Esther and Jonathan Pollard's Open Letter
Responding to Rabbi Pesach Lerner
Re: The Expulsion of Our Brothers and SIsters of Gush Katif
Justice4JP Release - January 13, 2006
Dear Rabbi Lerner,
Re: Memo to: Rabbinic Colleagues, Community Activists, and Acheinu Bnai Yisrael
From: Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Exec. Vice President, National Council of Young Israel
Date: January 13, 2006 / 13 Tevet 5766
Re: Our brothers and sisters: former residents of Gush Katif
First of all, Jonathan and I want to say: Well done! Yashar Koach! In our experience, you and the NCYI are the only American Jewish Organization that can be counted upon to truly stand by Jews in distress and to take practical, effective, on-going action for the entire duration of a crisis.
As the wife of an honorary citizen of Gush Katif who was twice expelled, (once from the Israeli Embassy in Washington and once from Gush Katif) I want you to know that Jonathan and I take great pride in your continued advocacy on behalf of those who continue to suffer the effects of expulsion from Gush Katif, and we deeply appreciate the update report and suggestions that you have written for taking action and circulated far and wide (copy follows below).
You conclude your report by asking for feedback, and Jonathan and I would like to respond with a comment. We preface it by saying that we do know that you are not the one who needs to read what we have to say, but we are sharing our thoughts with you in the hopes that you may find what we write helpful to share with others.
Here is the issue: something almost no one ever mentions regarding the Gush Katif evacuees is the permanent damage that has been done to the spirit and psyche of the evacuees and by extension to the Jewish people as a whole. In other words, trauma that cannot and will not ever end.
Any one who has suffered a major traumatic experience in their lives is forever changed by it, and the trauma and psychological effects continue for years afterwards. One only has to ask any rape victim, or terror victim and their family members if they have gotten over it, to understand what we mean. Even if all of the Gush Katif evacuees find new homes, jobs, schools etc, the psychological wounds will be years and years in healing to a point of the victims being able to live with the scars; forget about ever fully healing.
We each must ask ourselves, if it were me, if my government sent the army to forcefully evict me and my children and my Jewish neighbors from our homes and communities and then destroyed our homes; and the police and army and all of those officials we counted on from childhood to protect and defend us, overnight begin to behave as if we were the enemy and deserving of such humiliating and violent treatment, how soon do you think we might get over it? A year? Two years? Ten years? A lifetime? Indeed, do you think we could ever get over it?
This is, in fact, a key issue regarding the expellees of Gush Katif: They are in horrendous psychological pain and a perpetual state of spiritual mourning, and completely justified for being so.
Most of those who are "helping" the evacuees seem not to recognize this. They seem to expect everyone who is physically relocated and given a winter coat and a few shekels to be "all better now." But this simply cannot be. The trauma was too great, both to the evacuees and to the Jewish people as a whole. Some express it and find relief in taking action and helping others. Others cope by denial, which only forces the pain and shock to struggle for relief in other ways, and too often to express itself in anti-social or self-destructive behaviors.
We can never cure this pain for the Gush Katif evacuees or for ourselves as a nation. But we have an obligation to recognize that it exists, to empathize, and to never, never expect that once the evacuees' physical needs are met that the trauma will just go away. We must continue to act and assist the Gush Katif evacuees in the full knowledge that whatever we do to help is good, but nothing is every going to "make it all better again" for them or for us.
Indeed, there is something seriously wrong with us as a nation, if we cannot recognize that this pain and this trauma, even though it may seem to have not touched our lives or our property directly this time, is OUR pain, OUR sorrow, and OUR loss. It is also OUR future if we continue to stand idly by and watch this process repeated over and over again in Israel.
Eleven families in living in Mitzpe Shalhevet in Hebron are slated for eviction next. Jonathan sent me on a mission to visit these families this week. Our dear friend Nadia Matar of Women in Green led a group of women to Hebron to show solidarity and I participated in the mission. The 11 families living in Mitzpe Shalhevet (fully Jewish-owned land) may be forcefully evacuated as soon as this Sunday. What are we going to do about it? [See Saving Mitzpe Shalhevet on the Hebron Jewish Community Web site: http://www.hebron.com/news/mitzpeshalhevet.htm ]
We must not stand idly by our brother's blood and watch passively as the tragedy of Gush Katif repeats itself again in Hebron. May G-d bless us and provide us with the wisdom and the guidance to know the right thing to do to help His people and save His land!
Jonathan and I wish you and the NCYI continued successes and blessing in all of your endeavors on behalf of the Jewish people.
with deepest respect and our love,
Esther and Jonathan.
A COPY OF RABBI LERNER'S OPEN LETTER RE ASSISTING EVACUEES OF GUSH KATIF FOLLOWS BELOW.
