Israel, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Short Fiction, Career Guidance

Location: Israel

Monday, August 22, 2005

Response on use of Nazi comparison

Dear R,

I respectfully disagree. I expect only time will tell how things develop, which I hope will only be for the best, and such analogies will no longer be necessary or come to mind.

I at least have come to terms with the anti-religious bend of the institutions and centers of power in Israel. While I don't believe that they wish to kill us physically, I do believe they want to diminish us in every other way (perhaps it is less of a Purim-like threat and more of a Chanukah-like one).

I agree that part of the solution is to be closer with the average secular Israeli Jew which our community has not been so good at, and I attribute as part of the reason for current events. However, there is an important and influential minority, who have developed a large squad of officers who are comfortable inflicting pain on Jews. This same minority is hyper-sensitive to the concerns of a large population of Arabs that would be happy with us dead.

I am not sure that I should feel brotherly love for this group of deeply assimilated, hateful, anti-religious Israeli Jews and the institutions they lead in their current state. We are on diametrically oppossed paths, with little or no common-denominator. Others have stated that they are pushing the Dati-Leumi crowd into a corner and forcing them to choose between allegiance to the State (in its current makeup) and allegiance to God. If the two are not now compatible nor have a common purpose, I know where I stand.

It is similar to the recurring argument about politicians that try to influence the goverments "from within" or at what point they leave it because they don't want to be associated with it. I believe these questions will come up on a larger scale.

This past week for me in Gush Katif was traumatic on various levels. I am not the first nor will I be the last to make comparisons to the Nazis -- even people that went through the Holocaust are saying the same. I am not making this comparison to be alarmist or to cheapen the use of the term. The comparison comes unbidden. What makes it even more painful is that it is our brothers doing this.

My general sense was that the Police and especially the Yasam units had no problem being rough and implementing these orders. I know it was very difficult though for many of the soldiers. The poor boys and girls were also victims in a sense, and were used and pressured to be a part of it. Typically, they only did one forceful eviction and were then rotated. Just the one eviction burned many of them out and I fear for their long-term psycological health.

This past week has been a big step backwards for the Jewish State. I'm not sure what the best way forward is, either on an individual level or a community one.

I'm sorry that you're offended and find my arguments unnacceptable. For me it was a very real and frightening experience that fills me with dread. Perhaps I should call them Hellenists -- but emotionally that term has no meaning for me. From personal family history and education I know what a Nazi means. I know how things started there, and whether we care to admit it or not, there are unarguable parallels.

There was also a lot of bravery, strength and compassion evident in the more humane soldiers and that gives me a measure of hope.

May we just have good notices and an end to sorrow.



First I'd like to clarify that I do mean Front in the sense of War Front. This is a psychological, spiritual and emotional war of the highest degree, besides being the largest military operation in Israeli history. It is correct that there has not been physical murder, and the brutal beatings have been kept to a minimum. Nonetheless, no one should have any illusions that this is nothing less than a battle for the spiritual, religious and political future of the People of Israel. Sharon has employed the entire security apparatus to this end. He is also supported by the courts, the media, the international community, and most painfully by Moetzet Yesha. Others are elaborating elsewhere regarding the duplicitous betrayal by Moetzet Yesha leaders.

I'll just mention two examples that I came across personally. I'm sure other incidents will come to light with time. Moetzet Yesha sabotaged the home-grown volunteer effort that was running smoothly in Nvei Dekalim until they bullied their way in and that let the organization collapse and eroded the morale and resistance. Secondly, they were directly responsible for handing over the gate of Nvei Dekalim to the army, accelerating their entry to the Yishuv.

The Disengament so far has been one of the most impressive military and logistical excercises conducted to-date. No expense has been spared to make sure the operation goes smoothly. In the sweltering heat, soldiers have been provided with the additional equipment of blue mesh vests bearing the Israeli flag and emblem in a cynical use of these symbols. Members of the press have been issued pretty red caps so that they wont be confused with settlers. Every free bus and truck in the country has been commissioned to help with the transfer. The army created a portable roving tire repair shop to insure that Jews and their possesions are transported with minimum delay.

