Daily Israel Report

Thousands of American Visitors to Flood Gush Katif

A 50-man delegation from New York next week will be the first of a scheduled air convoy of thousands of Americans planning to visit Gush Katif as a show of solidarity with its 8,500 residents.
First Publish: 3/13/2005, 11:31 AM / Last Update: 3/11/2005, 12:35 PM

New York state legislator Dov Hikind will lead next week's three-day mission of rabbis, New York High Court judges, doctors and other professionals.

At the same time, a Norwegian organization called Friends of Gaza in Norway is concluding a two-day campaign to distribute flowers to each and every Jewish family in Gush Katif. Attached to each bouquet is a letter reading, "Having come from Norway which, together with an irresponsible Israeli leadership, brought upon you the catastrophe of the Oslo Accords, we pray that the Israeli Government will not err once again."

One of the organizers of the American campaign said "thousands" plan to flood Gush Katif in the coming months. They are coordinating their trips with groups in Israel.

The Americans will be visiting under the shadow of terror, such as last night's Kassam rocket attack on Ganei Tal. It was the second rocket that Arab terrorists have fired at Gush Katif this week despite the announced cease-fire by the Palestinian Authority. The bomb did not cause damage or injury.

Hikind pointed out that the visitors are not going to spend time on ceremonies and instead will be eating and sleeping in the homes of Gush Katif residents.

The legislator's office issued a statement noting the dangers and difficulties of living in Gaza. "A mother whose most radical agenda to date has been carpools and doing homework with her five children says, 'How can I not try to comfort mothers in Gaza who face an uncertain future? Who face carpool duties in the shadow of terrorists? Who tuck their children into bed with lullabies that are punctuated by the sounds of rocket fire as night falls?'"

Leading a delegation to visit families in Jewish Gaza "doesn't take courage," Hikind explained. "It takes heart. We have to ease their suffering and calm their souls. It would be radical and extreme to allow them to feel isolated."

Several Israeli politicians who support Prime Minister Sharon’s plan to force the Jewish residents out of their homes denounced the Americans' intentions. "We don't need any more crazies, even if they are Congressmen," commented MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz-Yahad).

MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) called the project "chutzpah" and suggested that the Americans come to Israel to live instead of "interfering" in internal Israeli decisions. Disengagement opponent MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud) welcomed the American initiative as a show of solidarity by Diaspora Jews.