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I'd Rather Be In Machane Yehudah..
The Machaneh Yehuda market
by Judy Lash Balint
August 2, 2005

Visit to view a series of pictures of Nitzan, the the "temporary" housing village where those evicted from their homes may

So here we are again--almost two weeks after the last orange mass gathering to protest the Gaza retreat--and it's time to decide whether to head down south again this afternoon for another round. Despite all the wonderful words written by those
who stuck it out for three days at Kfar Maimon (I made it to the Netivot gathering point on the first day and then headed home...) about the spirit of the people and their determination and expressions of love for the police and IDF, today I'm not convinced that pitting ourselves against the forces who are charged with carrying out the government's loony policy is necessarily the best tactic.

In conversations with some friends, it's clear that some people are eager to get down to a mass demonstration just so they won't feel like they've missed a happening. They want to say they were there--and this is not only young people, by the way.

The YESHA Council that's organizing things seems determined to make life as difficult as possible for demonstrators--and the demonstrators are happy to comply with the most difficult conditions again just to prove that they've got more of a commitment than anyone else. Tonight, the mass gathering starts at Sderot, just a hop skip and a jump from Gush Katif--but what's the plan? Oh, we'll go on an 8 mile march to Ofakim, in the opposite direction to Gush Katif, so that we can spend the night there and then leave the next day (when it's 88 degrees outside) for another 15 mile little trek to the Kissufim entryway into the Gush.

Everyone knows what will happen miles before Kissufim. The security forces will carry out their orders to prevent entry of anyone besides residents into Gush Katif-- and what will we achieve in terms of how we are seen by the rest of Israeli society? What will be the consequences of this rift after the evictions are over? Already, a group of wives of police officers issued a statement last week urging a cessation of the verbal abuse directed against their husbands.

These are the discussions that dominate every conversation between friends these days--I generally seem to be in disagreement with most of my friends, who seem to have their blinders on about how this effort is tearing us apart and who don't want to recognize that we have failed to bring the majority to our side. Still, none of us knows how we'll be able to deal with seeing the PLO flag hoisted on August 17 over the remnants of thriving Jewish communities that we've destroyed all by ourselves.

I'd much rather be writing about the Machane Yehuda market in the center of Jerusalem that's overflowing with the bounty of the land--including the specially packaged bug-free lettuce, celery and herbs grown only in Gush Katif. The fantastically succulent fresh figs that are in season now; the ripe grapes, nectarines, peaches, lychees and sabras that overflow their stalls. The lush mangos that sell for 50 cents a pound; the carrot juice that's squeezed in front of your eyes for $1 per cup and the alluring spices that fall out of their sacks and attack your senses as you walk by. The warm, fresh pita that gets snatched up as soon as it's out of the oven and attracts appreciative whiffs from everyone on the bus going home...

Plenty of shoppers in the market sport orange ribbons around their bags, but more likely than not, they're not headed down to Sderot tonight. When the dust settles and the wounds are licked, they're the people who'll carry us into the next phase of our tumultuous existence in this land of ours.