First Lady Nechama Rivlin hosted an event Wednesday marking ten years since the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. She spoke representing the President who was sitting Shiva (mourning – ed.) following the death of his sister earlier in the week.
The event, attended by leaders and representatives of the Gush Katif community, was themed ‘National Responsibility,' and recognized the sacrifice and difficulties endured to this day by the thousands of Jewish residents of the communities in Gaza, and their dedication and contribution to Zionism.
“The President’s Residence opens its gates to all those removed in the Disengagement, and honors the endeavors of the residents of the communities there, so that the people can remember back to those difficult days, with the sense of partnership and unity, which we need today more than ever,” said Director General of the President’s Office, Harel Tubi, to the members of the Gush Katif communities.
Alongside the First Lady, the event was also addressed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and Rabbi of Gush Katif, Yigal Kamintzky, as well as by representatives of the community, including David Hatuel whose pregnant wife and four young daughters were murdered in a terror attack.
“The story of the Gush Katif and its residents is not a local story, but the story of a nation," First Lady Rivlin stated, reading the President’s speech. "The notion, the ‘law in Netzarim is as in Tel Aviv’ has lost its halo over the years, yet I want to return it to its rightful place; Netzarim just as Tel Aviv is the story of the Zionist settling of the land, which was created heroically with a steadfast spirit, to found the rebirth of the Jewish people in its land.”
The speech went on to stress the importance of instilling in the hearts of the people, the story of Gush Katif, in the way the Jewish people have always kept memories alive for generations.
“We must take on the commandment, ‘and you shall tell it to your children’, for the story of the residents of Gush Katif, who risked their lives and made the desert bloom, who put their lives on the line and founded institutions of education and culture, of Torah and community," she said. "Who dedicated their lives to Torah and working simply for its sake. Who established wonderful, and breathtakingly beautiful farms. ‘And you shall tell’ of the land, our homeland, which absorbed the blood of its children, and knows how to return love to those who love it.”
“At the moment of the difficult clash between a love for the land, the state, and the people, the residents of Gush Katif knew to overcome, and to protest with love and not with violence," she continued. "We must tell of the heroes imbued with a mission and faith, before whose very eyes stood the State of Israel, and who knew to mourn while accepting the decision of the majority.”
She concluded by reading in the name of the President, that despite ten years having passed, there was still much in need of repair. She said, “As we mark ten years, we are obligated to ensure that we have the ability to pick up the pieces, and build a new-old house. The path to healing is not simple, though we must walk it together.”
Edelstein then spoke of the conclusions that he drew from the Disengagement.
“First is that although the majority decides, it may not always be right," he began. "Not all that seems popular at the time is the most appropriate and correct thing to do."
"The second, relates to the troubling phenomenon which stands out from those days, and even exists today in different forms, which is the dangerous phenomenon of the ‘pack mentality’ which has a cumulative impact on the public and the public opinion," he continued. “In the Disengagement, we saw this in the behavior of the media – not only in what they published, but in the way they published it, and also, in what they omitted from publication – which was it seems ‘opinion setting’ according their own opinions of course, and which selected what was appropriate or not for the public to know.”
Also addressing the event was David Hatuel, whose pregnant wife Tali, and their four daughters, Hila (11), Hadar (9), Roni (7) and Meirav (2), were murdered in a terrorist shooting in Gaza a year before the Disengagement.
“A year after the horrific murder of my family, all the residents of Hevel Katif were evacuated from their homes, and become refugees, homeless, unemployed, scattered across the country," Hatuel said. "Amidst the daily struggle with the terrible, unbearable loss, I decided to rise up, rather than to fall into despair. With the grace of God, I have been fortunate to remarry, to Limor, and we have four sweet children."
"We chose to live our lives together with the Katif community, which has chosen out of faith, to continue on its path – a community which chose to found a new town in the developing regions of Israel."
"Ten years after the Disengagement, I am 46, and I still have not merited to build my permanent home, like the home I had before," he noted. "Will I merit to do so by my 47th birthday?"
"We said ‘no’ to civil war, we said ‘yes’ to life, both individually and as a community," he said. "We left there, carrying Torah scrolls in our arms, and unity in our silent and broken hearts."
"We chose not to give up, nor to despair. We took upon ourselves the mission of rebuilding a new town, once again as emissaries of the State of Israel, and of the vision of bringing life to the Negev. We are proud of our choice, and undertake to – without preconditions – lend ourselves to the revival and strengthening of the State of Israel."
"The people of Israel live!”
The event was held in partnership with the Gush Katif Museum, which screened footage and images of the days leading up to and during the Disengagement, as well as testimonies and interviews with members of the community.