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On Amona: Do not uproot the planted


When I was an elementary school student growing up in Israel, I was part of a strong, idealistic, nationalist Zionist community known as Merkaz Harav (referring to the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine, Rav Abraham I. Kuk.

When you are a child, especially part of such an intense community, some moments are branded on you forever. For me, one of those events was pinui Yamit, the Israeli withdrawal from the Yamit settlement in the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.

When the Sinai withdrawal was negotiated by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the community of Yamit rested on land designated to be part of the new border. To honor the emotionally painful and controversial process of dismantling this community, the late Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer composed the now famous “Al Kol Eleh,” a song that captures the bittersweet ebb and flow of life.

I was a kid. What did I know? But I was caught up in the passion of it all. Standing in Jerusalem in front of the Institute for The Blind on the corner of Herzl Boulevard, I handed out stickers to passersby, stickers with the text “al na ta’akor natua, al tishkach et hatikva” (“do not uproot what’s planted, do not lose hope”), one of the verses from Shemer’s “Al Kol Eleh.”

One evening, watching television at our neighbors the Malouls, through tears I saw the rubble of a community, of a life, as bulldozers reduced Yamit to a mound of sand in the desert. There was one particularly unforgettable scene of a person descending in a cage, by a crane. I suppose he was one of the defiant ones who were part of the last stand of Yamit.

It all had the melancholy quality of the ancient Psalm, “Al Naharot Bavel” (“On The Rivers of Babylon”), about the post-First Temple destruction and the finality of Jews being exiled from their land.

Since then, Israel has lived through the Gaza disengagement in 2005. Unlike the cold peace with Egypt that the Yamit withdrawal yielded, the disengagement from Gaza resulted in terror rising to a whole new level. And on top of that is the failure in resettling Gaza’s Jewish communities (to this day some of the former Jewish residents of Gaza are displaced).

Now, with Dec. 25 approaching, the tension is mounting about the fate of the settlement of Amona. Already in 2006, when I was living in Israel, Amona had come under fire, literally and figuratively. Palestinians claim Amona is built on their land. The Amona community, which arrived on a barren hilltop, claim otherwise.

Through the efforts of heavily-funded NGOs with an interest in dismantling as many Jewish settlements as possible, the issue has come to a head. Israel’s High Court ruled that Amona was indeed built on Palestinian land. Dec. 25 is the evacuation date.

The rule of law is the rule of law. I believe in legal process, but feel the pain of the situation.

Amona residents feel that had the process been hijacked by agenda-driven NGOs which view settlements monolithically and would like to see every last one dismantled, including settlements configured to be part of future Palestinian State.

The residents of Amona could have talked together with their Palestinian neighbors on ways to mutually resolve the situation and live side by side. Instead, from what I understand, such efforts were stymied.

Regardless of what one believes the right decision here is, I think we can all agree that it is sad to see (paraphrasing Naomi Shemer’s lyrics) the planted, uprooted.

I don’t minimize the personal exile that the Amona families are about to wrestle with, yet I pray that the exodus will be as uncontentious as possible and free of violence.

Al tishkach et hatikva.” Do not lose hope.”

Copyright Intermountain Jewish News