Many years ago, when I was a college student, Ariel Sharon was a hero of mine. In his biography I read about how as a youngster he would walk throughout the entire country getting to know every hill, every valley, every tree. As a young soldier, his ingenuity and daring was recognized by his superiors who knew they could rely on him to devise and implement the original "price tag attacks" (against terrorists) whenever Israel needed to restore its deterrence. He defied his chain of command and fearlessly brought his troops across the Suez Canal, becoming the hero and savior of the Yom Kippur War.
Later, he embarked on a campaign to create dozens of communities throughout Judea and Samaria perhaps doing more for the settlement movement than any other Israeli politician. For all of these reasons and more, I and many people like myself were baffled in 2005 when he decided to implement the disengagement plan and evict 9,000 Jews from Gaza and the Northern 'West Bank'.
Many Israelis loved and believed in Ariel Sharon, and felt that there must be something that Sharon knew that couldn’t be revealed to the masses. He must've had something up his sleeve. Almost 18 years later, on the day the disengagement law was repealed, the mystery of Sharon's sudden turnabout is no longer a mystery
I recently came across an excerpt from an article in the Jewish Press, dated October 1, 1982 written by Rabbi Meir Kahane at the time of the First Lebanon War. In this article, written 23 years before the Gaza disengagement, Kahane writes words that must have seemed extreme and bizarre at the time, but in retrospect are prophetic:
"Arik Sharon, the latest darling of the donkey-nationalists wrote an article that appeared in the Op-ed page of the New York Times, August 29. In it he wrote:
"No army in the history of modern warfare ever took such pains to prevent civilian casualties as did the Israeli Defense Forces. Indeed, most of the losses we suffered…. resulted from the rule we imposed on ourselves to avoid harming noncombatants. In Hebrew we call this tohar haneshek- the moral conduct of war. We are proud...despite the heavy costs we incurred in warning civilians we were coming…'
"The man who writes these words- if they are true- is not a donkey. He is a shedder of Jewish blood. He is a man who either through sincere belief in this terrible gentile un-Jewish doctrine or through fear of the gentile, sealed the needles death of tens of innocent Jewish boys. Let those who rush to dinners for him at the chic glatt kosher nightclubs or those who through him vicariously live their "tough Jewish" life, remember this. He is a man who is a great general but who knows little and cares less about Jewish concepts and discipline tomorrow he is capable of he most incredible and dangerous turnabouts. And that time the donkeys will bray. How could he have deceived us so? And then they will find themselves another hero."
The :"disengagement" - read "expulsion of Jews"- from Gaza was certainly an incredible and dangerous turnabout for Sharon which many, including myself, were shocked and unprepared for. We thought that there must be some smart, secret, calculated reason why the staunch supporter of the settlement movement decided to uproot 9,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and the northern 'West Bank'.
We were wrong. These 18 years have proved that we were wrong in our faith in Sharon. The brave soldiers and innocent civilians killed in several wars and rocket attacks proved that we were wrong. The generation of children traumatized by rocket sirens proved that we were wrong. The broken promises to the families of Gaza evacuees proved that we were wrong. The greenhouses turned to terror bases proved that we were wrong. The continued American persistence to implement "two-state solution" Gaza becoming a giant terror base, proved that we were wrong.
While most Israelis have come to terms that they were wrong by either supporting the "disengagement" or wrong for not resisting it enough, that realization is not enough to prevent future mistakes from occurring. On the historic day in which the disengagement law was repealed - at least the first step in repealing it - we all need to review what the actual mistakes were that allowed for the Disengagement to happen in the first place.
Firstly, we must learn to never again put our faith in a leader who had neither fear nor faith in G-d. Without the Torah, the most nationalist, right wing "bull-dozer", can on a moment's notice, compromise on any and every principle if it happens to be politically expedient. Only a Jew bound to the Torah can be trusted to remain loyal to his principles at any cost.
Secondly, making partial territorial compromise will not satisfy the Palestinian Arabs, nor the US. It only increases their appetite for more territory.
Thirdly and most importantly, the land is not ours to give away. If Israel was promised peace by all of its neighbors in exchange for one Jewish hill in Judea, we would have no right to give it away. In the same way that a Jew is obligated to forfeit their entire fortune rather than violate the Sabbath, Israel must forfeit the most generous peace proposals if it involves the prohibition of giving away even an insignificant amount of Eretz Yisrael. It is simply not ours to give away.
We have just had Gush Katif week in Israeli schools. Hopefully with these lessons in mind, the mistakes of the past will never repeat themselves again in the future.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.