Exodus From Gaza

The forcible evacuation of August 2005

JEWS have lived on and off in Gaza for millennia, long before Islam or Christianity were founded, and for many centuries before the concept of a Palestinian nation was born. In the past, others have driven Jews out of this strip of land that hugs the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. But in August 2005, in a period of just seven days, 21 Jewish communities were forcibly removed by their own government, as Israel became the first country in modern history to relinquish land acquired in a defensive war to an enemy that had not yet made peace with it.

It was the Israeli army’s largest ever non-combat operation, involving 45,000 soldiers and policemen. Most of the world welcomed the unilateral withdrawal. Israelis were evenly divided: on the eve of the pullout a Tel Aviv University poll showed 48 percent of Israelis supported the plan, hoping that it would improve the life of Palestinians and lead to an end, or at least to a sharp drop, in acts of violence and the daily outpouring of genocidal propaganda in Palestinian society directed towards Jews.

Virtually not a single Jewish resident of Gaza left voluntarily. Many had to be carried out by soldiers and police. In some cases water cannon and batons were used, but there was no serious violence. After the residents had gone, the Israeli army, at the behest of the Palestinian Authority, destroyed the settlements, leaving only the synagogues, which it was hoped the Palestinians would respect. On September 12, 2005, the last Israeli soldier left Gaza, and it took just 15 minutes for the first abandoned synagogue to be set alight.

-- Tom Gross

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A Jewish woman weeps as Israeli soldiers surround the settlement of Neve Dekalim, in southern Gaza, on August 18, 2005, and prepare to move in. Even those Israelis who strongly backed the plan were greatly saddened to see Jews dragged from their homes. The leftist novelist David Grossman wrote in Ha’aretz: “These are days of mourning for all Israelis. We can mourn today for the passion, the pioneering spirit, the purposefulness that for years pulsed through Gush Katif and which will soon dissipate like smoke, and for the fabric of life there that will be shredded come tomorrow.”

The day before the IDF went in using force:
The last Jewish volleyball match in Gaza.

Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan split Israeli public opinion down the middle. Above: A youth rally in favor of the Israeli pullout from Gaza  adopted the color blue.

Inspired by the success of the anti-government forces that led the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” a few months earlier, anti-pullout activists adopted orange as their color of protest.

Jewish children at a greenhouse in the Gadid settlement the week before the handover. The Jewish settlers in Gaza had built some of the most state-of-the-art agricultural facilities in the world, exporting flowers, fruit and vegetables to Europe and elsewhere, and employing thousands of Palestinians, Israelis, and others.

Wealthy Jewish philanthropists in the U.S. (as well as a couple of prominent non-Jewish ones such as Bill Gates) bought the Gush Katif hothouses for $14 million and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The hothouses had taken years to build, but as PA police looked on, Palestinian mobs ransacked them within hours of the Israeli exit. They stripped them of their glass, wiring, computer and electronic equipment and irrigation pipes and timers, destroying a vital source of employment for Gaza Palestinians in the process.

All night vigil, August 13-14, 2005.

Trying to “shame” Israeli troops over what opponents of the evacuation termed “the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Gaza,” a settler holds her baby in front of soldiers waiting to evict them from their homes in Neve Dekalim after the deadline for voluntary pullout had passed.

A distressed woman clutches on to a railing as she resists a female Israeli soldier’s attempt to evict settlers from the Gadid synagogue on Friday August 19, 2005. The demonstrators were forcibly carried out one by one a short while later.

Protesters who had climbed onto the roof of another Gaza synag- ogue being sprayed with water cannon as the Israeli army moved in.

Young female Jews form a human chain near Gush Katif
to protest Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Jewish settlers shout at Israeli policemen from a hole in the roof of their home before being forcibly evacuated.

Israeli police drag a protester from the roof of his home.

The removal of the Gaza Jews was the Israeli military’s
biggest ever non-combat operation.

An Ethiopian-Israeli policewoman crying as she
administers  the evacuation  of Jews from Gaza.

An Israeli soldier helps residents of the Jewish
settlement of Nissanit pack their belongings.

Prompted by fears that cemeteries would be desecrated or destroyed after Israel’s pullout, the transfer of Jewish graves from Gaza begins.

An Israeli bulldozer demolishes a house in the Jewish settlement of Peat Sade.

Palestinian attacks against settlers continued even as they were leaving their homes.

An Israeli girl receives medical treatment after being injured by Palestinians throwing rocks at settlers shortly before their withdrawal.

A Jewish resident of Gush Katif injured after being attacked by Palestinian rock  throwers in the week of the withdrawal.

Palestinian Fatah members celebrate the Israeli pullout of Jewish settle- ments during a rally in the northern part of  Gaza Strip on August 21, 2005.

Hamas gunmen carrying rocket propelled grenade launchers march near the Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim, as Israeli troops prepare to evacuate the final Jews from Gaza.

The burning of Netzarim synagogue by Palestinians
began within minutes of the last Israeli soldiers leaving
Gaza in the early hours of Monday, Sept. 12, 2005.

A Palestinian man watches from a roof
as Netzarim synagogue burns nearby.

Palestinians, some holding the green Islamic flags of Hamas,
climb on the roof of the now demolished Netzarim synagogue.

Palestinians hold Hamas flags in the remains of the Netzarim synagogue, after burning it down early on Monday, September 12, 2005 – an act of destruction which was contrary to all international law and norms. Thousands of triumphant Palestinians poured into other abandoned Jewish settlements at the same time, setting synagogues on fire and shooting in the air, as the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza.

 

Gaza greenhouses

 

These are the high-tech greenhouses Israeli settlers built in Gaza, that provided employment for thousands of Palestinians and produced an array of fruits and vegetables in the midst of a barren desert. Rich westerners (including Bill Gates) bought and gave them to the Palestinian Authority when Israel withdrew from Gaza.

These are how the greenhouses looked a few weeks
later, after Palestinians looted and burned them.

In October 2006, Israeli troops temporarily went back into Gaza in an attempt to stop continuing Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns and villages. The Israeli army found that the greenhouses were now being used to build arms-smuggling tunnels.

(All captions above written by and copyright held by Tom Gross. Please credit if using.)