Wednesday, August 10, 2005

American Anti-Expulsion Protesters Reach Gaza Despite Blockade

16:10 Aug 10, '05 / 5 Av 5765
By Ezra HaLevi

A group of Americans who arrived in Israel Monday to oppose the Disengagement Plan has now succeeded in entering Gush Katif, despite the blockade on Gaza.

The group, made up of mostly middle-aged professionals, went directly to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem upon landing in Israel. From there, they traveled to the communities of northern Samaria slated for destruction in the coming weeks.

The members of the group set aside jobs and family commitments to come to Israel for an undefined amount of time to oppose the expulsion. They were not sure what to expect, and whether they would succeed in gaining entry to Gaza and northern Samaria, which have been declared closed military zones.

They have thus far met with success beyond their highest hopes.

“We entered northern Samaria without any problems,” said organizer Leib Schaeffer. “We saw the hills and trails leading to the threatened communities and heard about the plans of those living there to make sure the Disengagement does not happen. We entered Sa-Nur, as well, with no problem.”

“People came out of their tents to welcome us. We just talked to people, trying to strengthen and encourage them by letting them know that there are millions in the United States who are looking to them to fight the battle against surrender to terrorism, and rooting for them.”

The group then headed toward the Kisufim Crossing, the highly guarded entrance to Gush Katif. “We wanted to be in the place where the first domino would fall,” Schaeffer explained.

Though an estimated 5,000 anti-expulsion activists have succeeded in entering Gush Katif in recent months, security forces have significantly tightened the seal around the Kisufim Crossing in the past weeks.

The group was told at each of the series of western Negev checkpoints leading toward Gush Katif that the area was closed to visitors. “Each time, we explained that we are a group from America and that Gush Katif is on our itinerary of holy sites we plan on visiting,” Schaeffer said. “If they refused, we asked to speak to their superior officer. Each time, we were eventually let through.”

Kisufim Crossing was a different story, though. They were blocked entry repeatedly as they attempted for hours to convince the soldiers there to allow them through.

“Two of our people just got off the bus and walked through,” Schaeffer said, “nobody stopped them. We decided to be patient, though, and refrain from making a scene – to continue to request entry.”

One of the officers at the crossing told Schaeffer, “Come back tomorrow, sign your names on the list of visitors, and I will take responsibility for your entry. “We left,” said Schaeffer, “sure that they were just trying to give us the runaround, stayed at a nearby Kibbutz and came back Wednesday morning.

The officer stood by his word. “He looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and said, ‘Whoever you go in with – you come out with - all together.’ What he did not say, however, was how long we could stay.”

As the jubilant Americans prepared to enter the region that is supposed to be emptied of Jews in six days from now, one of the soldiers at the crossing pulled Schaeffer aside, telling him: “You should know that the army is with you. We don’t want to do this, and we want you to relay a message to the residents of Gush Katif to stay strong,” he said. “We of the IDF are the last people who want this Disengagement to happen,” he added.

The group, sporting yellow T-shirts reading “Americans oppose Jewish expulsion” in Hebrew and English, is now settling in at N’vei Dekalim, the largest town in Gush Katif.

One of the group members, 32-year-old Julie Dicks of Kansas City, is in Israel for the first time in her life. “My husband and I both love Israel and I had been reading about the situation on Arutz-7,” Dicks said. “I talked to my husband about coming here and at first he didn’t really get it. I prayed about it, we talked some more and he started getting a heart for it too. Now we’re here.”

She attributed the fact that the group made it past the blockade so easily to open miracles - something she is confident will continue to be performed on behalf of the Jews threatened with expulsion. “If you don’t believe in miracles you should have been with us yesterday,” she said. “It would make a believer out of you. It is unprecedented that we got in – it’s just not happening and did not look at all like it was going to happen for us.”

Dicks, a non-Jew, is 100 percent confident that the Jews of Gush Katif will not be made to leave their homes. “I don’t think G-d would work all these miracles for them and then just let it all go. I have more faith than that,” she said. “I don’t want to be like the Israelites that believed the other spies [who delivered a demoralizing report to the Jewish people regarding their ability to conquer the Land of Israel following the exodus from Egypt]. I want to believe in the word of HaShem (G-d).”

Dr. Paul Fein, 58, from Brooklyn, New York, is not sure what will happen, but is certain that it is his responsibility as a Jew to be in Gush Katif during this period. Dr. Fein, a nephrologist, is also the father of seven, but put everything aside to make the trip. “It was difficult to come, but I was able to make arrangements,” he said. “I didn’t think they would actually let us into Gush Katif, but I figured we had to at least make an attempt. Now I just want to do everything I can to offer my support to the people here.”

From Bill: If you want to see this article (and others like it) in it's original format(with pictures), go to: http://www.arutzsheva.com/news.php3?id=87486

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