Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hope from the Gaza Strip ashes

Michael B. Oren, who (it sounds like) is a reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces, wrote a poignant column in today's Opinion Journal about the recent Jewish pullout from the Gaza Strip. He worked in the office of the army spokesman, but was one of 55,000 soldiers who participated in the forced withdrawal.

Here, for me, was the most emotional part of his writing, where it was clear this was difficult for the soldiers as it was for the settlers:
In home after home, teams of officers and NCOs listened patiently while settler parents pleaded with them to change their minds and not to evict them, wailing and tearing their shirts in mourning. Women soldiers played with weeping children, telling them stories, hugging them. Eventually, though, each of the families was led onto the evacuation bus, leaving the soldiers emotionally drained but also resolved to proceed to the next household, the next excruciating tragedy.

The severest test of the battalion's fortitude — and humaneness — occurred in Badolah's synagogue, where the settlers were afforded an hour of parting prayer. But after two hours waiting in the blistering sun, the soldiers decided to enter. The scene that greeted them was shocking: settlers clutching the pews, the Ark and the Torah scrolls, or writhing on the floor. The troops tried to comfort them, only to break down themselves, and soon soldiers and settlers were embracing in mutual sorrow and consolation.

Ultimately, the settlers were either escorted or carried, sobbing, onto buses. But their rabbi, stressing the need for closure, requested permission to address the soldiers, and the battalion commander remarkably agreed. So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. "We are all still one people, one state," he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang "Hatikvah," the national anthem — "The Hope."
Though my knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is admittedly limited, my fear is that the Palestinians (particularly Hamas) will use the pullout to claim victory and continue pressing their campaign of fear and death. But no one in the world (short of those anti-semites who blame Israel for everything from Palestinian oppression to the price of gas to the United States' presence in Iraq) can say with a straight face that the Israelis aren't doing their part to live in peace with their Palestinian brethren.


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