memorial for dead of Gush Katif
memorial for dead of Gush KatifHezki Baruch

The annual memorial ceremony was held Monday on the Mount of Olives for the fallen of Gush Katif, whose graves were uprooted 12 years ago and moved to Jerusalem.

All Jewish graves in the Gaza Strip were dug up and relocated during the 2005 Disengagement, when all Jewish residents of Gaza were expelled from their homes.

The memorial ceremony was attended by the families of the deceased, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, the director of the Jerusalem cemeteries, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz and the uprooted Gush Katif residents.

Shlomo Wasserteil, the director of the Gush Katif Museum and initiator of the memorial, said at the event: ""Today we are holding the memorial for a second expulsion, a second funeral, and a second burial. And this is a chapter in and of itself. It is difficult to ascend Mount of Olives because of the reality that we do not control the mountain, and therefore few came."

Minister Ariel said that "it is impossible to comfort [those whose relatives' bodies were forcibly removed], let alone to explain any of this ... On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Elul, we will pray for mercy ... for 2000 years the people of Israel remembered the Land of Israel and returned. So too, we wish to remember and to return to Gush Katif."

Yehudit Davidovitch, the mother of Ahuva Amergi Davidovitch, who was murdered by Arab terrorists and buried in Gush Katif until the Disengagement, read a poem written by her daughter before she was murdered. "Ahuva's poem is like a testament: that after the difficult days have passed, we will rise like a phoenix and build ourselves anew."

Shlomo Yolis, whose son died in Gush Katif, said at the memorial service: "In the first burial there is sadness and terrible pain, but at a second burial, when you take your son and your home and evacuate them, there is such terrible pain. Before my son died, he debated whether to be buried in Gush Katif or outside Gush Katif. In a conversation with his sisters, he said, 'My home is Gush Katif, but the sorrow my parents will have when they pass the grave is hard for me.'"

"When he died, we said, 'We'll bury him in Gush Katif.' And we had faith until the last moment that they would not expel us from Gush Katif.

The head of the Jerusalem Cemetery Council, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, said that "Rosh Chodesh Elul is a fitting day to come to those who were righteous in their lives, and who have had to make sacrifices of themselves after they were already dead and buried [because their graves were dug up]. The keeping of the peace on the Mount of Olives is very much from the merit of Gush Katif."