Katif´s last Independence dance (JERUSALEM POST) By MATTHEW GUTMAN NEVEH DEKALIM 05/13/05)
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More than 50,000 people packed Gush Katif on Thursday as the
settlement bloc, which is to be evacuated this summer, tentatively
celebrated the 57th Independence Day of a state many here
increasingly feel has abandoned them.
While previous rallies sought to win the hearts and minds of rank and
file Israelis, the anti-disengagement movement used the day-long
event in Gaza to retrench and prepare for the battle to come.
Specific plans were presented. At the central event, a rally of some
10,000 in Katif recreational area, activist Dr. Moshe Peretz, a
leader of the anti-disengagement camp within the Green Line, called
for the thousands present to "come out to Israel´s intersections on
Monday" to protest disengagement. He added that while "the Sharon
gang is out of prison, the just [people who block roads] will be
those in Israeli prisons."
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, danced a short jig to one
of the bands before telling the crowd that its "strength will
vanquish all." The fight, he said, was not only for Gush Katif, "but
for everything – the settlements, the Land of Israel, for Faith."
The crowd churned into swirls of orange as youths danced themselves
into a frenzy to the music of guest bands. But ex-minister Natan
Sharansky served as a moderating figure, rising to the stage to tell
supporters that he was not there to give them strength but
to "receive the strength from Gush Katif."
Behind him a metal Star of David display had been set up, its points
alternately holding an Israeli flag and the orange flag of Gush Katif
and the northern West Bank.
Outside the gathering, activists distributed leaflets urging
participants to join Monday´s "country-wide" blockade of major
The leaflets gave specific instructions on where and how to stage
their protests, to document what they could with video cameras, and
not to forget wallet-sized cards – being distributed at an adjacent
table – carrying tips on dealing with police interrogation. The
blockade campaign´s leader, Shay Malka, said thousands of activists
have already organized themselves in small cells ready to pounce in
an "event the likes of which the country has never witnessed."
Stickers from the Jewish National Front declared: "In a war, we´ll
win." Meanwhile, members of the Israeli Students´ Union unveiled
their version of a doomsday weapon, vowing to begin an anti-pullout
hunger strike outside the prime minister´s office on Sunday.
Yet the enterprising hawked not only opposition propaganda but also
trinkets, Jewish music CDs and cherry tomatoes. The sense of carnival-
cum-apocalypse reflected both the locals´ and their guests´ thirst
for normality amid the sense of imminent disaster.
The organizers claimed that 80,000 visitors entered the Strip for
Independence Day. Some came simply to lounge on the pristine beaches
and barbecue, assuming this could be the settlement bloc´s last
A few hours earlier, Hannah Picard, a resident of the beachfront
Shirat Hayam settlement, had decided to try and set the disengagement
implementation law aflame.
Even though they had received permission for the book-burning from
the Gaza Beach Regional Council, Picard´s neighbor, Allon, refused to
assist. Standing in a circle of residents, the two debated.
"Why do we want to bring more media attention here?" Allon asked. "I
don´t need a press conference here. We´ve been burned too many
Lighter fluid in hand, Picard countered that the "press is here
anyway, so we might as well make them produce pictures we want them
Allon´s views held sway, the lighter fluid was stored and the copy of
the law spared.
Later Picard explained that the argument was not about the injustice
or evil of the law, but about the invitation for more media
scrutiny. "We say that there is already a photographer for every
child here," Picard, who helped found the settlement almost five
years ago, joked wryly.
"But we have no choice but to cooperate with the media. This is the
reality of our situation," she said.
Almost every Gush Katif settlement held some sort of Independence Day
event Thursday, from an exhibition of military hardware in Katif to
the inauguration of a new Synagogue in Kfar Darom.
And some were touched by the ongoing violence. Three mortar shells
were fired at Neveh Dekalim at midnight Wednesday, while hundreds of
settlers were participating in Independence Day celebrations. There
were also four incidents of shooting at soldiers deployed near Neveh
Dekalim on Thursday, and shots were also fired at an IDF post in
For some Israelis here the national birthday has lost its luster. Two
of Allon Levenstein´s brothers, Elitzur, 20, and Mordechai, 30, were
arrested last week for conspiring to set a vehicle alight in traffic.
Their family protests that the brothers only legitimately protested
disengagement. But the combination of the impending pullout and the
arrests has changed something for the family, Levenstein said,
speaking in the newly inaugurated Kfar Darom Synagogue.
Levenstein said he was not celebrating but was observing the holiday.
The family´s patriarch, Shmuel, talking from amid a crush of men
entering the new synagogue, put it more sourly: "The Rav [Tzvi] Kook
[founder of religious Zionism] said that the state belongs to God,
blessed-be-he, and the pigs to Ben Gurion." (© 1995-2005, The
Jerusalem Post 05/13/05)
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