Three Days in August

Jerusalem Gold - the name of our hotel. Our home - Room 526.

Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dkalim/Nitzan

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Arutz 7
There was a Star Wars quality to the operation. Not one shot was fired, not one rifle was in view, but the terror tactic used in this eviction from Gush Katif was a brilliant tribute to the Warrior.

They did not need to use force, they simply manipulated our minds so that we gave up willingly, almost with relief to be out of the horror scene created by the IDF and the Israeli police. Psychological warfare apparently gets more efficient results than brutality. The removal of all Jews from Gush Katif was done with Hollywood style, proficiency and panache.

Tuesday night, August 16, 2005

The night before the eviction, hundreds of troops marched into N'vei Dekalim with robot-like precision. They started straight ahead. Hundreds more sat on the sand dunes, their backs toward each house. I went out to speak with them.

"Turn around," I cried. "Look at my house. Look at my husband. He has no hands. We are the people who fought for the land. We are the people you are going to throw out. Look at me! Look at me!"

There was no reaction. Some fiddled with their cell phones as they sat in the darkness. The streetlights were turned off. Only the glow of our garden lights made the soldiers visible. Their commander, his head shaved, stared into the darkness. No reaction.

Moshe sat on our porch quietly smoking a cigar, as I screamed and screamed.

"Why bother?" he said. "They look drugged to me."

A high-ranking officer came to speak with him. "I am sorry for what is happening to you," the officer said. "We will not pull you out in the middle of the night and tomorrow, your guests can leave with you."

We were so grateful to know that our eviction would be 'kindly'. We went to sleep in our clothes, just in case. We believe no one, especially the IDF.

Wednesday morning, August 17, 2005

The morning air was filled with the smell of burning tires and garbage. There were fifteen of us in the house for breakfast. The men had prayed Shacharit (the morning service) on the lawn, and now we all sat down to eat.

As a last gesture to my new family, I pulled out packages of frozen chicken parts, added a few teaspoons of soy sauce, a sprinkling of brown sugar, a few cherry tomatoes and small potatoes into our one remaining frying pan. At 10:30am, we sat down for lunch - our farewell meal. It was a grandmother's way of saying, "We're going to be evicted; let's leave on a full stomach and with dignity." We lived up to our standards.

Moshe called us together. "We're leaving with our heads held up high. We will not resist, but go quietly to the waiting bus." He did this for me. He was fearful that I would be beaten if I resisted. I had to promise I wouldn't fight.

I walked over to the synagogue complex to meet a BBC presenter for a live broadcast. We watched the rabbis bringing a Torah scroll into the building with love, amidst singing and dancing.

BBC announcer: "What's going on?"

Me: "A Torah scroll is being brought into the synagogue."

BBC live on air: "A holy Koran is now being brought into the synagogue!"

Me (screaming): "A Torah! A holy Torah!"

BBC: "Oh, sorry. A Torah."

I met Emma Hurd of Sky TV News. She interviewed me. The turmoil continued. Playacting mostly. Enter the "mean guys". Tough-looking guys with black uniforms and dark reflective glasses. Their job was to run in formations or large groups looking tough and scary. They ran, stopped, muddled about, regrouped and ran in another direction.

I shouted, "Hey, you guys look real tough! I'm soooo scared of you!" I started laughing, slightly hysterical, but laughing nevertheless.

Enter, stage right, groups of young, good-looking soldiers - the "good guys" - in baseball caps and charming blue mesh vests over their khaki uniforms, with the Israeli flag and the symbol of the Knesset, the seven branch candelabra, sown on the vests and caps. One could see there was a team of fashion designers who surely created these costumes.

I felt as if I had fallen into a real live computer game, one my four-year-old grandson is so fond of.

"Maidele (little girl)," I said to one sweet, blue-eyed soldier, "does your mother know what you're doing here? When you have a sweet daughter of your own, what will you tell her when she asks, 'Where were you mommy, and what did you do when the soldiers came to expel the Jews of Gush Katif?'"

Masses of these lovely Jewish soldiers fanned out and stood near each home, their backs to the house; so they wouldn't have to physically see the homeowners of the beautiful Jewish homes that they were to help destroy.

The bus pulled up to our house; the bus to remove Moshe, me and our guests from our home in N'vei Dekalim forever. Four soldiers came in to talk to us and obviously repeated the words they had been programmed to say to a Jewish homeowner.

In an emotional voice I said, "Look at my face, and look at my husband's face. Remember them well. These are the Jews you agreed to make homeless. This is your shame that you will remember forever." I turned to leave.

We brought our baggage to the front of our entrance, a bright orange ribbon attached to each piece. Together, we sang, "Ani Maamin" (I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah). Rabbi Eisen, holding the orange flag of Gush Katif, recited Kaddish, the Mourner's Prayer. We each kissed the mezuzah goodbye, slowly walked to the bus and pulled away from our home.

At the next house, a family of B'nei Menashe residents came out. Tired, worn out, no fight, no ceremonies. A bunch of teenage girls was briskly hauled onto the bus, still full of spit and fire.

The bus slowly made its way out of N'vei Dekalim, passing the ulpana where I had taught English for eight years. The bus wound down the main road, leading inexorably to the gate. It halted. Dozens of teenage girls had jumped in front of the bus.

"A Jew does not expel Jews!" they screamed as they sat in front of the bus, using their bodies to stop our expulsion. The police dragged them away. The young girls attacked the police. The government had turned young adolescents into frenzied fighters. They threw orange paint onto the windshield. We hung our flag out the window.

The police had fouled up the entrance to our beautiful N'vei Dekalim. Piles of empty water bottles and half-eaten food were strewn about the once-carefully tended lawns of our community.

I closed my eyes to the ugly scene of Jewish destruction. I forced myself to remember the beauty we once had here - not this, not this.

We drove to Jerusalem. We talked, we cried. The accompanying police and soldiers offered us large bottles of water and packaged sandwiches. Most refused to accept them.

Jerusalem Gold - the name of our hotel. Our home - Room 526.

The people of Jerusalem welcomed us with loving signs and plates of fruit, drinks and cake. The policemen helped bring our pieces of luggage into the hotel. Our son, Moshe's mother, brother and wife met us with hugs and kisses, happy that we were out of the battle. We wished we were still there. We said goodbye to Rabbi Eisen and Reva and their three sons. Our friend Jochim had gotten off in Ashkelon.

The folks spoke to us. We couldn't communicate; people from different planets with no mutual language. I saw my friend Iris from N'vei Dekalim. We fell into each other's arms and cried and cried. We didn't need to exchange any words at all.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My ankle has a hairline fracture. I had broken it three weeks ago, but had not time to get an x-ray. Despite the pain, I ran to each interview and cooked for ten. My foot is swollen. My son came and, between my bouts of hysterical crying, convinced me to go for medical help. Sari, a nurse we know, came with her medical help and brought a pad so I could write these words.

Now, I've begun Operation Band Aid. Volunteers from Jerusalem show up at my room and ask, "What can I do?" I tell them. On Friday night, boxes of brand-new, white shirts arrived. Our men and boys went to pray looking like princes instead of bedraggled refugees. Hairdressers and barbers arrived. We take a reprieve from our intense sorrow.

We are cold. Jerusalem evenings are chilly. I asked for and received warm clothing from Jerusalem shopkeepers. My one request: every item must be brand new or in perfect condition. Treat us with dignity.

And the folks of this wonderful city keep on bringing and bringing. One small cell phone in my room brings us whatever immediate aid we need. Only a band-aid box, given with love.

But I cry and sob. Ariel Sharon won this battle. I couldn't stop the expulsion.