Friday, April 24, 2009
Summer of our Discontent
This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 17 August 2005.
If this were a real postcard, the message on the back would probably say, "Having a terrible time. Glad you're not here." By now, no matter where you live, you have seen and heard enough to have an idea what summer 2005 has been like here. It got off to a nice enough start, with the Maccabiah Games in July. But if August is known as the "dog days" of summer, I would have to say it has been a pit bull of a month. All the emotion-laden demonstrations, bitter disputes, manipulative rhetoric and malicious disturbances have created an atmosphere of hostility and division that has kept up a low but steady growl for weeks. Now that the withdrawal has actually begun, I sense a softening in the tone.
If you had been watching television with me this morning, you would have seen live coverage of the goings on in Morag. You would have seen women settlers clutching babies and haranguing the soldiers who have come to remove them from their homes. You would have seen men settlers, still dressed for the morning prayers, sobbing loudly. You would have seen soldiers, speaking calmly in low voices. You would have seen crying settlers embracing soldiers who also have tears in their eyes, and heartsick soldiers soothing anxious children who are too young to understand what is happening. In short, you would have seen people... Jews... Israelis... miserable and in pain, doing what they must do.
If you had been watching television with me this morning, you would have seen baseball-capped teams of soldiers helping grieving settlers pack up their belongings. You would have seen the lines of shipping containers loaded onto flat bed trucks, used as moving vans, heading east out of Gaza.
If you had been watching television with me this morning, you would have seen live footage from Neve Dekalim, where, according to reporters, hundreds of youths from outside of the Gaza Strip have entered illegally, "looking for action." I don't know if these people feel any pain or sympathy for those being ousted. I fear that if there will be violence done today, it will be at the instigation of such people.
The day is not yet over, and no one really knows what will happen later today, or tomorrow, or the next day. I don't pretend to know how those who have been forced to leave their homes feel, but for me at least it is a relief to have the process finally underway. Because at some point, no matter how we feel about leaving Gaza, we have to move on. I hope we will be able to calm the vicious beast called divisiveness that has been snapping at our heels all summer, and find our way back to being one people again.