Israelis must take a stand for Gaza plan

July 28, 2005|By Diana Bletter

SHAVEI ZION, Israel - All over Israel, this summer's fashion statement is orange.

Israelis who opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to quit Gaza have taken on the color as their symbol, tying orange ribbons to their cars and their bags and adding orange accessories to their clothes. I live in the western Galilee. But I can't wear my favorite orange T-shirt anymore because people assume I'm protesting the disengagement.

I'm not. I'm one of Israel's silent majority. You don't hear about us because we're not spilling oil and nails on highways or fighting with Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. We're greater in number than the Gaza settlers and their proponents, but we're not blocking traffic to distribute blue and white ribbons, the colors that symbolize support for the pullout.

I'm not sure why the silent majority is so, well, silent. Maybe it's because we want the pullout to happen already so that we as well as the Palestinians can finally move on. We're tired of the intifada and tired of living in this state of limbo, where there is neither war nor peace but an edgy cease-fire. Above all, we're tired of seeing our sons wearing another sad color - army green.

It surprises me that the protesters in orange are primarily religious Jews. I would have thought that they had learned a crucial lesson from history - that Jews survived for thousands of years because we had liquid assets. We had the ability to pick up and wander. Other people, such as the Romans, couldn't just leave their empire, and their civilization disappeared. We endured because we carried our heritage in our heads and hearts and passed it on to the next generation.

Thankfully, we're not evacuating all of Israel. But as Yonaton Bassi, head of the Disengagement Administration, recently explained, "If we do not carry out the disengagement, there will be only one state, which is liable to be Palestinian. Anyone who wants to preserve the world's only Jewish state must support disengagement."

Israel needs clearly defined borders to develop a clearly defined relationship with the Palestinians. Israelis can't keep camping out on lands beyond our 1967 borders that existed before the Six-Day War because of their murky religious significance. That's idolatry: It's the worship of stones.

Yet since the preparation for the pullout has started, some orange extremists have acted in abhorrent ways in the so-called name of Judaism. To me, the Jewish religion represents gentleness, respect for the other and the mandate to be a light unto the nations. Yet these provocateurs have fabricated a dogmatic brand of Judaism that places territory above spirituality and God's word above the Israeli government's decisions. That is a perilous combination.

The father of one of my friends left Germany as a teenager in 1932. He said that the current rash of violence and the lack of respect for civil authority of the extremists in orange remind him all too eerily of the anarchic days that preceded the Nazi regime. Mr. Sharon, he said, has to clamp down on these extremists - and he's right. It's not too far-fetched to imagine them attempting a Jewish jihad and forcing a theocracy on Israel.

When I moved to Israel from America 14 years ago, I wanted to be part of a people that survived against all odds. I have remained proud of this nation that is still full of hope and still struggling to survive - not only against enemies such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also against the enemies within our own camp.

It's time for the silent majority of Israelis to make our voices heard. But we also need to hear more than criticism and silent rebuke from countries around the world. If this withdrawal from Gaza is to be seen as a positive step and not the result of kowtowing to terrorism, other governments need to lend Israel vocal support. The pullout has to be a success so that this will be a summer to remember, not one we all live to regret.

Diana Bletter lives with her husband and their six children in Israel. Two of their sons serve in the Israeli army.

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