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Gush Katif: The Night After

Gush Katif: The Night After

What do Jews do when the longed-for miracle does not occur?


It started with a sign and it ended with a sign.

On Israeli Independence Day this May, in a massive rally in Gush Katif attended by tens of thousands from all over Israel, the sign behind the dais proclaimed: WE WILL BE HERE FOREVER! It was a conviction shared by almost all Gush Katif residents as well as many other Israelis.

A prominent rabbi rented out Jerusalem's largest hall for Sunday, August 21, for the celebration to thank God for the miracle he was sure would come. Indeed, as the nation counted down to the scheduled date of the disengagement, most Gush Katif residents refused to pack their belongings or make any plans for the day after.

The ubiquitous sign on front doors in every community read: "Together we will prevail." Even once the evacuation had begun in villages in southern Gaza, further north in Netzarim, the men stayed up all night dancing in anticipation of the miracle they were sure would save them.

The miracle did not come.

Families were taken out of their homes of decades amidst tears and pleas. One palm-tree lined community after another was emptied. Synagogues were stripped of their holy trappings and Torah scrolls. A traumatized nation watched scenes of soldiers crying together with the families they were uprooting.

Judaism is a religion conceived out of a miraculous redemption, the Exodus from Egypt. It is a mitzvah of the Torah to remember the Exodus every day, to remind ourselves every day that God has redeemed us and can redeem us and will redeem us. The hope for redemption is imprinted into the Jewish soul. That is why Jews on their way to the gas chambers sang, "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah." Ultimate redemption is our promise and our destiny.

The Jews who were evacuated from the settlement of Netzer Hazani on Thursday, August 18, were loaded onto buses to take them away. They told the bus drivers, "Take us to the Kotel [the Western Wall]!" Word spread throughout Jerusalem and its environs that the banished Jews of Gush Katif were on their way to the Kotel, for millennia the site of Jewish joy and tears. By midnight a couple hundred people were gathered at the Dung Gate to greet the evacuees. By 1:30 a.m., when the buses finally arrived, the crowd had swelled to thousands.

People lined the access road singing the line from Psalms: "God will not abandon His people, nor the land of His inheritance." As the first busload descended outside of Dung Gate, weary, tearful mothers, fathers, children, and youth trudged toward the Kotel. They were greeted by girls handing them large, orange marigolds, women handing out their home-made cakes and candy, and hastily-made signs proclaiming: "We love you and are with you."

Hundreds of men linked shoulders and danced the evacuees toward the Kotel, loudly singing the refrain: "God will not abandon His people."

The Gush Katif residents who alighted from the buses made their way through the throng, amidst tears and song. For an hour, a huge mass surrounding a lone Torah scroll beside the Kotel sang and wept.

Amidst the thousands who had gathered to receive the evacuees was a woman who had lost her daughter in a suicide bombing. Even she, who knew that miracles do not always happen, was incredulous that, instead of a miracle, this calamity had befallen the Jews of Gush Katif.

So what do Jews do the night after? What do Jews do when the longed-for, prayed-for miracle does not occur? The final word of the night, the final word of the Disengagement, was emblazoned on a large sign brought by the evacuees and hung on a fence near the Kotel. It was a sheet painted with light green letters: "FROM THOSE BANISHED FROM NETZER HAZANI," and then in meter-high red letters: "HASHEM HE IS GOD."

The Divine name indicated by "Hashem" refers to God's quality of mercy. The second Divine name in the sign refers to God's quality of stern judgment. The sign's bold statement, the identical credo of faith embodied in the Shema, is: The merciful God is the same God who judges us sternly. This is the way, for millennia, that Jews have accepted upon themselves calamity, in the faith that even the harshest fate is dictated by a merciful, loving God.

That sign, and the faith behind it, is the true miracle of the Disengagement. That is the miracle that did happen.

Support for Needy People of Gush Katif:

1. Avital and Natan Sharansky have started a short term emergency fund for families who have been evacuated from Gush Katif. They are evaluating each case carefully and would like to have funds available in an account so that they can give funds to these people who are currently in crisis as soon as possible to help them with their immediate needs. Thus far they have helped families having weddings in the coming weeks and several other short term emergency needs. There are many families with serious needs.
Checks can be made out to Avital Sharansky and mailed to:
Avital and Natan Sharansky
c/o Richard Kovler
Rechov Mishmar Ha'am 1/4
Jerusalem 93226
Questions or further information can be obtained from Richard Kovler who works closely with the Sharanskys at

2. An organization called Lemaan Achai -Emergency Campaign for Gush Katif- is trying to be the coordinating body of all those interested in helping. One can call 1-700-501-300 to donate items, services or to volunteer one's time. People willing to donate funds are being asked to call 1-800-351-012 and to specify that the money is for Keren Lemaan Achai. Israeli tax deductible receipts will be issued through an organization called Paamonim.

3. United States donors of funds can give money with US tax deductible receipts through All4israel via their website or by contacting

Sara Yoheved Rigler’s all-encompassing online marriage program, “Choose Connection: How to Revive and Rejuvenate Your Marriage” is available to readers at a special price. Click here for more info:

August 18, 2005

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 33

(33) Dorit Ernst, August 31, 2005 12:00 AM

G'D bless you - and all who are involved!

Dear Mrs. Rigler and everybody believing and doing as you confered through this column:

You are so right - may GOD bless you abundantly and help you through this hard situation!

Shalom, Shalom!

(32) y'hoshua halevi, August 26, 2005 12:00 AM

hope for redemption

sara rigler, thank you again: "the hope for redemption is imprinted into the jewish soul...ultimate redemption is our promise and our destiny."

ms. rigler, you, b'ezrat H', are a great blessing to all who read your pieces. your from the heart insights combined with tora wisdom have a healing effect! thank you for helping to bring the essential vision of the whole picture, like rabi akiva did when looking at the churban(the destruction of the Temple).

afte reading your pieces, one is left with a touched heart and a stronger commitment to the torah, am, v'eretz yisrael. may H' continue to help you compose such valuable, helpful writing.

(and may we all work together to help the precious jews of gush katif, who need housing, money, food and other services that the gov't is not providing sufficiently, to say the least.)

(31) Dr Michael Mitchell, August 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Withdrawal from settlements a necessary evil

We Jews outside Israel have one duty - to support Israel always. The heartbreaking scenes of people leaving their homes was balanced by the truly inspiring, loving and compassionate way the army oversaw the evictions. Israe has shown the world that the obstacle to peace will always be the Palestinians because of their inability to see beyond hate. The withdrawal will not change the Palestinian's view of Israel but I feel so proud of Israel that they have shown the world how committed to peace they are that they have done this enormous thing. Let us all unite and support all of Israel. Ahavat Yisrael is a hugely important and too often neglected mitzvah.

(30) Rachel, August 25, 2005 12:00 AM


I live in the UK where Christians, Jews and Islamics live side by side and are not segregated by race, or religion. I support Israel, but isn't it possible to share the area? An Israeli spoke at our meeting place about Gaza and said that was the only place where segration was profound. His wish was for there to be peace between the Jewish nation and Palestenians. So much bitterness has grown over the years; but it is much like the divide that was happening between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland-yet, they found peace and are now respecting each others rights and living mutually side by side. Islam and Christianity are branches off of Judaism, so Israel will always belong to the Jewish people, because the branches spring from the roots of the Jewish nation.
love, light, and peace and shalom to all

(29) Art Mensch, August 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Prayer answered

A Rabbi once commented that Hashem always answers our prayers. It is just that sometimes it is not the answer we wanted.

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