Memo to: Rabbinic Colleagues, Community Activists, and Acheinu Bnai Yisrael
From: Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President, National Council of Young Israel
Date: January 13, 2006 / 13 Tevet 5766
Re: Our brothers and sisters: former residents of Gush Katif
Many of you have read my "open letter to the Jewish community" written in September 2005, upon my return from visiting the former residents of Gush Katif, just weeks after they were removed from Gaza. (The letter can be found at www.youngisrael.org.)
I feel an obligation to write again.
The latest reports regarding the Gush Katif evacuees are grim. 25% of the families are still living in hotel rooms, dormitories, and tents, and most of the others are only in temporary housing. More than 50% of the evacuees have not received any compensation funds. Of the 2100 people who became unemployed due to the disengagement, less than 10% have found new jobs. The reports show a sharp rise in the disintegration of normal family life and that not all high school age children have found new schools.
The families of the former Gush Katif need our attention and assistance!
Allow me to share a very compelling insight, which I recently heard from a dear friend, Rabbi Shimshon Sherer of Khal Zichron Mordechai of Brooklyn, New York.
It is customary to say the Yehi Ratzon prayer, at the end of the Yom Kippur Avodah (See page 570-571 of the Ashkenaz Artscroll Machzor) that the Kohen Gadol said as he completed the Yom Kippur service. This tefilla is taken from Talmud Bavli Yoma 53B and Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma Perek 5 Halacha 2. "And thus was the tefilla of the Kohen Gadol on Yom HaKippurim, as he went out in peace from the Holy of Holies." "May it be the will of the Al-Mighty that this year that is coming upon us and upon all Your people, the Family of Israel, be a year in which You open Your treasury for us..." (Please see the full Tefillah).
The Talmud Yerushalmi, and such is our custom, ends "and concerning the inhabitants of the Sharon, he would say ' May it be Your will, HaShem, that their homes not become their graves ' ". The commentators explain that these people lived in a deep valley and were subject to landslides and flash floods. Hence, the Kohen Gadol prayed that the inhabitants of the Sharon Valley not be trapped in the ruins of their homes.
There are obvious questions. Why didn't the Sharon Valley residents move to a safer location? What was so important about the Sharon residents that the Kohen Gadol, as he leaves the holiest place on the holiest day of the year, prays on their behalf? All the other requests in the Kohen Gadol's prayer were universal, communal, Klal Yisrael oriented.
Rabbi Sherer, at this point, commented: Obviously when a Jew in Eretz Yisrael (and perhaps also out of Eretz Yisrael) is in trouble, we ask no questions, we just act. The Kohen Gadol knew that the residents of the Sharon Valley were in danger, he asked no questions, nor did he make any demands. The Kohen Gadol prayed to the Al-Mighty, as he left the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur day, that they be saved.
Friends, our brothers and sisters, the former residents of Gush Katif need our help.
National Council of Young Israel recently shipped four 40-foot container lifts of clothing to Israel. Those lifts arrived safely. The clothing has been and is being distributed to the families of the former Gush Katif. Rabbi Maier Solomon, our contact in Israel, has repeatedly told us that as important as the clothing is , so is the visit itself. The feeling that there are people who empathize is of great comfort.
Friends, we must show them that we care. We must be vocal about it. We must stay informed of their situation. That is most important.
- Invite a member of the former Gush Katif to your community. (Obviously, pay for their travel expenses), hear their stories, their visions, their challenges. Once you make these fellow Jews part of your family, etc. we are confident that actions will automatically follow.
- Have your shul adopt a few families, and provide assistance according to their needs.
- Encourage your members to spend time visiting the families of Gush Katif when they travel to Israel. Seek out a family, invite them out for dinner, socialize with them, and create a relationship. Let your members find out how they can help, and offer a hand.
- Plan an emergency shul solidarity visit, spend Shabbos with these families, bring them special foods for Shabbos, flowers, toys and games for the children. Let them know that you care. Sending 2-3 people as your community representative is also a good option.
- Make an emergency appeal. Financial assistance is needed. Remember, most of the families have no income. Their needs include the basics: food, clothing, medical and dental expenses, educational expenses, etc. Money is needed to assist in job training, in afterschool programs for the youth, for services of mental health professionals, etc. Send your contributions to Friends of Gush Katif, POB 1184, Teaneck, NJ 07666 or to Young Israel Gush Katif Fund c/o National Council of Young Israel, 3 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011. You can also make a secure donation at www.youngisrael.org.
- Call your Regional Israel Government Consulate and ask them about the status of these families. Be fully knowledgeable of the facts, and challenge the "official" answers. The Israeli Government has a responsibility to provide compensation, housing, employment etc. to these families. Our voices must be heard.
These families deserve and need our concern and assistance. They must be a priority in our lives until they are resettled, find new jobs and are fully able to function on their own. They were all active and giving members of their community. Im Yirtze HaShem, they will be so again.
Thank you for listening.
Please share your thoughts. My e-mail address is email@example.com