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What Ordinary Israelis Are Doing to Try to Help
The main square at Neve Dekalim, slated for destruction tomorrow
by Judy Lash Balint
August 16, 2005

I'm posting the journals of two ordinary
Israeli citizens who put their normal lives aside to try to do
whatever they could to avert the evictions that are already underway
at this hour:

FROM ZVI NEWMAN, Ramat Beit Shemesh: E mail:[email protected]. Zvi is
the father of three small children.
Extreme circumstances breed extreme measures - the part of the Negev
which borders the Gaza Strip is a closed military zone - no Jews are
allowed there, as the government wants to keep people from
infiltrating into and near the communities slated for expulsion. This,
then, is now the main goal of the masses of opponents of the plan - at
risk of arrest and police brutality.

Between 150-200 people from my town of Bet Shemesh went down toward
Kisufim (the crossing into the main Jewish poopulation center in the
Gaza Strip) last night - mostly youth, but many adults and quite a few
kids as well. We received destination and driving instructions along
the way from people closely associated with the struggle against this
incomprehensible disengagement plan, and we did our best to get as
close to Kissufim as possible. When the police roadblocks became too
numerous and serious, we wound our way through the back roads of
Ofakim and the fields of Moshav Patish, with encouragement and
navigation advice from the local residents.

There were many hundreds, probably thousands of vehicles doing similar
maneuvers throughout the area. Some of the police turned a blind eye,
some were very serious about doing their jobs (these were the ones
blocking the key intersections and accessways, who probably had to
give a full accounting after their shift), and there were helicopters
illuminating the clandestine convoys with searchlights. The Bet
Shemesh group somehow got split up after midnight, and our section
merged with a group from Jerusalem. Close to 2 AM, we drivers who had
to return to work the next day dropped off our passengers in the
fields not far from Kibbutz Re'im and headed home. We weren't stopped
and briefly arrested by the cops like the other group
was. I got home at 03:10 - just about 8 hours door-to-door.

Morale was high, and I am consistently astounded by the high quality
of our nation's religious Zionist youth - I had the privilege of
driving 4 local teenagers down there, and I can't imagine a better
generation for future leadership of our country in all spheres. But
that's a big part of what this disengagement exercise is about, isn't it?

Two big disappointments: hearing that Ganim and Kadim (2 of the 4
settlements slated for evacuation in Samaria, right next to Jenin)
are now competely empty, their residents having chosen to leave
voluntarily (I'm not criticizing them for this, I'm referring to the
general fact that 2 communities are as close to lost as can be), and
seeing firsthand a bit of the massive waste of our tax money on the
disengagement - let's not forget that there are plenty of Jews living
in poverty, but Sharon and co. prefer to let them rot while they
gleefully make the heartland Judenrein.

In any case, here's a piece of info from one of our extraordinary
guides - he said that as many as 40-60% of the expulsion's "inner
circle" Border Guards and soldiers are planning to refuse to take part
in the evacuation by force, which is set to begin as I edit these words.
FROM: KENNY LERNER, JERUSALEM: E-mail: [email protected].
Kenny is a retired social worker from the Bronx, NY. Kenny and his
wife Sandy were members of Rabbi Avi Weiss's shul. Rabbi Weiss is
presently in the Gush Katif community of Netzer Hazani.
It is now Tues. morning August 16, the 11th of Av,just a few days
after Tisha B'Av. I have just come home and have not slept for 29
hours. Although I do feel sleep deprived, I also feel grateful to the
Kadosh Borachu that I am home safely.I also want to share with you,
dear friends this personal saga as we face the last 48 hours before
the scheduled uprooting of our brothers and sisters who live in Gush
Katif. May it not happen.

Last week, a neighbor knocked on our door to
tell us that the manager of a bakery in our community of Shaare
Chessed, is organizing a group to travel by bus to the Kissufim
Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Monday at 5 :00 PM in order to protest
against the "Expulsion". My wife Sandy and I both thought this was a
great idea and felt very positive that in our community someone was
organizing this action. We called friends and gave them the name of
the contact person.Her name is Maytav. When we arrived at the meeting
place on Diskin Street in front of the Wolfson buildings at 5:00 PM
we were very happy to see so many friends and neighbors who showed up
to travel by bus as an expression of love and solidarity with the
families of Gush Katif.
Our bus was late. It finally
pulled up to Diskin Street at about 7:00 PM. The driver said he was
delayed in traffic. We boarded the bus and began our journey South.We
wanted to travel as close as we could to the Kissufim crossing to
Gush Katif.Maytav advised us to remove all orange ribbons and anything
orange in order to be inconspicuous. We knew that there would be road
blocks and so we thought of a "cover story" to tell the Police and
Army when we were stopped.. We finally came up with the idea that we
were American tourists who were traveling at night to Netivot to the
Kever of the Baba Sali. If stopped we would say we had arranged this
tour months ago and it was very important that we pray at this site.
One of our group members also had an American Passport to show if we
were stopped.Herb Sunshine commented bitterly, that it was an outrage
that we have to lie and be deceitful in order to travel freely in our
democratic country. When we arrived at the first road block, we were
amazed that the Police let us go through, although they turned around
other buses and cars. At the second checkpoint we also we allowed to
pass.The police boarded our bus, looked around and let us go through.
We made a pit stop at Yad Mordechi and we all felt thankful that we
were able to get this far without incident.

