Sunday is the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av. Terrible events have repeatedly happened on that day throughout Israel's history, most notably the destruction of both Temples. This coming Sunday the Jews in the Gaza Strip will mourn the 9th of Av with even greater appreciation; it will be their last full day in their homes. On Monday August 15 (the 10th of Av) the first stage of the Gaza strip disengagement plan is set to begin.
In 587 B.C., Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. In A.D. 70, the 2nd Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the very same day. Emperor Hadrian flattened and plowed Jerusalem on Av 9 (fulfilling Micah 3:12) one year after the last Jewish stronghold in the Bar Kokhba revolt fell to the Romans on Av 9. Edicts were signed to kick Jews out of England and Spain, in 1290 and 1492 respectively, all on the 9th of Av. In 2005, however, it is the Israeli government itself that is forcing Jews from their homes.
Despite massive settler protests and the resignation of finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the government of Israel plans to continue the Gaza withdrawal early next week. The disengagement will take place in four phases, with the communities of Kfar Daron, Morag, and Netzarim slated first for evacuation. A total of about 9000 settlers from 25 settlements will be moved from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
The Israeli Defense Forces distributed a letter to residents of Gush Katif this week, informing settlers they would be required to evacuate their homes by midnight on Sunday, August 14. Settlers have refused to accept or distribute the letters and many do not know the timeline. The government has promised help for those who willingly leave their homes on August 15. Those who refuse to leave will be forcibly evacuated on August 17, and soldiers will pack their personal property into two freight containers. Any property that does not fit into the containers will be later destroyed.
Along with the settlers go the Israeli security forces that have protected them. Israel will continue to control the borders, coastline and airspace of Gaza. However, Israel is under U.S. pressure to leave the borders somewhat porous and to enable travel between Gaza and the West Bank.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, once a stalwart defender of settlers, has seen the Gaza disengagement as a necessary step to keep Israel secure. The disengagement is also considered demographically necessary. The Arab population is growing, and many Israelis argue that the only way to keep Israel a Jewish state is to separate from the Arab population.
Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Abbas has called on terrorist groups to allow the pullout from Gaza to go smoothly and without attacks. "There is a requirement to ensure the withdrawal takes place in a civilized manner," Abbas said. "We will be able to show the world we deserve independence and freedom." The terrorists have so far ignored Abbas' calls to disarm.
While Sharon and other Israelis see the pullout as necessary to Israel's security, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from his position as finance secretary on Monday in protest to the plan. He considers the move a betrayal of Israel's settlers and a huge security risk. The withdrawal gives Palestinians the impression, he said, that terror works and that Israelis are running away.
"To my sorrow," Netanyahu wrote in his resignation letter," the security fence has not been completed around the settlement blocs, the Philadelphi Corridor will be handed over to the Palestinians, and worse than that, we will allow the Palestinians to open a sea port that will be open to the terror boats."
"It is becoming increasingly clear," he continued, "that the unilateral withdrawal under fire doesn't give us anything, the opposite; it endangers the security of Israel, divides the Nation, and sets the principle of withdrawal to the '67 lines that are not defendable. This is not the way to achieve peace."
Please continue to pray for Israel.