It was a hot summer day in August of 2005. Close to 10,000 Jews had been forcibly evacuated from their homes in Gush Katif just a few days earlier and Sondra Oster Baras, Israeli director of CFOIC Heartland, was looking for Dror Vanunu. Dror headed up the international effort to stop the Disengagement and that included meeting the many Christian groups connected with CFOIC Heartland that visited Gush Katif in the final year of its existence. But once the soldiers entered Gush Katif, Sondra
lost contact with Dror.
“For almost two years, I lived and breathed Disengagement. I traveled to Australia for just two days to meet a Jewish philanthropist. I barely saw my family. I was in a doctoral program in Middle East Studies and I put it on hold. My wife and I did not get ready to leave, we did not pack a single suitcase. But then, on that morning, when we saw the soldiers march into Neve Dekalim, something inside shut down. At that moment, I realized we had failed and it was as if all the energy that I had expended to prevent this terrible thing drained from me at once. I spiked a 40 degree (104° F) fever and went to bed,” recalls Dror.
Dror was raised in Ashkelon and remembers his high school visits to Gush Katif to volunteer in the greenhouses. “I fell in love with the sea and felt at home in Gush Katif from the very beginning.” In 1995, at just 20 years of age, Dror married Keren, and they moved Pastor Rudy Fidel and Felix Opatowski in Tel Aviv to Neve Dekalim. Dror enrolled in the Yamit and Looking Forward Nahala is proud to introduce some of the brave pioneers who make their home in the communities of Judea and Samaria, and trust you will find these very special people an inspiration. Hesder Yeshiva program, where he combined his military service with Bible and religious studies. And in 1997, their first child and only son was born.
“Throughout the struggle, we focused on ideology and values. We talked about faith and hope. We brought a different discourse to the Israeli political discussion. Dr. Anat Rot just wrote a book about her experiences in Gush Katif. She was an extreme leftwing sociologist and political activist and came to document the struggle. But what she experienced in Gush Katif, the idealism and the faith, shook her to her very core. She became religious and completely changed her political outlook. And her story is not unique. Large segments of Israel’s population are seeking a better understanding of what a Religious Zionist is, because we still live by the values that so many of them have forgotten. And our own Religious Zionist leaders are realizing, for the first time, that they can provide leadership for a much broader segment of the population.”
Of course, the subsequent terrorism emanating from Gaza, also convinced the majority of Israel that further withdrawals from Judea and Samaria would be foolish, if not downright suicidal. “We had friends and we felt part of a community that reflected our most fundamental values. We built beautiful synagogues where we studied Bible together and we helped one another. But most of all, we had faith.“
Today, Dror and Keren live with their six children in a new neighborhood of Nitzan, established by former Gush Katif residents. Dror works for a solar energy company and Keren is a teacher. But they are the lucky ones. There are still 350 families who are living in temporary homes, waiting for their permanent homes to be completed. And there are approximately 20 families who still can’t plan their permanent home because of financial distress.
Ten years later and the story is not over. Hopefully, within the next year, these families will all be settled in permanent homes but even then, the story will not really be over. Because the spirit of Gush Katif, the spirit that sustained faith, kindness and courage,