Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- The world has noted -- though it will not credit, and will soon forget -- those deeply moving scenes of the Israeli evacuation of Gaza: the discipline and self-control of the Israeli army; the cohesion of a society torn over policy but determined to follow the dictates of democracy; and the deep, abiding attachment of Israelis to every inch of soil they have reclaimed from sand and swamp.

     But there was one detail of the evacuation that went little noticed: the manner of the evacuation of the great menorah from the last synagogue of the last settlement to be evacuated, Netzarim. This menorah is not the nine-branched  Hanukkah thingie that shows up on an equal-time basis by the shopping-mall reindeer display at Christmas time. It is the seven-branched candelabra -- like the one that was in the ancient temple in Jerusalem and is today the official seal of the state of Israel.

     The Gaza menorah was carried off in a very remarkable and significant way, perched on a horizontal rod borne on the shoulders of men walking one behind the other.

     Seen in profile, that image has a shocking familiarity. If you go to the eastern entrance of the Roman forum today, you will see the huge triumphal Arch of Titus erected in A.D. 81 to commemorate the conquest of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state -- Judea -- in A.D. 70. One of the friezes shows the seven-branched menorah they were carrying out of the temple in Jerusalem -- as booty and symbol of the conquest of Judea -- perched on a long horizontal staff borne by Roman soldiers walking one behind the other.

     No one steeped in Jewish history could fail to see the intended resemblance. The intended message was that the Gaza evacuation was a replay of the Roman conquest -- made all the more cruel and ironic because this time it was carried out by fellow Jews.

     In my view, the religious messianists who are saying this are totally wrong in their strategic assessment. Gaza was a necessary retreat in order to hold higher, more defensible and more critical ground elsewhere.

     Nonetheless, the parallel images carried an unintended truth. It is not the Gaza withdrawal itself, but what follows that could lead to another and final extinction of Jewish independence, this time not just for 2,000 years but forever.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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