In the summer of 2005, I spent a month in the Hebrew-speaking Israeli
moshav of Ganei Tal ("Gardens of Dew")., located in the
southwestern quadrant of the Gaza Strip only several kilometers from
the Egyptian border. This is a religious Israeli
agricultural community that had been in existence since the early
1970's. The community, and indeed more than 20 other
Israeli communities in this part of Gaza referred to by Israelis as
Gush Katif, had been slated by the government of Ariel Sharon for
involuntary evacuation and demolition at the end of the summer.
(The evacuation in effect took place in mid-August)
In June people were still hoping that the "decree
would be nullified" and that they would not be thrown out of their
homes. With the consent of several people in the
community, I settled in for a month to carry out research
during this very trying period in the lives of the people.
There was an empty in-law apartment in the community whose owners
rented it out to me for the month of June.
The residents of Ganei Tal were furious at the
image portrayed of
them by the Israeli and international media, largely in favor of the
expulsion. Whereas the media referred to the Palestinians
mortars at them every day (with no response from Sharon's government)
as "Palestinian militants", the residents of Ganei Tal and other
Israeli communities in Gush Katif were routinely referred to by
journalists as right-wing religious fundamentalist extremists for
resisting the efforts to expel them and demolish their
initially harbored suspicions that I, as an anthropologist, had
with the same agenda.
I told them that I had four research questions
that I wished to pursue that could give an honest account of who they
were and what they had been doing for three decades in Gaza.
- What was the background of the families that came there in the
early 1970s? Why did they come to Gaza?
- What way of life had emerged in the past three decades, in terms
of the economic, social, and religious organization of the
communities. I was particularly interested in studying the
agrarian technology that had permitted prosperous agriculture on the
barren sand dunes of that part of Gaza.
- What were their interactions with Palestinians in the nearby city
of Khan Yunis and in the nearby village of Muassi? How had these
interactions changed over the years?
- What were their feelings about the decision of the Israeli
government to evacuate them against their will? What did they
think of the levels of compensation being offered? What
plans did they have for the immediate future?
At their request, I agreed to begin posting my notes and
observations immediately on the community's website, which served as
the information clearinghouse for the entire region of Gush
Katif. I warned them that my writing would be
anthropological in character, quite different in tone from the angry
protests that filled the website against the impending
evacuation. After a brief period of nervousness concerning my
intentions, I was able to do life-histories of over a dozen families
and carry out detailed observations of the local agrarian, familial,
educational, religious, and militia systems that had evolved in the
past three decades.
I posted the following five essays in the
course of a month. My interviewing was done in
Hebrew, but as is common in Israeli academia my writeup was in
English. The essays are still on the community's website,
accessed through english.katif.net under the link Anthropological