Fact Finding in Gaza

?At a time when there is no money to support single mothers? our presence in Gaza is an unbearable burden.? With this heart-rending statement, put forth by MK Dalia Itzik, members of the Labor party embarked on a fact finding mission to Kfar Darom in Aza (Gaza).

Aliza Karp

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?At a time when there is no money to support single mothers? our presence in Gaza is an unbearable burden.? With this heart-rending statement, put forth by MK Dalia Itzik, members of the Labor party embarked on a fact finding mission to Kfar Darom in Aza (Gaza).

But, lo and behold, the fact finding mission turned out to be a media gimmick, luring the press to a meeting where the Labor party members would proclaim their preconceived platform, indifferent to the facts presented by the representatives and residents of Aza.

Nevertheless, MK Itzik?s statement is important, in and of itself. It reveals confusion, distortion and moral obscurity; the opposite of moral clarity. Itzik is proposing that the Jews of Aza be evacuated in order to save money on security. And that money saved should be used to support single mothers, who, themselves, are currently running a media gimmick campaign.

Who are these all-important single mothers and where did they come from? Many single mothers are by and large not your typical victims. With all due respect and compassion for single mothers who are in dire straights for valid reasons beyond their control, many single moms are party to placing themselves in this category and then they turn to the taxpayer for support.

Now that the taxpayers say they can no longer carry the burden of single mothers, MK Itzik proposes to uproot productive, working families of Aza - who marry and struggle to stay married - in order to pay for the lifestyle of single mothers.

I have a number of major problems with Itzik?s solution. One is: I see no connection between Aza and the economic woes of single mothers. In order for there to be the extreme increase in the number of single mothers that the last decade has produced, there is clearly a segment of society that approves of single motherhood. Let that segment of society support the products of their value system. I can assure you, that segment is not found in Aza.

On the other hand, there is connection between Aza and economic benefits for single mothers. Every weekday, residents of the Negev towns of Netivot, Ofakim and Sderot, as well as other periphery towns, travel into Gush Katif, Aza. Many of them are single parents who cannot find work in their own towns. They are employed in the nursery schools and in agriculture. In particular, about 100 of them are employed by the Alei-Katif Hasalat factory, in transportation and marketing positions.

The Labor Party fact-finders were taken to the Alei Katif Center in Kfar Darom, where they elected to stand beside the Thai workers for the press photographers, totally ignoring the Israeli workers, including the single parents, from the Negev towns. Were it not for industry in Kfar Darom, those Israelis would probably be unemployed.

Another question raised by Itzik?s solution, is: Why are family courts not chasing the single fathers to support the children of the single mothers? Where are the fathers? Off making more single mothers, because they know the government will take care of their offspring? I have been told that in some cases, there are dedicated, loyal fathers, living peacefully at home with their children. It is just that they find it more profitable to stay out of wedlock in order to reap government benefits for single mothers.

My next question: How will the uprooting of the homes and industries of Aza be financially beneficial? In addition to the costs of transferring and resettling the newly created Jewish refugees, the defense budget for the area will remain high. Evacuating Aza will be a payoff for terror and provide a fresh incentive for the terrorists to increase their efforts to murder Jews. They will simply have to turn their guns from east to west, and the communities bordering Aza will need the same, or greater, protection, at the same, or greater expense, as did the Jews inside Aza. Will Itzik then suggest we evacuate those communities?

Now we come to the question of strategic importance. If Aza is evacuated, and terrorists will be encouraged to step up their attacks to the west of Aza, what will stop them from keeping up the pressure until those communities, too, are evacuated (G-d forbid)? Like a line-up of dominos, the piece in front - i.e., the communities of Aza - needs to stand strong.

Another problem I see: In Aza, as mentioned above, the population exemplifies family values and community values. I, personally, have also gone on a fact-finding mission to Aza, and I found that the more I learn about these communities, the more I see their virtue. Even if there were financial benefits to uprooting these communities, which there are not, the social value of the communities in Aza would far outweigh other considerations.

The strength of the Jewish nation is in the Jewish family. We have survived without our land, our books and scrolls have been burnt, but we persevered, against all odds, as a nation made up of family units. Unlike other religions that prioritize solitary meditation, celibacy and so on, ours is a religion where family life reigns supreme. According to Jewish Law, if a community does not have enough money for both a woman?s mikveh (ritual bath) and a shul (synagogue), the mikveh is given priority, preserving the purity of our families.

Although I highly recommend visiting Aza, so you can see for yourself, I will try to give you a glimpse at the community life in Aza, by sharing with you selections from the writings of Antia Tucker of Netzer Hazani:

?We are proud that we represent 18 different cultural backgrounds (countries from which our families originated) and yet we have one communal synagogue, all of us finding a way to enable us to pray together, in spite of cultural differences. We are proud that we have become one family, each learning to cook each other's recipes and love each other's customs. Little did we know that all this would be a preparation for the togetherness and mutual support we would have to give and share, because of the challenges ahead.?

After the murder of Etti, young mother of four, wife of Gabi Pachima, Anita wrote:

?Again our community disaster squads went into action, as unfortunately, we were by now becoming a well-greased mechanism - helping the mourners, the children, getting things organized, dealing with those suffering from trauma, depression, etc., and then helping life continue as normal. Gabi and his children decided to continue living in their home in spite of a lot of pressure from his extended family in the city.?

In the aftermath of the murder of Harav Yitzchak Arama, Anita wrote how the community dealt with the tragedy, while appreciating the miracle that so many survived the vicious attack. Then, she reports the support of nearby Aza communities: ?The first week after the Shiva, every family in Netzer Hazani was treated to flowers and cakes prepared by our neighboring towns - who all have had their own terror experiences - it was a beautiful gesture which helped soften the landing to reality.?

With all they have experienced, terror and tragedy have not infected the healthy lifestyle of Netzer Hazani:

?In addition to all the above, other things have happened in Netzer Hazani these last two years. We grew to 72 families - the seven new families being newlyweds, who have since caused us to expand our nursery schools. We have celebrated many weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and births. We have begun building a long planned cultural hall, as the old one is no longer big enough. We have a new playground for our young children, planted new gardens in the Moshav and built new hothouses, as more families go into providing the kosher, and other, markets with insect free, leafy vegetables.?

At the heart of the Gush Katif communities in Aza is the Ulpana N?vei Dekalim, where approximately 300 girls, from the ages of 13 to 18 years of age, study a full academic program leading to matriculation and higher education, in addition to Torah studies and immersion in an atmosphere of belief in G-d and doing good deeds. The teachers and staff at the Ulpana represent the finest in role models for the girls, dressing, speaking and acting according to Jewish modesty. The 2002 graduating class produced a CD that gives a first hand account and actual video clips of the high moral standards of the girls, combined with a youthful zest for life.

Rachel Saperstein of N?vei Dekalim teaches at the Ulpana and is active in its administration. ?Instilled in the students are family values," says Saperstein. "Choosing an appropriate husband, having a large family, living up to Torah ideals, and working harder than you thought you ever could to keep the family together. With values like these, strengthening the communities in Aza will strengthen the country.?

MK Dalia Itzik is suggesting that we uproot the communities of Aza to reinforce single motherhood.

She is wrong.
Aliza Karp writes about issues of concern to the Jewish world, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe?s perspective on defending Israel, with special focus on the Jewish community of Hebron.