The actual tactics for forcefully removing people from their homes was chillingly effective. A bus pulls up to the entrance of a home. 40-50 soldiers form a perimeter around the bus and the house ensuring no one can get in or out. Slowly, patiently, methodically -- even caringly and gently they escort the residents out. By now, most people have seen images of the screaming, crying resistance or quiet resignation.

Someone once told me that the only difference between the Nazis and all others that tried to kill Jews before the Holocaust, was that the Nazis were efficient.

Well, now we've come across an even more capable and efficient people. The Israeli government has showcased these brilliant population removal techniques to the security forces of the world. Now they know how to deport docile Jews worldwide.

First you start with a demonizing campaign. Next you pass appropriate legislation. An authority is established to help the target population with their transfer and create carrot-and-stick laws to encourage and/or frighten the people to move.

What is really impressive is the operational side. Troops are provided with detailed and marked satellite maps of the community. Airborne drones conduct 24-hour reconnaissance and via infra-red probably know exactly how many bodies are in each house, of what size, and whether they are sleeping or not.

Advance troops arrive to offer "help" to families that might be interested in moving. Among these troops they confirm who is a long-time resident, who is cooperating with the authorities and who is resisting, and formulate the order of evacuation. More troops come in quietly and unobtrusively and hang out, silently building up their forces in the area.

The psychological aspect has also been well thought out. There is constant misinformation from multiple sources, including media, government, police and army. An environment of uncertainty and fear is established. The uninvited moving containers was an excellent example of developing the sense of defeat.

The most important part in this sort of battle is neutralizing the leadership. This in my opinion was the masterstroke of the whole operation and the reason for Sharon's confidence. At some point he got Moetzet Yesha in his pocket. I'm not sure what their motivation was, though I have my suspicions. The bottom line is that Moetzet Yesha put on a great Public Relations show, but that was about it. They torpedoed every single tactical move that could have made a real difference. They were also able to get most of the Rabbinic leadership to tow the line with them.

The use of force was also well balanced. The army showed masterful restraint and patience, but then after a certain amount of time attacked quickly, brutally and without remorse. This neutralized the more agressive resistance and put bodily fear into the rest.

The logistical support was examplary and impressive. On my way out of Nvei Dekalim, I was transported to the new and expanded Reim Army Base. It is a city. I thought I had been taken to an airport. There were multiple traffic coordinators sending empty trucks, full trucks, empty buses, full buses, troops and transports to their correct destination in an extremely professional and efficient fashion.

All in all the Israeli security forces get high marks for their execution of this exemplary case of ethnic cleansing.

On a better note, after we've been informed that most of the Yishuvim have been Jew-cleaned, I just spoke with Marc Zell of Alon Shvut. He is in Gadid -- and it is packed. There are hundreds of people still there. It seems refugees from other Yishuvim as well as a number of original families are still holding on. People have still been streaming in.

It is not clear what the future holds, especially now that it has been painfully clarified that we live in a state that bears a remarkable resemblance to the Nazi regime in its early years.

We lost this battle the day that massive numbers of troops were willing to forcefully remove their brothers from their homes. The reason for this social failure deserves deep and serious analysis and contemplation. There is a real divide in Israeli society if thousands of young men and women are able to man-handle women and children despite their begging and pleading.

Just like in Germany where there were Germans and German Jews, we are seeing a phenomena in Israel of Israelis and Israeli Jews. Shimon Peres was probably the first to verbalize this distinction when he lost the election to Bibi and stated that the Jews had won and the Israelis had lost.

What are the implications of a growing divide? What are the hopes of reuniting with people so far removed from a Jewish identity? What should our attitude to the State, the Army, and the institutions we used to venerate be? I know I will never look at someone in uniform the same way again. I had two experiences with security forces after my departure from Nvei Dekalim. This first was my going on an army transport filled with troops that had just assisted in the cleansing of Morag. They were embarrassed, caring, helpful and even sad upon seeing me. The conflict of emotions was difficult and I broke into silent tears. The second experience was when I walked by a group of policemen at a gas station outside of the expanded closed military zone in the south. My eyes locked with one of them and there was one message in his contact: "Enemy".

