Close to 500 participants crowded into the Crown Heights Razag ballroom this past motzaei Shabbos for the second year in a row to benefit the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem. The brainchild of Rav Shalom Dov Wolpo, the museum was established five years ago to remember the tragedy of the expulsion of almost 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif and prevent further uprooting of Jewish settlements in Israel. The Gush Katif Museum also provides material assistance for families expelled from Gush Katif, many of whom still suffer financial and psychological deprivation from their traumatic experience.
Rabbi Wolpo teamed up with the International Committee for the Land of Israel, founded by Dr. Joe Frager, Dr. Paul Brody, Rabbi David Algaze, and Odeleya Jacobs, and with Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), to spearhead the dinner. They hosted guest speakers Governor Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson, representing the rabbis of Crown Heights synagogues, and Mrs. Rivka Goldschmidt, a refugee from Gush Katif. Guests of honor included Rabbi Sholom Ber Drizin, noted philanthropist, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Rabbi David Algaze, rav of Congregation Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills, and Helen Freedman.
Governor Huckabee electrified the audience with his emotional and fervent plea in defense of the Jewish people settling in all of G‑d’s given land to the Jews. He expressed his “passion for the protection of the security of Israel” and commented that “sometimes I feel that my passion for the goodness of Israel maybe exceeds even my Jewish friends’.”
Governor Huckabee visited the Gush Katif Museum in 2009, at the urging of Mrs. Jacobs and Drs. Brody and Frager, who accompanied him on the visit, remembering it to be “a brutal reminder of what happens when politicians make decisions that don’t involve their brains.” He bemoaned the folly of the Israeli government with the castigating remark, “When you demand that people abandon their homes . . . because you somehow believe you can trust radical Islamic fascists to keep their word and make nice if you make nice, then it shows a level of naiveté that makes Chamberlain look like Churchill.”
Governor Huckabee faulted the U.S. Secretary of State for visiting Egypt and “handing over a check of $250,000,000 when we are closing the White House to tours.” Regarding President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel, Governor Huckabee recommended a visit to the Gush Katif Museum and strongly suggested, “When the president goes to Israel, it is important that the American people give him the message, rather than him give Israelis a message . . . that it is time for the Israelis to quit apologizing to the world and to say that we have the right to a secure and safe homeland, not just for us, but for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
To resounding applause and a standing ovation, Governor Huckabee concluded with an ardent plea to the Israeli people to “pour the concrete, build the houses, and let Israel be strong!”
At a press conference prior to the dinner, Rabbi Wolpo, speaking to reporters, highlighted the importance of the museum’s mission and stated, “The Land of Israel cannot be run by America or by Europe, only by Israel itself. Likewise, the Land of Israel cannot be run by the government of Israel alone but by the Jewish people.”
Several of the speakers had visited Gush Katif before the expulsion, including Helen Freedman, Rabbi Algaze, and Assemblyman Hikind. They lamented the destruction of a once-vibrant community inhabited by the most idealistic Jews in the Land of Israel. Assemblyman Hikind remembered his foreboding of what would transpire after the Disengagement and noted that all his fears were realized. He castigated “the greater Jewish community for failing to prevent the destruction of Gush Katif.”
Putting the expulsion of the Gush Katif community into perspective, Rabbi Algaze observed, “The fundamental lesson of Gush Katif is that when the Land of Israel is given over to the enemy, it becomes a source of weakness for the Jewish people, for the State of Israel, and ultimately for the world.”
The lessons of the Gush Katif tragedy reverberate today. All of Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael have suffered as a result. The Gush Katif Museum is a reminder of that lesson, tugging at the conscience of those that facilitated it and heartening others to once more state “Never again.” v