

After their expulsion, Netzarim residents will take up temporary residence at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. That region will not be their permanent abode, however, as the Disengagement Authority will reduce compensation to families choosing to live in Judea or Samaria. Netzarim residents have decided to establish a new town with the same name in the Negev.

Netzarim was established just before the Purim holiday in the winter of 1972 by a group of young Jews from HaShomer HaTza’ir, a movement aligned today with the far left.

The town was run as an army outpost until 1984, when the original settlers left and were replaced by new residents, who established a national-religious kibbutz there. A few years later, the collective was dismantled and a non-communal town was established.

Netzarim, located in the center of the Gaza district, south of the Arab populated city of Gaza, was named by the late Rehavam Ze’evi, who then served as a general in the IDF. (Ze’evi, tourist minister in the Sharon government, was assassinated by Arab terrorists in 2001).

Many of Netzarim’s 75 families worked in agriculture - growing tomatoes, mangos, insect-free vegetables and raising chickens as well.

Netzarim became a symbol of Israeli resilience to the onslaught of Arab terror that began with the first Intifada in 1988. The late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who refused to relinquish Netzarim after signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, was skeptical, however, of the town’s ability to survive under the harsh security conditions brought about by the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. While prime minister, Rabin made a derogatory reference to the community, saying that if it were a real “town” then he was a “ball bearing” in a wheel.

Netzarim residents expected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be more sympathetic to the town, and indeed when Sharon said in 2003, that the destiny of Netzarim was like that of Tel Aviv, there was reason to be optimistic about the future.

Imbued with a powerful faith in the Almighty, and belief that ultimately the State of Israel will exert its sovereignty over all the land of Israel, Netzarim residents continued to plant and farm, until soldiers reached their town this morning.

The residents of Netzarim collected the remaining dry goods in their homes as a last communal action and, as a community, handed them over to the IDF, asking that the food be distributed among Israel's needy.