Officials Honor Gush Katif Museum In Jerusalem

Historic Meeting Outlines Plans For Museums Future

By Martina Fernandez

"The existence of our people depends on remembering"

Historic board meeting presents events of a decade since the uprooting of Gush Katif. Dozens of important Israeli public figures gathered yesterday for a meeting of Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem.

Dozens of prominent public figures from all walks of life gathered yesterday (Sunday) at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem to celebrate a board meeting of the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem that marks a decade since the uprooting of Gush Katif and the disengagement.

The purpose of establishing the Board is to develop this museum in Jerusalem and its expansion. To keep the important story of Gush Katif, as Israeli history, a story of life, and its preservation of this vital history for the coming years. We must educate the Israeli public not only to mourn for the destruction of communities- but also to draw lessons for the future.

The conference opened with a special film on Gush Katif Museum and the perpetuation of Jewish settlement throughout recent history, including the present state of the synagogues left in Gush Katif after disengagement.

Project Manager, Jacob Klein, presented to the audience programs for upgrading the museum over the next decade that will continue with the vital mission of preserving memory of this historic event. Programs that will make the subject of Gush Katif a major issue to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum in connection to the ancient and recent Jewish history of the Gaza Strip. A history that stems from the Bible up to the time of the Hasmoneans and into the recent history of our time. The programs would use advanced technological means to educate and inform.

Overall Museum Director Mr. Shlomo Wasserteil presented in detail the achievements of the museum since its inception over seven years ago. How it has been visited by nearly 200 thousand visitors from all walks of life including most every Israeli government official and many prominent foreign VIP’s as well, including American senators, congressmen, members of the EU and presidential hopefuls in the last American elections. Most importantly, Shlomo pointed out, the Museum has kept alive the burning issue of Gush Katif as a national tragedy. Remembering the great tragedy Israel still suffers by its retreat and concessions to terror is a main theme of the Museum.

"I think it’s fair to say that this museum has touched the heart of everyone in Israel- left, right, secular and religious. It connects all walks of life in Israel. This great project should continue to develop and flourish for future generations."

Mr. Wasserteil recalled how former Minister Mr. Uri Auerbach, one of the Museum's greatest friends (who passed away recently), and how he saw the museum as a project most important for future generations.

Mr. Wasserteil introduced all the board members, warmly welcoming them and recalling their role on the board. The museum’s director thanked them for their untiring help throughout the years. Next he introduced Mrs. Tcherna Moskowitz and lauded her leadership and contributions to the development and expansion of the museum.

MK Mr. Ayoub Kara spoke. Mr. Kara, one of the museum’s greatest supporters, was one of the leaders fighting for Gush Katif. He himself was carried out by expulsion forces. Speaking on the long sad history of disengagement, he vowed that this next government will be a faithful ambassador of Gush Katif. Mr. Kara is known for his passionate support for keeping Gush Katif. Privately, Mr. Kara told us, (and this is his most vocal opinion) that he sees defense of these areas as a matter of life and death for all who live in Israel. (To quote Mr. Sharon’s anti-disengagement election theme in 1993: “Today Netzarim falls, tomorrow its Tel Aviv”.)

"We must not forget the story of Gush Katif, as a milestone for Israel’s future." The Likud Knesset member told of his encounter at the museum with Republican Representative Mr. Mike Huckabee who visited Gush Katif Museum in Israel.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe initiator of the museum’s establishment spoke at length about the continued need to preserve the memory of Gush Katif. One isn’t allowed to talk about evacuating settlements in Eretz Israel! The results of Gush Katif and in particular recent land gifts to themselves demonstrate what it means to uproot Jews, and how this crisis continues.

Keynote speaker was General Uzi Dayan who serves on the National Security Council. He discussed the importance of instilling the extraordinary legacy of Gush Katif in Israeli culture, in order to better preserve the future and security of Israel as a Jewish country in the Middle East.

The Middle East is going through great changes and revolutions. Israel needs to be that one stable place- this can only happen if Israel has all of its land. Those who carried out the uprooting of Gush Katif are people devoid of Jew feelings! For example, he said of those who planned the destruction of Gush Katif that they unfairly chose a day that would coincide with Jewish feelings. Purposely, they chose the day of Tisha B'Av, a day of national mourning. He quoted Wikipedia which describes Tisha BeAv as the day of the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif.

Dayan spoke about various aspects of the importance of Gush Katif Museum and how it creates an emotional identification for the public with the issue of Gush Katif and the Land of Israel in general. Dayan said also, there is a mistake in those who think that they can heal the wound opened by Gush Katif. That it will just go away. It has caused a rift in Israeli society.

Chairman of the Board Attorney Mr. Gilad Corinaldi who served as public defender of synagogues in Gush Katif spoke next. Due to his heroic efforts, the Israeli government changed its mind about destroying Jewish houses of prayer in Gush Katif, leaving them (for the Arabs who destroyed them later). Mr. Corinaldi spoke about the role of the museum as a preparation for the decade to come. "A decade later, there has arisen a new generation that doesn’t remember. It doesn’t know how to tell this important story. Quoting the Passover Hagadah he concluded: As such, it is our sacred duty to "tell your son". (higadeda le bincha)

"The major task of the museum in the coming years," he added Corinaldi, "is shaping historical consciousness. Let’s turn the tragic story of Gush Katif and its residents tales of woe" - into a symbol of hope. A story of building, courage, fortitude and growth. This awful narrative of "breaking" and “destruction", makes it our job to foster a new era, that has the power to convert a story of humiliation and the severe injury of human rights – into a story of national heroism, restorative growth and hope. This applies especially to the refugees themselves, as a basis and context for shaping a collective consciousness, especially the younger generation.

Gilad added, "Had it not been for the proud stand taken by the Gush Katif Museum here in Jerusalem, then the preservation of the story of this region would have long ago been erased from the collective memory of all Israelis.

A decade is a considerable amount of time, but it has also been a time for renewal. The power of our preservation as a people depends on our memory. "While physically Gush Katif is gone- But its memory endures and is etched forever into the minds and hearts of all, including many Christians. The legend of Gush Katif is an eternal chapter in a book whose story will and must continue!" Corinaldi said finishing his speech.

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