Chairman of the Jewish agency and former prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky, experienced a particularly moving tour of the Gush Katif Museum today, in Jerusalem, following the recent renovations and expansion of the site. He came to express his identification with the museum’s agenda, and to get a closer look at how the museum has progressed.
Natan Sharansky visited the various wings of the museum and was deeply impressed by how, a full decade after the expulsion, many thousands come from around the globe to study the legacy of Gush Katif, the love of the land and the inherent dangers that are involved in handing over parts of Israel. As a result of the Gush Katif’s museum unflagging efforts to instil the legacy of Gush Katif and the expulsion among all stratums of society, the story of the Gush has become one that is impossible to forget. Visitors to the museum study the Jewish history of the Gaza region and hear its story from the Hasmonean period through to modern day Gush Katif.
Visibly moved by a poster featuring an anguished girl, with the script “Why?” imposed beneath her, Natan Sharansky’s voice sounded choked with tears as he said: “I was a government minister and I asked Sharon precisely that same question: ‘Why?’” he said. “Sharon’s answer was — ‘It will provide us with ten years of peace and quiet.’ My response? ‘It won’t give you even ten days of quiet…’”
Sharansky showed further emotion when shown the lifeguards’ hut from the beach at Gush Katif. He revealed that he used to spend countless days there, relaxing with the legendary lifeguard, David Shalom.
Sharansky also visited the museum’s second level, which is currently under construction and soon to be open to the general public. This expansion is part of the recent purchase of the new museum premises in Israel’s capital — Jerusalem.
The museum director, Shlomo Wasserteil, presented the minister with the astonishing figures. To date, over three hundred thousand guests have visited the museum — including public figures, members of parliament from countries around the world, media personalities and international opinion setters, all of whom have come to find out first-hand what exactly took place at Gush Katif and how the expulsion impacted world events.
“Our goal in expanding the museum is to reach the million-visitor milestone,” said the director. “We have realized that those who enter our museum gain a completely different picture than the preconceptions they came in with. This is an experience that every Israeli child and every tourist should undergo.”
Sharansky entered the following message into the museum’s guest book: “It is important to retain the joy of those bygone days, and the pain shall preserve itself. We cannot understand the reason why. But it is important to remember, and to not re-enact this tragedy. Am Yisrael Chai! The nation of Israel lives! To the guardians of the Gush Katif story on behalf of the nation of Israel – Thank you!” Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman.”
Photo: Yudit Herpez