The Yamit Evacuation
By Stephanie Persin
The Yamit settlement, like the other Jewish communities in Sinai, was built to act as a security buffer between Egypt and Israel. The Israeli government planned for thousands of Jewish families to live in the fourteen separate Sinai settlements. By 1982, only 600 houses were present in the area. After Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, in which Israel was required to return the Sinai, the government was forced to evacuate the area. The day of evacuation was set for April 23 1982.
The withdrawal was met with resistance from right-wing Jews, many of whom were originally from the United States. Some residents chose to remain in Yamit, disregarding the order to leave in a peaceful manner. Others, outsiders, migrated to the settlement in protest of the forced evacuation.
Extreme measures were taken in the months leading up to the evacuation. Some young followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a resident of the United States, threatened to blow themselves up if any IDF soldiers entered their bunker.
These militant protests were not heard from the residents of Yamit. In fact, many of the original Yamit settlers chose to move rather than to clash with the IDF.
The official evacuation began at 2 p.m. on April 23rd. Soldiers climbed up barricaded houses while protesters inside began to throw down sand and burning tires. The IDF sprayed the resistors with white foam. The militants were undeterred and moved their resistance into the attic of the homes. Soldiers were brought down onto roofs in cages, and from there, they were able to bring the resistors out of the houses. The army drilled holes into buildings occupied with militants and sprayed them with high pressures of water.
In response to the young yeshiva students' suicide threat, Rabbi Kahane was flown in from the United States to Yamit. After some persuasion, Kahane convinced the students not to detonate their explosives. Kahane's followers remained inside but disabled their explosives.
Both male and female soldiers were used to carry out residents who refused to leave their homes. Female soldiers carried the women and children. During this process the soldiers remained unarmed.
After Yamit had been completely evacuated, the army demolished most of its buildings along with buildings in the thirteen other Sinai settlements. They did manage to save many houses, bomb shelters, and fruit trees that had been a source of income for the Yamit settlers. Any buildings that were salvaged were transferred inside the new Israeli border. Neot Sinai was the only settlement left intact; It was sold to Egypt.
While there were militant attempts to resist evacuation from Yamit, there were no casualties during the forced withdrawal. Soldiers were often unarmed, and any debris thrown at the IDF was not aimed directly at them. Both the army and the resistance made a conscious effort to avoid physical injury to the opposing party.
Sources: Jerusalem Post, Rabinovich, Abraham. "The Settlers Weren't the Problem" (June 23, 2005), "When Jews Evacuated Jews." (June 28, 2005)