Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stealing into Gaza, True Believers See Big Setback for Jews

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Stealing into Gaza, True Believers See Big Setback for Jews

Article excerpt

Jewish settlers mixed with some 4,000 protestors here, marking their last weekend in the Gaza Strip with an outpouring of mourning and prayer that promised to turn to defiance.

On Friday night, settlers sat at their Sabbath dinner tables - far fuller than usual in order to accommodate the influx of activists who have illegally entered the settlements. On Saturday night, they marked the start of Tisha B'Av - the date that commemorates several tragic events in Jewish history - with a day- long fast and the reading of the Book of Lamentations. By Sunday, people weeping for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem - first in 586 B.C. and then again in A.D. 70 - were saying a new wave of destruction was coming.

The movement to stop the disengagement process - intermingled with beliefs that it may be stopped through divine intervention - is now steeped in religious imagery. The coincidence of mourning ancient Jewish losses and the pending Israeli pullout seems to be leading opponents to a state of mind in which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government is the enemy.

The blending of past and present - plus the rush to stock up goods as though a major storm was about to blow through - adds to an atmosphere that some kind of cataclysmic event is at hand.

"Every minute that we delay them, every hour that we slow them down, it's a success that could prevent the plan from being carried out," Rafi Seri, the head of the Gush Katif Action Committee, told a crowd on several thousand people who had gathered here after the Saturday evening prayer service. "We won't leave and we won't make it easy for them."

Mr. Seri announced that the communities of the Gaza Strip would try to prevent the Israeli army from entering the settlements when they arrive Monday morning with eviction orders. Instead, says Seri, the settlers will awake early and lock the gates of their community. They will gather and read from the book of Psalms as the army tries to enter.

In a recent issue of Makor Rishon newspaper, a relatively new and popular daily which is sympathetic to the settlement movement, there was a mock-up photograph. The top half showed the Arch of Titus, which includes a relief that depicts Roman soldiers sacking the Jewish temple in A.D. 70 and then carrying away prisoners and precious artifacts, including the menorah. The bottom half of the photo shows the khaki green pants and brown boots of Israeli soldiers.

"I think it's a perfect picture," says Dror Vanunu, the spokesmen of Neve Dekelim, one of the largest of the 21 Gaza settlements. "It's the same then as now."

Mr. Vanunu and his wife, Keren, have an array of guests around their Shabbat dinner table, as is traditional. With the exception of two reporters, most of the guests entered Gaza illegally: the Israeli army closed it several weeks ago to non-residents. One single young woman got in by posing as a mamer of a married couple who lives here. Another smuggled himself in on a food truck. One young man is a soldier whose unit is posted in northern Israel. Using his uniform and knowledge of which units are assigned to the disengagement plan, he pretended he was from another unit to enter the settlements illegally - and plans to stay.

The dinner conversation includes a question: What will you bring to the misibat hodaya, or party for giving thanks? That is, to God, when the disengagement plan is somehow foiled. …

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