We were finally stopped at the
third checkpoint near Kibbutz Saad. We tried to convince that police
officer and also the Army officer to let us proceed to the Kibbutz to
visit friends. The Army officer said that it was impossible to let a
bus with 50 people travel this close to Gush Katif.We had to turn
around and go to Netivot.Some of us visited the Kever of the Baba Sali
and I dovened ma'ariv. I also met several groups of people who had
cars and were organizing a caravan of cars to take back roads to try
to get to Gush Katif. Our bus driver said that he would again drive
toward Kibbutz Saad. He would then stop the bus, and let out those who
wanted to walk in the fields to Gush Katif. He would then turn the
bus around and drive the others back to Jerusalem . Sandy told me
that the bus returned to Jerusalem about 1 AM.

Dear friends, I want to thank you for your good wishes
and prayers as I got off the bus neat Kibbutz Saad and literally
walked into the uncertainty of the night. As I walked to the rear door
of the bus to depart, I felt that I was a parachutist prepared to jump
out of the plane on an important mission.We were a group of about
10,and I was the oldest.Everyone else in the group was fluent in
Hebrew. Our plan was to walk into the open field along the road and
under the cover of night to try to go around the checkpoint and then
cross the road and get to our first stop, Kibbutz Saad. We walked in
plowed fields. We could see the headlights of cars as they reached the
checkpoint. Cars and trucks were traveling in both directions. We
whispered to each other when to take cover and when we thought it was
safe to proceed on foot. I even changed my shirt from a light color to
a darker color to be more concealed. As we proceeded ,I kept
thinking, "who am I hiding from?"Why am I hiking with my knapsack on
my back, like a thief in the night.?"The disturbing answer that kept
reverberating in my head was, I am walking in the land of Israel at
night, and trying to hide from our own Army!! Am I a criminal or a
terrorist? What is going on?

Well it didn't take long for an answer.
Suddenly, two soldiers appeared from the shadows. I was caught,and so
was our whole group.It was almost like a game of hide and seek,only
they were Israeli soldiers who were now arresting us. Truth be told, I
tried to run away, but one of the soldiers grabbed my knapsack and I
had to surrender.!! They took us back to a waiting bus, at a place
called Mefallsim.Once on the bus, it was like a school reunion.We
greeted each other in friendship. I recognized many others who I had
meet in Netivot.They had attempted to "infiltrate" by car and other
means. The soldiers were very nice. They even distributed bottles of
water to us and there were Portosan bathroom facilities available in
the area.As we traveled on the bus the big question was, where are
they taking us? The road signs pointed to Gush Katif. We expected to
be taken to Beersheva or Ashkelon,maybe jail for the night or just
released. It was a big surprise that the Army Egged bus brought us to
Kissufim! What an irony, we were trying to reach Kissufim by walking
all night and now we indeed reached our destination under military
supervision. The only difference was, that instead of being part of
a protest-demonstration, we were under arrest and taken to a Detention
Center. At this Detention Center there were other groups of mainly
young people who were caught, and arrested along the way to Gush Katif.

Our leader, Maytav, called
the Legal Action Team for instructions.She was advised not to give any
information to the Police. The Police were taking pictures of the
detainees and there was an caravan office for "interviews " to request
for personal data.Maytav and about 45 other "refusenicks" were
boarded on buses and told they were being taken to the prison in
Beersheva. I did tell Maytav that I was prepared to give my name and
teudat zechut number. I really did not believe that I had done
anything wrong,I did feel bad that I was caught and in detention ,but
also felt good that I had tried to resist in this stain on Jewish
History called "Disengagement".

This situation can be described as
"Hafuch" or Upside down.The Sharon government has deployed more than
30,000 troops to Gush Katif to uproot it's own citizens and give the
Land of Israel to the Arab terrorist enemy.The Army is being used to
seal off these Jewish communities and prevent Jews from trying to stop
the expulsion of our brothers and sisters from their homes. This
policy rewards terrorism and further endangers the security of Israel
.The terrorists are being released and our own people are being
arrested and put in jail .We are not free to travel on the roads of
our own Country, and we are being stopped at road blocks and turned
around.I pray for a return of sanity and the cancellation of this
unjust policy.

I thank G-d that I was not
photographed or "interviewed". Somehow, I met a friendly Police
Officer who spoke English.He said that he wanted to help me. He let me
board a Police bus that was taking detainees to the prison in
Beersheva . He told the bus diver to let me off at the Central Bus
Station. It was truly a miracle that I was the only one to be allowed to
be released that night.

I got to the bus station at 6:00 AM without
sleeping all night.. As much as I am personally thankful that I was
released,I am also praying for Maytav and the others to be released
today.They showed true courage by refusing to cooperate with this
Police process. We can be proud that there are idealistic young
people who are willing to sacrifice so much for Am Yisrael and Eretz

I don't know where we go from here.We pray, we demonstrate, we march
and we must continue to do these things.G-d, in His Infinite wisdom
has a Plan. We can only do our part. We must increase our performance
of Mitzvot, acts of Chessed, Tzedakah and Emunah.I can say that I am
very uplifted by so many friends and neighbors who came together as a
community, and chose to get on the bus and not just sit at home.

May G-d bless all of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

Kenny Lerner, Jerusalem: E-mail: [email protected]