Persuasion and reasoning, but also force: tactics the Israeli army is using in the evacuation of Jewish settlements in occupied territory, as it comes up against the full fury of settlers.
Women soldiers have borne the brunt of much of the anger. They have been called on to escort women and children from their homes. Many are struggling to make sense of the situation that has made them enemy number one in many settlers’ eyes.
“It wasn’t my choice to come here” says Tamara Fachuk, who’s currently serving in the armed forces. “I didn’t volunteer. I really feel like telling settlers that this is not the right place to live, that we will take them to a safer place.” All Israeli women, like men, serve at least two compulsory years in the armed forces. This could be one of the hardest tasks they face.
“I think the parents who decided to stay with their children until the army came made a mistake,” explains Ayelet Menashe, another young female soldier. “I am thinking about my twin brothers and what could happen if they saw a big group of soldiers taking their father, mother or even me…”
There are some 25,000 women soldiers taking part in the pullout. Having to forcibly remove fellow Israelis from their homes has thrown many into deep bouts of soul-searching. “Sometimes I ask myself: ‘Does God want us to evacuate the settlers or not?’ And sometimes I get scared in case what I did is not good in God’s eyes,” says Tamara Fachuk. The soldiers are caught in the middle, following government orders and bearing the settlers’ wrath.
It is a job that is often more emotionally harrowing than physically draining and, for all involved, those scars are likely to be healing, if at all, long after the evacuation process is over.