Varda Epstein, contributor to the Huffington Post, gave a thoughtful interview with Orit about her novel, The Settler.
It’s ten years since Israel, under late prime minister Ariel Sharon, expelled over 11,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and parts of Samaria. The government called this plan the “Disengagement.” But for those forcibly ejected from their homes (and their supporters), the Disengagement will forever be known as the “Expulsion.”
More than 11,000 rockets have been shot into Israel from Gaza, since that time, more than one rocket per every Jew expelled as a result of Sharon’s unilateral gesture of peace. By all accounts, “Disengagement” is an absolute, and utter failure, proving the point that “Land for Peace” is a nonsensical idea that does not work. Not to mention the fact that over 300 Jews are still homeless as the result of the Disengagement/Expulsion, with no solution in sight.
It is rare to read or hear about the 11,000 expellees; but now, ten years on, Orit Arfa has written a work of historical fiction cum romance that makes Disengagement/Expulsion come alive for the reader. Arfa’s writing voice is bright and sassy, much like the book’s heroine, Sarah, AKA “Shachar” Dakar. For the first time, we have an English language depiction of what it is like to be a Jew being thrown out of her home by Jews in the Jewish State.
It’s a revelation.
Orit was gracious enough to have a chat with me about her book, The Settler:
VE: The early chapters of The Settler offer a vivid picture of the Expulsion from Gaza. I understand you spent time in Gush Katif, not as a settler, but to offer support to the settlers, in the days leading up to their expulsion from their homes. Is that why your descriptions of how the Expulsion went down feel so real? Tell us about that time.
Orit Arfa: I went to lend my support and also to write about the events from the settlers’ point-of-view. Most of the press stationed there was biased against them, so I was a rare breed. In fact, I didn’t go in with a press card — I snuck in with a fake ID to really be a part of the “resistance.” I was “expelled” from the Neve Dekalim synagogue, which was a massive showdown between the “settlers,” the government — and God, if you will.
The description of the Expulsion from the homes came from real life interviews — it is an amalgam of experiences I collected: the lack of emotion of the soldiers (which also flowed from a Jerusalem Post feature I wrote about the IDF’s psychological training), the hospitality of the families who hosted me, and even the specific scene of the family’s rabbi, at the end of the day, cooperating with the authorities to ask them to leave. I interviewed several young women who gave me specific narratives and flourishes: the fallen brother, the mango trees, the reburial of the brother.