Colors divide the nation: On a street corner at the entrance to Jerusalem, with the central bus station in the background, stand boys with big knitted kipot and girls with long flowing dresses: they are tying orange strips to the antennas of automobiles waiting at the red light. In front of the Israeli Mall in Tel Aviv, young men and women hand out strips of blue. The orange represents the anti-disengagement of Gush Katif; the blue represents the pro-disengagement.
But it is not colors alone.
The square in the Jewish quarter of the old city in Jerusalem is known for its tolerance of many opinions. I'm sitting on a bench, watching young girls selling orange T-shirts; their slogan: “Jew, do not expel a Jew”. Near me sits a thirty-one year old man from Los Angeles: ‘I do not really know what to make of the whole disengagement thing. I am confused’.
In Bat Ayin, a village some 20 kilometers south of Jerusalem concentrated on organically cultivating the Israeli soil, and known for its strong right wing views, there is no confusion: "This is the first time in our history that it is Jew versus Jew; Sharon has definitely lost his mind." Another resident, when asked if he was going to Gush Katif, the large Jewish settlement on Gaza destined to be evacuated by the Israeli Defense Force and the Israeli police next month, replied, "why go there, I should just go straight to jail," a cynical response, highlighting the police’s numerous recent brutal arrests of anti-disengagement protesters.
A day after Gush Katif is closed off to non residents I am hitchhiking from the Rishon Letzion junction to Jerusalem. The driver asks me, "So, nu you gonna go to Gush Katif? You can switch papers with one of its residents, or maybe tunnel in like the Arabs do from Egypt to Gaza." I’m not sure if he is serious or not.
Shabbos in Hebron is empty. Many of its residents have gone to Gush Katif. "It is not about Gush Katif," a resident of Hebron tells me, "it is about the whole of Israel. If Jews are expelled from Gaza, the Palestinians will get the clear message: More terror, and the Jews will retreat from the entire land." Throughout Shabbos there is scarcely another topic discussed. One man’s fourteen-year-old daughter sits in prison for protesting in Gush Katif. "It is a communist state," says her father, "imagine detaining a fourteen-year-old girl in America for weeks – never!"
We are about to begin the evening services by the tomb of Yishai and Ruth, but an argument has broken out between a leading member of the Hebron community and a young soldier. "You, as a Jew," says the man from Hebron, "have the responsibility to disobey army orders to expel Jews from Gaza." "Would you not send your son to the army?" asks the soldier. "No, I wouldn't," he replies and then continues, "How could I send my son to expel his own father from his home?" With that we begin the prayers.
I flip on the news, a girl in the Gush Katif area is asking a policeman, "how can you not let me walk the road on which my brother was murdered?" Why are 9,000 innocent Jews being expelled from their homes and communities? What have they done? Imagine how the world would react if Israel would expel 9,000 Arabs from their communities? Why expel the Jews and not the terrorists from Gaza? These are some of the questions Gush Katif residents are asking these days.
A white haired man tells the policeman: "I haven't seen anything like this since the Holocaust – and then it was the Germans."
But, back in the old city, the Arab shuk is full with Israeli tourists, one bargaining for a Bedouin coffee press, another for a Nargila. Are they bargaining for the wrong thing? "Life must go on," they say.
Well… will it?