The Fogel family in profile

November 24, 2016 23:35

I met Rabbi Udi Fogel four years ago when he and his family were living in Netzarim, the most isolated of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and the last to be dismantled in the disengagement of 2006. He smiled and spoke calmly when I asked him how he felt about the government that was about to force him to leave and destroy the family's home.

He did not feel rancour or anger, only deep regret. He said that he continued to have huge faith in the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

He asked me if I knew his elder brother, Motti. I was astounded. It was almost impossible to connect this deeply religious and ideological man and his cynical, easy-going, liberal, left-leaning journalist of a brother. But I was later to find out that they were still close.

He and his wife, Ruth, belonged to the ideological elite of the settler movement. Ruth was the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Ben-Yishai, a respected teacher in Jerusalem. Udi was the son of the founders of one of the first settlements in Samaria. They were both as far as possible from the stereotype many have of the settlers as noisy, violent and brash extremists.

After their expulsion from Netzarim, they moved to Ariel, a town in the West Bank with many Russian immigrants, in the interests of "reconnecting with Am Yisrael".

Two years ago, after being offered the post of rabbi at the local yeshiva, Udi moved his family to Itamar, east of Nablus. Three and a half months ago, their sixth child, Hadas, was born. On the door of their bungalow there is still a yellow sign made by neighbours saying "mazal tov on your baby girl".

At his funeral this week, Motti said: "Udi, my younger brother, all I have to say is clichés. If I could, I would push away everyone who came here and whisper, 'let's go and play football, one last time'.

"All the slogans about Torah and settling the land, about Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael are trying to obscure the simple fact that you are dead and nothing can make that go away. You are dead and no slogan can bring you back. You are not a symbol or a national event. Your life had a meaning of its own and your terrible death cannot become a means to whatever end."

November 24, 2016 23:35

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