Day 6: Yellow Yankees

Gush Katif had a pleasant surprise today, like a bucket of sunshine. Men and women wearing bright yellow shirts with black letters “Americans Against the Expulsion of Jews” somehow managed to get in. The ingathering of exiles has begun.

There were about 25 of them from different states: New York, New Jersey, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, of all streams and religions: reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chabad, and Christian. Some were down-to-earth professionals, while others were down right cooky. But all of them decided that they could not sit at home and watch TV while this insanity, which their President encouraged, was going on.

A Lubavicher guy organized the group, and somehow, they all found each other — through the internet, through word of mouth. And now they are here. And they are brimming with joy.

Reporters were drawn to their yellow like little bugs. Many of the interviews turned into conversations.

“Don’t you think we have to do something for peace?” asked an Israeli-Brazilian reporter, not only the story, but also for himself. He made aliya a few years ago and doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

These Americans helped this poor soul out of the intellectual muck that the Israeli government, media, and intellectuals had stuffed his brain with.

One replied: “Yes, and what you have to do is to stand-up for yourself, to stand up for Israel — not to appease the terrorists and give them what they kill you for.”

The conversation lasted for over a half-hour. The reporter warmed up to them, and he seemed begin to change his way of thinking, to regain his pride as a Jew, to understand that his self-esteem and moral certainty were battered by a battered Israeli society grasping for any kind of solution except the most obvious one: self-reliance.

I knew this was one step in the miracle: opening dialogue — getting these issues out in the open, freely and lovingly, and paving the way for a new understanding. And I still hold the picture dear in my mind when we’ll be sitting with the soldiers on the grass, the dire situation forcing us to talk about Jewish destiny, morality, and meaning.

As I joined them on their brief bus tour — hats, cameras, and yellow shirts flying all over the place — I thought they were so adorable but that they really don’t know what they are in for. This wasn’t your usual Israel summer tour.

But when we arrived to Kfar Darom, joined by a non-Jewish Swede who made the trek independently, I realized how serious they really were. All of a sudden, dozens of suitcases popped out of the truck. They were in for the long haul. They came equipped with food and walkie-talkies, just in case the power would be cut.

Their presence seemed to refresh the Kfar Darom community. One woman from Elon Moreh in the Shomron now camping in Kfar Darom with her husband and eight children begged them for a yellow T-shirt. The community made us all (as I became an unofficial member of the group) two large pans of pizza.

We lounged on Kfar Darom lawns as they organized plans, and we all were seized with some worry when two army officers passed by in their khaki suburban. In our naivete, we thought they were after the Americans. But it seems they had more at stake with the settlers, and a light verbal scuffle broke out between them.

I couldn’t hear the exchange, but I did hear a hissing noise. The air was let out of the jeep’s tires. I saw a kid throw a pin into the bush. The officer drove away until he realized that the vehicle lagged. Trying to keep his cool but certainly pissed, he got out, made a phone call, and then lagged away.

I was a little nervous, especially since a British TV crew was nearby. Is this what we want?

I turned to the woman from Elon Moreh: “Isn’t it too early for this, I mean strategically? Should we wait for the day of the struggle?”

She explained: “The man who the army officer was talking to had just had his business closed. This officer knows us already. He said he doesn’t think what they are doing is right but that there’s nothing he could do about it. So he has no air in his tires — that’s nothing compared to what this man has lost. He created a farm that made millions of dollars a year — taken away just like that. And he’s upset about his tires?”

But when I shared my concern with the Americans, they too were disturbed. Should they send a message that they are vengeful? Shouldn’t they avoid pissing the army off? And if that airs on TV, won’t they definitely call settlers fanatic extremists?

I later asked an Israeli friend what she thought, and she disagreed. “What! He’s losing his home, his business. Acts like that are part of the resistance.”

Someone else said that Martin Luther King didn’t punch tires, but that he was seeking a positive. These people are trying to escape a negative.

I still admit that they hissing sound didn’t ring well with me, but I’m not the one losing everything I built. Neither are these Americans.

And isn’t it strange? Those who blindly ruin lives mercilessly because of some law are considered “normal”, while those who knowingly fight an unjust law are called, pejoratively, “fanatics”?

I’m glad to know that there are some American “fanatics” out there. Despite having put our vacations or jobs on the line, being here together makes us all feel the most normal we’ve ever felt in a long time. So a few of us find ourselves kissing the ground spontaneously in a love orgy for Israel — but the fact that we could so openly share our loves, concerns,
and political views — when our worlds our so different otherwise — brings out the most easygoing, loving, and generous side of us.

So the Americans forgot that the color of the struggle is orange, but we’ll still take the yellow. It’s even brighter.

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