A delegation of over 50 Americans visited the beautiful beach front Jewish communities in Gush Katif/Gaza for a Shabbos weekend April 8th and 9th. The Mission also visited all four Jewish communities in the Shomron (West Bank) area that are scheduled to be evacuated along with the Israeli Jews of Gush Katif. The group toured schools, community centers and homes. They planted trees in one of the neighborhoods, and then helped lay the foundation for a new synagogue.
The delegation included Morton A. Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA); Dr. Irving and Cherna Moskowitz, members of ZOA’s Board; Dr. Jonathan Gold, a dermatologist and member of ZOA’s Board; Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, renowned Professor of Talmud and former dean of Yeshiva University’s Rabbinical School, as well as chairman of Yeshiva University’s Biology Department; Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Director of the National Council of Young Israel; and Bunny Horowitz, a leader of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI). Joining them were businessmen, doctors, lawyers and educators from New York and New Jersey.
The group arrived in Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport, greeted by an appreciative and large group of Israelis from Gush Katif/Gaza including many children. There was also a large group of Israeli reporters and television cameramen from Israel’s TV stations covering our arrival.
Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler spoke first and said, “I speak for many of my colleagues in the US and am here to express great concern regarding Sharon’s disengagement plan and the expulsion of Jews from Gaza.” He added that this plan is against Halacha (Jewish Law).
Morton Klein spoke next and said, ” The list of prominent Israeli military leaders and others who are against this Sharon Plan because it will lead to more terror, is long and distinguished. They include Chief of the Israel Defense Forces Moshe Ya’alon; Chief of Military Intelligence Farkash; Chief of Shin Bet Avi Dichter; Natan Sharansky; former head of Military Intelligence Shlomo Gazit; former Defense Minister Moshe Arens; Gideon Saar, head of the Likud Party; Uzi Landau, MK and former chair of the Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; and many, many more. IDF chief Ya’alon’s exact words were that ‘this Gaza plan will blow up in our faces.'”
Klein added, “I am deeply troubled that Prime Minister Sharon, Minister Meir Shetreet, and Gideon Ezra all proclaimed that speaking out against this Gaza Plan is ‘incitement’. Nonetheless, I must state openly and strongly that this Plan is a historical error not only for Israel but for the US and the world’s international war against terrorism, sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere including Al Quaeda that terrorism pays and pays well. This may encourage more terror, G-d forbid, against all of us.
“As a spokesman for Hamas, Ahmed al-Bahar, said only last week,
“‘The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four and a half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
“‘All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today, following more than four years of the intifada,’ he continued. ‘Hamas’s heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews.'”
After returning from Gush Katif/Gaza, Klein summed up by saying, “What I learned on this trip was the total refutation of the major propaganda lies that have been propagated about Sharon’s Gaza Plan which are as follows:
1) 88% of Gaza, where virtually all of the 1 million Arabs live, was already given away by PM Yitzchak Rabin in 1994 (remember Oslo’s Gaza-Jericho 1st theme). Therefore, there is no demographic issue. In the12% of Gaza that remains under Israeli control, there are 9000 Jews, and only 2000 Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Authority has autonomy over the Arab section of Gaza. Why is Israel giving away the rest of Gaza which is 82% Jewish.
2) Where the Jews live in Gaza is not a hell hole or a slum. As Cherna Moskowitz said, “‘These are not Jewish caravans in the middle of Arab communities. These are beautiful, spacious, modern homes with businesses and schools surrounded by lush landscapes and a gorgeous beach. And the neighborhoods are peaceful and secure. They don’t even lock their doors here.'” The mission also toured Katif’s famous greenhouses, which provide Israel with nearly seventy percent of its produce and feature some of the most advanced agricultural technology in the world, including high-tech temperature regulation and insect-free produce.
3) The Jews here are not wild-eyed ugly radicals. They are beautiful family people, who are well-dressed and truly physically attractive with beautiful Jewish children. They are hard working, productive farmers who grow beautiful organic vegetables — they run beautiful plant nurseries and manufacture all sorts of useful goods. They are teachers and principals and doctors and businessmen. Any of us would be happy to have them as neighbors.
We were impressed by the loveliness and sweetness of these people. They refused to condemn Sharon personally. The sentiments they expressed were ones of confusion and being perplexed. When they moved here they were told by government officials including Yitzchak Rabin that Gush Katif/Gaza would remain a Jewish community for generations. Never were they told they were taking a risk of being expelled at some point in the future. And the Jews of Gaza still believe that most Israelis are with them politically. At each anti-disengagement rally, several hundred thousand Jews were present, while the pro-disengagement rally only attracted 5000 Israelis.
“It was also eye-opening to hear them tell us that before Oslo began in 1993, only several Israeli soldiers were needed to guard the Gazan Jewish communities. Today there are over 1,000 Israeli troops stationed there. It was the Oslo Plan, they said, that provided funds to the Arabs to purchase arms they use against Jews and it was Oslo that inspired Arabs to believe that terror could now bring greater dividends and force Jews to leave their land.
“It is deeply painful to think that now the Hamas terror chiefs may take over the homes and businesses of these Gush Katif Jews. These Jewish people built this community on land that no one lived on or claimed — on land that was only sand and rocks; they built an oasis. To think that those who ordered the murder of these Jews will now take over the homes of family and friends left behind is simply too painful to contemplate. We must continue to make every effort to bring more people to Gush Katif in order to see the reality there first-hand. We must explain to every Jewish leader, journalist and persons of influence the truth of this issue. We must do all we can to avoid this human rights and policy-making error.”