Something Strange in the Air

Strange things in the air over the Holy Land. Not too much time to write these days. It's enough to try to keep up and take part in what feels like some momentous ground-shifting in this country.

Judy Lash Balint

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Arutz 7
Strange things in the air over the Holy Land. Not too much time to write these days. It's enough to try to keep up and take part in what feels like some momentous ground-shifting in this country.

Last night's prayer gathering at the Kotel (Western Wall) was one of the most incredible events this city has seen in some time. Best estimates are that several hundred thousand people tried to get to the Kotel to pray together to stop the Gaza withdrawal. Streets leading to the Old City were choked with people, every rooftop and alleyway in the Old City was jammed as an assortment of rabbis from various Orthodox streams led the emotion-filled prayers.

Tonight, the opposition moved to the secular capital of Israel -- a rally in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv that was expected to bring another hundred thousand out to the streets.

I spent a few days in Gush Katif, courtesy of my press pass. No one else besides residents is being allowed in through the ring of four checkpoints that start miles away from the area. Each community there has its own personality and its own reaction to the impending prospect of the dismantling of their lives.

Kfar Darom goes on as if nothing is happening. The lettuce packing plant is a hive of activity, with high school kids having replaced most of the Thai and Nepalese workers, who seem to have left. People here are of the "it's not going to happen" variety.

N'vei Dekalim, the largest community in Gush Katif, is normally a very quiet place, but now hundreds of teenagers in orange mill about in the main square, mingling with dozens of journalists from all over the world. There's a kind of electricity in the air, as everyone waits to see what will happen next. In N'vei Dekalim, I spotted two soldiers in uniform sporting orange ribbons hanging from their backpacks.

Netzer Hazani's hothouse farmers are a more practical lot and they're very worried about "the day after." None of them know where their businesses will be relocated, or how they will feed their families during the period it will take to restart in a different location if they miss a season.

Down on the beach, at Shirat Hayam, an entire tent city has sprung up alongside improvised shelters that look exactly like sukkot with roofs. Hundreds of young people are living commune-style in the little community that was established in 2001 in reaction to the Kfar Darom bus attack, which took the lives of two teachers and caused the amputation of the limbs of the Cohen children.

At Kfar Hayam, a few yards down the beach, Women In Green leader Nadia Matar has become house-mother to a gaggle of teenagers, besides her own six kids. They're all living in mobile homes and makeshift tents overlooking the gorgeous, unspoiled beach. Matar is convinced the retreat can still be stopped if enough opposition is mounted and she spends her days organizing her troops for the fateful day.

Last Monday, it rained in Jerusalem -- not just a few drops, it actually rained for about ten minutes in the morning. In my neighborhood, people ran out into the street to gawk. No one could recall the last time it rained in Jerusalem in August.

Like I said, strange things in the air these days....




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