Bittersweet Events for Gush Katif Expellees

The expelled residents of Gush Katif celebrated a number of festive occasions this week, each tinged with a taste of sadness.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 12:53

Picture by Ofir Avitan

Among this week's events were a Torah Scroll for Yeshivat Torat HaChaim, the wedding of David Hatuel, and new quarters for the Otzem pre-military yeshiva.

Yeshivat Torat HaChaim, forcibly relocated from N'vei Dekalim to Yad Binyamin (south of Rehovot) this past summer in the course of the Disengagement Plan, dedicated its new Beit Midrash and a new Torah scroll on Monday night.

The Torah scroll is a donation by Reuven and Yosef Rosenblatt families. Reuven, the first mayor of the Gaza Coast (Gush Katif) Regional Council, took time out from his 70th birthday celebration this morning to tell Arutz-7 the special story of the Torah scroll:
"Our family was a large one from Lodz, Poland, and we had our own Torah. During the Holocaust years, we managed to hide it via various means and in different places, including with Gentiles. After the Holocaust, those of our family who survived began coming to Israel, and the Torah remained each time with someone else. Finally, the last relative was my uncle, my mother's brother, who decided in the early 1950s to come to Israel as well. But first he made a two-week pilot trip. He was the type who made sure to find a solution for every problem - and here he was faced with the problem of how to take a Torah scroll out of Communist Poland. He arrived with the Torah at the airport, without trying to hide it because he knew he couldn't. He looked for a Christian-looking customs inspector, and said to him, 'Look, I'm very religious, and I'm afraid to fly without my Torah. But I'm just going for two weeks. So please just write down in my passport that I'm returning it in two weeks...'

"The inspector agreed, and my uncle arrived and of course left the Torah here. When he arrived back in Poland, he looked for the same inspector, and said to him, 'The Jews didn't allow me to go back with the Torah, and they took it from me, despite my cries...' Again the inspector accepted the story, and agreed to erase the relevant passport page...

"Here in Israel, the Torah was placed in a shtiebel [a small synagogue] in Tel Aviv, where my father prayed with many other Holocaust survivors. But little by little, the number of worshipers dwindled, and finally my father decided to take it with him to the community of Gan-Or, in Gush Katif, where he spent the last year of his life, together with my daughter and her family. There it remained [for some 20 years], until the expulsion this past summer."

Rosenblatt said that he emphasized to the Yeshiva heads that the Torah will remain with them only on loan, until it can be returned to Gan-Or.

The event was not widely publicized, explained Yehudit Amitai, Rosenblatt's daughter and a former Yeshiva secretary who now lives in Yad Binyamin, "because many people from Gush Katif are still suffering greatly, and our joy is far from complete."

"My family also built the Gan-Or synagogue's Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark), and within a few weeks, it will be rebuilt and placed as well in the Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Torat HaChaim in Yad Binyamin," Reuven said proudly.

Also this week, David Hatuel, formerly of Moshav Katif, wed Limor Shem-Tov of Jerusalem. Close to 1,000 people were invited to Ashkelon for the wedding, which was conducted by Rabbi Mordechai Elon. The groom's first wife, Tali, and their four children, daughters aged 2-11, were murdered in May 2004 in a Palestinian terrorist attack in Gush Katif. "I have two options," Hatuel said upon becoming engaged several weeks ago, "either to collapse or to continue living. I have chosen life! My new home is an addition and not a replacement of the home that was destroyed. I am like a tree whose branches were cut off and now they are growing again."

This past Friday, the pre-military yeshiva academy of the now-destroyed Atzmonah moved to its new permanent home in Yated. The new location is due south of the former Gush Katif, in the Halutza Sands area. Families from Atzmonah moved in to Yated several weeks ago, while others still live in the Faith City encampment outside Netivot. The yeshiva is headed by Rabbi Rafi Peretz, an IDF helicopter pilot who advised his students not to refuse orders to take part in the expulsion. The academy was housed for the last several months in Shaarei Avraham, east of Ashdod.