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Bitter Tuesday

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Tuesday our sages pronounced is paamayim ki tov – twice as good. It is generally considered a lucky day. We often schedule weddings and elections on Tuesday precisely for this reason.

On Tuesday the 11th of Mar-Cheshvan a bitter unlucky feeling permeated the atmosphere here in Israel as the Knesset debated throughout the day. On Tuesday evening the 12th of Cheshvan they voted to remove seven-and-a-half thousand Jews from their homes in the Gaza settlements.

One can only wonder whether the timing of the vote taking place as it did on the 12th of Cheshvan the eve of the murder of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was by choice or chance. Israelis have a habit of choosing dates without bothering to check the Hebrew calendar listing for the day. For example two months ago after Maccabi Tel Aviv chose and validated the date for a final game of soccer against a German team the realization spread that the match was slated for the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Maccabi shamefully insisted on fulfilling its agreement and played despite the uproar regarding the outrageous timing.

I remember sitting in my office a few years back and opening a calendar prepared by the Ministry of Tourism noting the cultural events of Jerusalem for that year. A Verdi opera with hundreds of singers and a major orchestra was scheduled for mid-summer. I took out my calendar to check the date and discovered to my amazement that the opera had been scheduled for the 9th of Av at Migdal David in Jerusalem.

Israel should have learned a lesson. Yitzhak Rabin was murdered on the eve of the 12th of Cheshvan. The ill-fated Oslo accords he so desperately pushed through the Knesset against the will of the people failed. After four years of Arab suicide bombings bus blow-ups and random shootings that have killed and maimed thousands of innocent people our present Knesset chose to hold a marathon debate and to vote for one-sided disengagement plan on Rabin’s yahrzeit.

More than a decade has passed since Oslo was born and it is now a few years since its violent death. I spent two and a half years of my life protesting the Oslo accords. Some of my friends felt they had to give peace a chance. Many however chose otherwise and a group of neighborhood women organized acting as protesting prophets. We stood at a main junction leading to the Knesset every day with large banners warning the public. The banner messages changed according to daily events. The banners I often chose to display were either This is not Peace It is Piece by Piece or Don’t give them (the Arabs) rifles – they will be used against us. 

Our group decided that our protest would be respectable. We would represent a mature adult section of society. Sneakers and socks flowing biblical garments and youngsters holding banners were unacceptable. We were serious mothers and grandmothers and we had to look the part. I remember one bitter cold afternoon. I was dressed in my mother’s fur jacket that I normally never wear in Israel. Indeed I looked respectable. So much so that a presidential motorcade passed by and President Ezer Weizman himself rolled down the window and tipped his hat in recognition of our legitimate protest.

We protested day in and day out until that fateful 12th of Cheshvan nine years ago. The prime minister had been murdered and demonstrations were no longer legitimate.

Did the Knesset purposely choose to have the vote take place that night on Rabin’s yahrzeit?

One thing is clear. The lessons of the past decade have not been absorbed. Voting to remove Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisrael on Rabin’s yahrzeit is ironic proof that we are continuing on the same misguided path.

By chance the day of the debate the 11th of Cheshvan was the yahrzeit of Rachel Imenu. Thousands of Jews flocked to kever Rachel to pray.

Rachel’s burial site had been overlooked in the original Oslo accords. Rabin was not aware of its importance and had included it in the territory presented to the Palestinian Authority. Kever Rachel was targeted by Palestinian snipers during their uprising and Israel was forced to build a fortress around it for protection. Buses under heavily armed guard transport Jews to and from the kever in order to allow them the privilege of praying there.

Is it by chance that the Knesset scheduled a full-day debate to remove Gush Katif from the boundaries of Israel on Rachel Imenu’s yahrzeit?

May the Almighty gather the tears shed for Rachel’s sons and hear all the prayers offered throughout the centuries at her kever so that the prophecy ?v’shavu banim l’gvulom? will be fulfilled forthwith.

Faigie Heiman a native of Brooklyn made aliyah with her husband in 1960. All her children and grandchildren were born and live in Israel.

About the Author: Faigie Heiman is an accomplished short-story and essay writer and the author of a popular memoir titled “Girl For Sale.” Born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she has lived in Israel for more than fifty years.

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