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Yearning for the Land
Anita Tucker in her Gush Katif hothouse, February 2005
by Judy Lash Balint
August 7, 2008

The passage of three years since she was evicted from her home in Netzer Hazani, Gush Katif, has not dulled the passion of teacher turned farmer, Anita Tucker for the land of Israel.

At a commemoration of the third anniversary of the so-called "disengagement" from Gush Katif and northern Shomron organized by the Council of Young Rabbis in Israel, Jerusalem's Great Synagogue and the Young Israel movement, Anita Tucker was one of four speakers who slammed Israel's Gaza pullback as she called for the public to "get out to the streets and shout, �Tzedek (justice) Tzedek!' in the face of all the terrible things happening today."

Tucker, an American-born teacher who moved to Nezer Hazani with her young family in 1976 and went on to build a thriving agricultural export business that employed local Arabs, is well known amongst Gush Katif supporters in Israel and abroad. As one of the veteran English-speaking Gush Katif residents, Tucker has addressed scores of audiences since the disengagement plan was announced�initially in her Netzer Hazani hothouse or on the lawn in front of the community synagogue. More recently, from her temporary home in Kibbutz Ein Tsurim, where her family has relocated after spending 11 months in youth hostels and guest houses in the Golan.

As she tells it, every time she speaks her longing for a return to her land becomes more intense. "I have a big zchut (privilege) that I was exiled �I can feel the longing of the Jewish people for its' land," she explains.

As the third anniversary of the evictions approaches, several commemorative events have been held. Yesterday, thousands gathered at Kissufim, one of the entry points into Gush Katif, to hear right-wing politicians and former Gush Katif residents pledge to hasten a return of Jewish settlement. Tucker relates that earlier in the week she took part in an organizational conference of people who are making practical preparations for an eventual return to the 23 destroyed Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip.

This despite the telephone calls she's been getting from some of her Arab former employees telling her that all of Netzer Hazani is covered with sand since the Jews left. "It'll be just like we found it 35 years ago," Tucker exclaims, relishing the challenge of recreating the close-knit, productive community she was expelled from three years ago.

Aviva Pinchuk is one of those who has spent the last three years dedicated to helping the Gush Katif refugees recover from the trauma of their eviction. She told the Jerusalem audience that for her, "the disengagement is only just beginning." Known for her activities on behalf of Kever Rachel, Pinchuk has organized bat mitzvah celebrations there for Gush Katif girls; led solidarity tours to the temporary homes of the refugees and organized bridal showers to help young Gush Katif couples establish their households. As a Torah-observant woman, Pinchuk addressed the question that shook the faith of many young Gush Katif expellees. "It does seem that God left us in the dark, He hid his face," she noted. "But in every period of hester panim �God hiding himself, He opens a crack of light." For Pinchuk, it was the innumerable acts of tzedaka and chessed�charitable giving and acts of loving kindness done on behalf of the refugees�that let the light in.

On the political front, Rabbi Sholom Gold, one of the founders of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, slammed the disengagement as "the most tragic act of treachery Jews have done against fellow Jews." Rabbi Gold called on Israel's leaders to institute a period of "regret, repentance, reconstruction and renewal."

Meanwhile, the hundreds who attended the Jerusalem commemoration will do their small part for the children of Sderot and the former Gush Katif communities�they collected funds for 3000 pencil cases filled with school implements and goodies that the kids will find on their desks on the first day of school.