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A Jewish Farmer Reluctantly Departs Gaza


Anita Tucker is a celery farmer from Gush Katif in Gaza--or at least used to be. She moved to the settlement from Brooklyn nearly 30 years ago. When we spoke with her last week, she'd made no plans to leave her farm. We spoke with Anita Tucker again yesterday. She was at a roadside stop en route to the Golan Heights. We asked her how she was doing.

Ms. ANITA TUCKER (Celery Farmer): I'm feeling better. It wasn't a very pleasant sight to see somebody come to force you out of your home for 29 years. So I guess I'm homeless ...(unintelligible) I'm homeless.

SIMON: Anita, I remember last week you were going to wait for the soldiers to come to your house and you were going to invite a young soldier in to have a cup of coffee and tell him why you didn't want to leave and appeal to him Israeli to Israeli to understand. Did you ever get a chance to do that?

Ms. TUCKER: I didn't pack anything in my house. I set the table like it was a festive holiday. And then when I saw the soldiers moving toward my door, I asked them all to come in for breakfast with us. And then I also invited the next row of soldiers that were guarding those soldiers and the next row of soldiers that were guarding those soldiers and the next row of soldiers that were guard--I told them this thing is so immoral. Please. It was like they were robots. But they kept repeating the same things. And I kept saying, `Why are you repeating the same lines? I know what you're going to say. I have no problem leaving. Whenever you say go, I'm going to get up and go. You don't have to force me out. But I wanted to hear that you still have some morality in you.'

And it didn't really help much, but when we finally--we walked, the whole family together, and every family arrived at the synagogue slowly with the soldiers behind them in their dark black uniforms. And what we finally did before we leave, we asked if we could just take the Torah scrolls out of the synagogue. And then we took the Torah scrolls with us onto the buses. We asked to be taken to Jerusalem. They dumped us in Jerusalem. So we went to the Western Wall to pray for an everlasting house. That's the only thing--feels like the possibility for the longtime future.

SIMON: And what's happened to all the stuff in your house? I mean...

Ms. TUCKER: Oh, boy. I personally had left the water and the computer on in my greenhouse, still hoping that perhaps we would--there would be a change and we'd be able to come back. That was my protest, my hope for the future.

SIMON: You get reimbursed by the government.

Ms. TUCKER: Very little. And so far, anyone who has applied for it hasn't got--really gotten a cent. What we were promised was 60 percent of the value of our greenhouses. I'd have to take 40 percent more in loans, in long-term loans, to get my business started again.

SIMON: And it's hard for you to buy any plot of land until you get money for what you've left.

Ms. TUCKER: You know, in Israel it isn't so simple just to buy a plot of land because most of the land belongs to the state. And then they lease it to you for a hundred-year lease. So they're the ones who have to say, you know, this land is available to you.

SIMON: Anita, I feel that I have to get your reaction to what Prime Minster Sharon and others in the government have said, `Look, I know what these 9,000 people are going through is wrenching, but it is better for the future security of the millions of people of Israel that we do this now.'

Ms. TUCKER: Well, the truth is that all the officers that we speak to--they all say they're going to need a lot more soldiers because there's going to be a lot more terrorists there and they have to go in deeper to figure out what to do.

SIMON: If you could choose a place to resettle, where would it be?

Ms. TUCKER: I don't think I'm ready to even think about it yet. What we've seen yesterday was just ...(unintelligible). I'm on my way driving north to the Golan Heights. We stopped for a second to get a cold drink. Some of us are in buses that we rented on our own course. And we're on our way up to the few parcels that we were offered to, like, stay in, and...

SIMON: So...

Ms. TUCKER: ...we're going to try to talk to them. How are we going to get ourselves off the ground again? Monday morning when we get up, then we have to start thinking about what we're going to do further.

SIMON: Anita Tucker is a celery farmer living in Israel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

United States & World Weekend Edition Saturday
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.