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      Solidarity Visits to Israel

      The ZOA and AFSI have teamed up for a 10-day trip to Gush Katif and northern Samaria this coming week, and another 100 supporters will fly to Israel the following week.
      First Publish: 5/29/2005, 12:12 AM / Last Update: 5/27/2005, 12:27 PM

      The two solidarity trips are part of the ongoing activities of support for Israel by the Zionist Organization of America and Americans for a Safe Israel.

      The visitors will be bringing toys and other gifts for the children of Gush Katif, to where they will head immediately after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport.

      AFSI Executive-Director Helen Freedman said she will protest to the United States Embassy if Israel tries to prevent the group from visiting the towns, as it tried to do earlier this year on a similar trip. Airport officials told members of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind's visiting group this past March that the Gaza area was a closed military zone. The group called the government's bluff and visited without interference.

      The group will visit Gush Katif homes, schools and farms for two days before continuing their solidarity mission in Samaria. They will visit Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union), who recently moved to Sa-Nur, one of the four communities the government plans to abandon to the Arabs after forcing the Jewish residents out of their homes.

      The two groups and a 100-person mission led by Hikind, which is to leave Sunday, June 5, will celebrate Jerusalem Unification Day on June 6 and will visit the endangered communities. The New York State legislator is bringing 100 Jews and Christians - more than double the number who came on his earlier trip.

      Half of the group is made up of Baptist ministers, including Reverend James Vineyard, one of the most active Christian leaders fighting the Israeli government plan to eradicate 25 Jewish communities.

      Vineyard said he has no intention of trying to convert Jews and has never baptized a Jewish proselyte. "I don't go to Israel to win souls. I go to keep America from going down the tubes," he explained. "If America causes Israel to give away Gush Katif, Israel goes down the tubes, and as goes Israel, so goes America."

      The fundamentalist Okalahoma preacher added, "The Bible says that land [Gaza] belongs to the Jews."

      He also has raised $50,000 to distribute a DVD film explaining to churches and synagogues the dangers and pitfalls of the expulsion/withdrawal plan.