The phenomena is inexplicable: Families that sometimes have trouble making ends meet are transfering loans of hundreds and thousands of shekels to the fund, the sole purpose of which is to maintain agricultural life in Gush Katif with summer plantings that will bear fruit next fall.
The banks have long since cut off the farmers’ credit, so the fund lends farmers the money to cover 50 percent of the planting costs. The fund ostensibly promises that backers will get their money repaid at the end of the season – namely, many months after the disengagement.
The chances of the fund repaying its backers is almost nil. Yet, as far as many of the donors are concerned, this is a test of their faith. They know full well they are unlikely to see their money again.
The contract they sign with the fund explicitly states that “if, heaven forbid, the light is late in coming,” the loan will become a grant, but they also want to exhaust every chance. Or, as Gush Katif’s security officer, Ami Shaked, puts it in one of his missives to residents, “to ensure that on the day of reckoning the farmers may be found as Cohens at their work and the students as Levites in their musical accompaniment.”
The list of donor-lenders is diverse: an anonymous professor from the Weizmann Institute who tapped into his pension fund to transfer NIS 100,000; a woman from a West Bank settlement, who lives on her monthly widow’s allowance of NIS 2,300, apologized that she can only transfer NIS 200; a female tourist from China who entered the offices of the Gaza Coast Regional Council on Wednesday and placed $250 down on the desk; a teacher from Ashkelon who transfered NIS 1,000.
More than 3,000 donor-lenders have registered so far. Most transfered sums of around NIS 1,000, but there have been some organized donations. Residents of the religious Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem raised NIS 150,000. Kfar Pines transfered 80,000. Kfar Etzion, one of whose residents, Hanan Porat, is the fund’s chairman, transfered NIS 75,000. The urban part of Gush Etzion has pledged a million shekels. The secretariats of Beit Hagai in the southern Hebron Hills and Mehola in the Jordan Valley announced they would match donations of NIS 500 by residents. Golan Heights communities pledged NIS 500,000. Jonathan Pollard is sending $18 from the limited funds at his disposal, his wife told Asher Mivtzari of Kfar Darom.
Rabbis have enlisted in the effort, and many use their weekly sermons to extol the fund and urge their congregations to support it.
The fund calculates that NIS 20 million is needed to enable all the farmers in Gush Katif to carry on as usual. Some NIS 3 million has been collected so far.