Many have said that this is not the end, but the beginning. The beginning of what? I think it will be the beginning of greater persecution and Jew-cleansing. It will be the beginning of more terror and loss of life. It will be the beginning of more discrimination of religious Jews by those in power.

However, it also needs to be the beginning of community soul-searching. Where did we go so wrong that such a divide and estrangement could develop? What do we need to do to correct it? Why has our leadership failed us so miserably? What should our relationship be to this unholy State and its destructive and hateful institutions? How do we take these lessons and use it in a constructive, responsible and intelligent fashion? What is our hope for the future and how do we get there?

I don't have answers.

I don't even know who to ask.

Impressions from the Front

I apologize for the long ramble, but some have asked me to document my experience here.

Shabbat and Tisha B'av were the most moving experiences I can recall. Every prayer was meaningful, every song filled with emotion. The communal feeling of threat and the appreciation of the precariousness of life is palpable. I've fallen in love with the place. It is physically beautiful and the view of the Mediteranean doesn't hurt either.

This morning, I walked around the Yishuv with my friend Jeremy Brody, who miraculously made it in and out of the area. We walked through what had obviously been a gorgeous home, now gutted completely. Even the doorframes were removed. The owners left Israeli flags of various sizes all over the house. I don't envy the soldiers whose job will be to demolish the home.

We then saw a bit of the multitude of greenhouses and factories. They were enourmous operations. This convinced me more than anything else that those who think Alon Shvut or Efrat, Maale Adumim or Ariel or any place else in Yesha is safe from the immolation of the Left are completely deluding themselves. The economic investment and value of Gush Katif is worth several times over the economic value of the rest of Yesha combined. If the government is capable of giving away Gush Katif, they will be willing, ready and able to give away the rest. I forget the poem, but I think it went something like this: "First they came for the blacks, and I did nothing. Then they came for the gypsies, and I did nothing. Then they came for the gays, and I did nothing. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to help."

I've been sleeping on the terrace of my hosts' house. It's the only place where you don't run the risk of suffocating from the heat in this all-time high heat wave. On Saturday night I got to see a shooting star. On Sunday night I got to see a mortar -- which actually left a nice smoke trail. At 4am, after a fitfull sleep it was most unwelcome. The yishuv loadspeaker then asked everyone to take cover. I went inside. It was just too hot. I was too tired and cranky too listen to anybodies orders, so I went back to my spot on the terrace, for the hour and a half I had left to sleep.

We had an early morning minyan at the main gate of Gadit to prevent soldiers from delivering expulsion orders. They apparently did not make it until much later thanks to all the protestors at Kissufim. The army however had escorted two buses full of journalists. I was treated to a first-hand reminder how one cannot trust the media at all.

Some journalists encouraged a couple of the wilder local youth to bring over some barbed wire and then drag it violently back and forth over the road. All the media got their photo-op. Shortly thereafter the boys discarded the barbed wire and were not seen again. It was completely fabricated.

The davening at the gate was fairly meaningful though we were often distracted by vehicles that we were letting in and out.

Later on I made my way to Nvei Dekalim where I got to help Ruth Leiberman with some of her PR work and to see the wilder scene at the front gate there. It was encouraging to see the many soldiers that refused orders and left the area. The numbers of teens as well as adults that are ready and waiting to bodily resist the expulsion is truly impressive. You could see visible fear and concern on the faces of the security forces.

After helping with a few other odds and ends in Nvei Dekalim I make my way back to Gadit.

I pass a woman who spontaneously breaks into grief-stricken crying who is consoled by her friend.

I step carefully over the freshly torn-down barbed wired fencing that separated Nvei Dekalim from Gadit. It was a wise move to prevent the army from 'dividing and conquering'. To my right was a convey of trucks with large containers that was paralyzed by protesters and civilian vehicles. There is a touch of chaos in the air. A middle-aged man is yelling at a couple of dozen teenagers that the leadership decided to permit free passage for those that are moving out.

