By Richard Miron
BBC News, in the Gaza Strip
Rabbi Ari Katz is a man with a mission. As a spiritual leader in the Jewish settlements and the head of a religious high school in Gush Katif, he believes he has a an essential role to play.
Ari Katz says disengagement, which he opposes, will strengthen the settlers
"I have to try to give my students guidance, a sense of security and spiritual support," he says.
An energetic and animated 37-year-old, he talks with passion about life in Gaza and the ideology that drew him to an area where he has faced violence from Palestinians and rejection from many within his own country.
But he admits that this is a testing time for him and particularly for those he cares for, as the settlements are faced with the prospect of being uprooted.
"I have to be the stronger one.. I don't have the answers, but I have to be there to support the kids."
'Our land, our terms'
Rabbi Katz lives in the small settlement of Ganei Tal one of 21 communities that house almost 8,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza.
With his skull cap and tzittzit (the religious fringes hanging down from his belt) he is convinced of his right to live in Gaza, despite the fact that much of the international community views the settlements as illegal.
He says that Gaza is part of the land of Israel promised to the Jewish people by God in the Bible - and that as a Jew he has an obligation to settle in the land.
"As religious Jews we have a commandment to ensure that not one piece of land is left desolate. This is the Jewish People's land."
Rabbi Katz says the land was uninhabited - despite the nearby presence of more than one million Palestinians.
"And if those Palestinians want to be my neighbours and live in peace", he says, then there would be no problems.
"The problems start when they don't want us here."
Co-existence is possible, Rabbi Katz says, but only under certain circumstances.
"Other people can live in our land on our terms as long as they don't cause trouble. If an Arab wants to come and live with me, I have no problem with that."
Tribulations from God
But bloody fighting between Israelis and Palestinians has meant settlers in Gaza face mortars, shootings, and bombings, and it is something that Rabbi Katz has had to deal with in his work and his everyday life.
He recalls an incident when the father of one of his pupils was killed by a roadside bomb while checking the perimeter fence of the settlements.
Ganei Tal sits behind a heavy protective cordon provided by the military
"It was very difficult and complex" for him to explain its meaning to his students," he says slowly.
"We don't know why God does things but the rabbis tell us there are a some things that require us to undergo tribulations."
"One of them is the Land of Israel... the more precious the item the more you have to pray for it."
He believes the violence has been sent to test and strengthen the Jewish settlers, and the prospect of disengagement also serves a similar purpose.
"God never promised us a smooth ride," he says with a smile.
Rabbi Katz believes in his job and presence in Gush Katif, and he believes there is a greater purpose to his life and those of the other settlers.