Monday, March 21, 2005

Who lost Gush Katif?

In yesterday's news we learn that Effie Eitam is planning on moving to Gush Katif. And there are many others planning on going as well, perhaps thousands.

Now to me - this is the root of the problem. Why are they only moving now? In thirty years, only 8,000 Jews have settled there. Had twice the number come, the disengagement wouldn't happen. But now it's like someone who didn't brush their teeth for years, finally going to the dentist, and when the dentist says the teeth need to go out, he suddenly starts brushing his teeth.

Now to be honest, I can't blame the left for not coming to settle. They aren't the ones who wanted to be there. But for the Right, for those of us who believe in settling all of Eretz Yisrael, this was a failure.

Now, I'm sure there are those who would say, I'd love to move to Gush Katif on a permament basis, but it doesn't work for me because:

- I can't work in agriculture
- It's too far from my current job
- Too far from my family
- I need the city life

etc. etc.

All of these are reasonable arguments. I can't force anyone to relocate against those arguments. But they come with a price. If everyone says that, then no one comes. And maybe we simply can't hold on to a piece of land that not enough people believe in keeping enough that they're willing to live there.

That's the way it's worked throughout the history of Zionism. Whereever we've been willing to settle, we've kept. Where we haven't - we don't stay.

It's like the game of Risk. If you leave only one piece on a territory for too long - you can't keep it.

I don't know if we can keep Gush Katif. I hope so, but it might be too late.

But the lesson is clear for the future. If we want to keep other parts of Yesha we need to actually live there. Although that doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a problem as other areas. Look at the Golan - 75,000 residents is very likely not enough to prevent a good deal with Syria. And we are already now losing the Galil and the Negev. And perhaps the most acute example - Har HaBayit. The permanent status agreement will be determined on whether or not Jews are willing to go there now. Perhaps this is the time for some rabbinic courage.

And of course, all of this applies seven-fold to our brothers and sisters living in Chutz L'Aretz, many of whom in the Orthodox community, are very opposed to Sharon's plan. As the diplomat Chaim Shacham wrote over 10 years ago (I'm still looking for a site), if 100,000 American Jews had moved to Hebron, there would be no talk of giving it up. Their willingness to remain off the stage, is a terrible error. The Rabbi Resh Lakish said as much 1700 years ago, when he said that had the Jews of Babylon made aliya, the second Temple would never had been destroyed.

May no rabbi need to make a similiar accusation today.