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October 08, 1993 - Image 53

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-10-08

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Two Sides

A Jewish settler in Gaza
worries about the future, as
his Palestinian employee
talks of a state to come.

A Palestinian
laborer works
on reinforcing
rods in new



Of The Gaza Coin

hlomo Wasserteil lives in a
beautiful, wood-paneled villa
here in one of the 12 tightly-
bunched Jewish settlements of
Gush Katif, surrounded by sand
dunes near the shore of the
Gaza Strip.
A tall, bearded, religious
man who makes a good living
growing hothouse geraniums,
he employs 15 Palestinians who
live far on the other side of the
barbed wire fence that protects
the Gush, in the hovels of the
sprawling Khan Yunis refugee
"We have excellent relations,"
Mr. Wasserteil said a few days
after Prime Minister Rabin
shook hands with Yassir Arafat.
"On the one hand, Pm their em-
ployer, so I tell them what to do
and I can get mad at them if
something goes wrong. But on
the other hand, if they have a
problem with the Israeli civil
administration in Gaza, or if
they need money to get mar-
ried, they come to me. I'm their
social worker, their father."
Mr. Wasserteil, 44, was one
of the original 13 settlers who
founded Ganei Tal in 1977. He
lives here with his wife and five
children, and they are afraid of
what's coming.
According to the Israel-PLO
declaration of principles, the
army will pull out of the Pales-
tinian refugee camps, towns
and cities within six months,

and tend to the safety only of
Gush Katif and the other four
Jewish settlements in Gaza.
Everywhere else in the Strip,
maintaining security will be the
job of the soon-to-be Palestin-
ian police force.
"In a very short time," said
Mr. Wasserteil, "the Arabs will
come here to steal, or something
worse, and they'll run back to
Khan Yunis and the army won't
be allowed to chase them.
They'll be able to fire Katyushas
at us — who will stop them?
Our lives are forfeit — whatev-
er the government's good in-
tentions, they can't protect us,
and I'm not Rambo."
In the meantime, though, he
is sitting tight. He has no plans
to leave. "My home is my cas-
tle," he said.
He is not worried, however,
about the Palestinians who
work in his greenhouses. None
of them has had anything to do
with terrorism, has not even
thrown a stone that the Israeli
Army knows about. Most have
worked for him for 10 years or
more, and he considers them
100 percent loyal.
He also believes they are at
least as scared of the PLO as he
"We hardly ever talk about
politics, but on a few occasions,
they spoke to me privately, sin-
cerely, telling me things they
wouldn't say in public because

they're afraid they'd get killed,"
Mr. Wasserteil said, noting that
he speaks to his workers in Ara-
"They told me they want to
live under the Israeli flag, and
that God forbid Arafat should
come to power because they
would be killed (as employees

"In a very short
time, the Arabs will
come here to steal,
or something
worse, and they'll
run back to
Khan Yunis and the
army won't be
allowed to chase


— Shlomo Wasserteil

of a Jewish settler).
"All this politics goes over
their heads," he said of the
workers. "When they come
here, they come to work, and
that's all they care about —
work. They know you can't eat
a flag."

Before going back to his
greenhouses, Mr. Wasserteil in-
troduced me to Khalil Agad, the
only one of his employees who
speaks Hebrew. Like his fellow
workers, Mr. Agad, 33, lives in
Khan Yunis.
He was born there, and his
father was born there, too, long
before the refugee camp was
built in 1948. Asked if he had
any political affiliations, Mr.
Agad said, "I'm Fatah."
Asked why he was Fatah —
why he supported the Arafat-
led, mainstream PLO faction —
Agad replied, "I was born Fa-
Mr. Agad, unshaven, wear-
ing a dirty blue T-shirt, says he
sees things differently than
most other Palestinians in
Khan Yunis. On the day Prime
Minister Rabin and Chairman
Arafat signed their pact, thou-
sands of Palestinians in the
camp were waving PLO flags,
cheering and chanting, but Mr.
Agad watched the signing cer-
emony on television with his 0,
wife and two children, sitting
quietly, almost indifferently.
The prospect of terror doesn't c°
worry him: "I'm not afraid of cuS
anyone except God," said the Cn
devout Muslim.
What worries him is that
things will not change. Work-
ing at Ganei Tal for about two 55

GAZA page 56

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