Jewish Journal

Disengagement Commander Expresses Remorse Over Expelling Jews

by Orit Arfa

July 11, 2013 | 8:43 am

We're coming upon eight years since the "disengagement" from Gush Katif, Gaza, and the time is ripe for introspection about an event that drastically altered the Middle East and that most people don't talk about anymore, even as people cavalierly call for evacuating more Jews from the West Bank.

According to an article in Ynet, one of the military leaders of the evacuation expressed remorse over his participation, although I'm pretty sure that he would do it all over again if asked.

Eight years after the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, deputy chief of the operation's police forces Brigadier General (res.) Meir Ben-Ishay expressed sorrow for his part in uprooting settlements, and revealed that he and hundreds of policemen and soldiers were struggling to overcome the trauma behind the pullout to this day.

Ben-Ishay, who coined the expression "sensitive determination" in the summer of 2005, paid an exceptionally long visit to the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem last week, and signed the guestbook: "For me, the wound is still open; I apologize if I hurt; "God forgive me."

I question whether most soldiers who participated feel the same remorse, as Ben-Ishay asserts. In chilling interviews I conducted with "disengagers" as research for my novel about the withdrawal, The Settler, the feelings they expressed ranged from nonchalance to "scars you cannot fathom." Most said they'd do it again regardless of how lousy they feel about it. Soldiers were taught that they didn't have to take personal responsibility. For Ben-Ishay, or any soldier for that matter, a complete apology would have to include a direct apology to the expellees, not merely an announcement in the guestbook of the Gush Katif Museum.

I predicted that some soldiers would experience remorse in The Settler. In the novel, a "disengager" wrote the following letter to the protagonist (don't worry, it's not a spoiler). I don't know if any soldiers went this far, but that reunion would be interesting...the stuff of fiction.

“I never felt good about what I did....I knew in my heart it was wrong, but it was so hard to go against the army. There was a lot of training and pressure to do it. We were taught we didn’t have to take personal responsibility....I don’t think anything I can say or do can make up for the pain I caused you and your family, or the pain I caused myself. Still, if it’s not too late, I ask that you and your family forgive me.”

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Orit Arfa can aptly be described as a Renaissance Woman. A writer of fiction, non-fiction and music, a painter, and a Zionist activist, Orit’s interests span many media.


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