However, it's been discovered that the army has hired a number of such trucks to just drive around the yishuv to deepen the feeling that people are giving up. The psychological warfare is ongoing.

In the background are loud metallic noises. Usually it sounds like the dismantling of the greenhouses. Sometimes it sounds like gunfire from Khan Yunis -- I haven't been here long enough yet to tell you the caliber or the range, as most of the long-time residents can.

I keep walking. A massively built truck-driver gets out of his vehicle and tells a passerby "This kid is going to send me to jail again". The passerby asks him "Why"?. "Because I'm going to murder him" is the serious reply as he quickly walks after a teenager that just punctured his tire.

Tonight there was basically what amounted to a very large pep-talk. The crowd was visibly elated by news of hundreds of cars making their way to the south for us.

My feeling is that the tide is turning and I'm off to a barbecue that my hosts are serving.

Looking forward to a much larger celebration soon.


Where were you when JFK was shot?

Growing up, I noticed that phrase came up in adult conversation a lot. For our generation the question will be "What did you do during the Hitnatkut?" I'm in Gadid and Nvei Dekalim helping out. Every individual is of tremendous help. We are witnessing a national crime -- anyone standing idly by is a party to it.

The upcoming days will determine the fate of the future of Israel. There are massive forces at play. The army, police, government, media, courts and international community are preparing for a death blow (the first of a few planned ones -- notice how the newspapers our titling this "Hitnatkut 2005" -- I can give you a list of who is planned for 2006). The media is lying outright and the government is deluding itself on many counts.

One just has to walk through Nvei Dekalim to see that there are easily over ten thousand "illegal" residents here -- and not all of them teenagers. I had the privledge to meet senior citizens that came all the way from the US to get in.

There is talk among the soldiers that there will be mass refusal of orders starting this week. It was easy to perceive this from the multiple checkpoints I got through without any real permits. This is besides the fact that they are stretched thin and completely lying about the number of security forces in the field.

However, a growing number of families are finally starting to give up because of the extraordinary pressue. They've started packing. On Thursday, a family moved out of Nvei Dekalim, with most of their belongings. They left behind an old computer and a large and beautiful fish tank (with the fish still in it). I was asked to help a group of Americans settle into the vacated house. Suddenly a six year old boy walks in, his eyes starting to tear and asked "What are you doing here?" "This is my house." I felt like a rapist -- that I had totally violated this boys home and privacy. It seems that the parents had indeed accompanied the moving truck but had left the kids behind with an aunt and uncle and were planning on coming back to Nvei Dekalim for Shabbat. The human tragedy occuring here is enormous -- one helping hand can make a huge difference -- and with all the people that are here it is still not enough.

Another family in Gadid has also started packing (many in fact). However, the presence of additional people has indeed comforted and strengthened the resolve of many of them, and they are now planning on sticking it out. Where yesterday Gadid seemed as if it would quietly evacuate, now there is a growing feeling that a stand can be made. However, these feelings can easily fluctuate.

I've met part of the American contingent that got into Nvei Dekalim. It's a mixed group. Some of them are not religious at all. Some don't speak any Hebrew. Some left their work and went into debt to come here.

We live a mere hour and a half away -- how can we not help?

I'm not sure if and when I'll have internet access again. I just wanted to make this heartfelt plea to all my friends and neighbors. Do something. Anything.

Try to make it into Gush Katif. I can't tell you how many amazing stories I've heard of people who made it in. One brought a whole van-full of people without any documentation and bribed his way through each checkpoint with cartons of popsicles.

Join the marches.

Block the roads.

Go to Har Habayit.

Babysit for those that are going.

Contribute supplies.


It is not only a matter of whether we win or lose. This is up to God. The issue is what are we doing personally about it. This is not a time for passivity. Everyone needs to extend themselves to the maximum for there own selves, for their families, for their communities and for Klal Yisrael.

With tears of anguish on this Tisha B'av that will hopefully turn to tears of joy.

Bentzi Spitz of Alon Shvut