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Tension and High Spirits in Kfar Maimon

Tens of thousands of anti-disengagement protestors are under police siege in the small moshav Kfar Maimon. The police refuse to allow them to proceed towards the Kisufim Junction outside Gush Katif.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/19/2005, 4:53 PM / Last Update: 7/19/2005, 7:44 PM


Despite 24 hours of uncertainty and tension, the protestors are in high spirits, with circles of singing and dancing breaking out intermittently. The thousands of people of all ages, including entire families, spent the day gathering strength for the expected continuation of their march towards the southwest and Gush Katif. Prominent among the activities were looking for shade, studying Torah in small groups, and sharing experiences and analyses of the situation.

An estimated 40,000 people gathered last night (Monday) at the gravesite of the Baba Sali in Netivot for the beginning of the three-day protest event. Many thousands more were prevented from arriving when the police confiscated the licenses of bus drivers who were hired to bring them from cities all over the country.

Additional friction with the police was caused yesterday when after the police declared the gathering in Netivot illegal, after originally announcing that it was permitted. Ambiguous statements were also issued regarding the legality of the intention to march from Netivot to Kfar Maimon, seven kilometers (four miles) away. In the end, the demonstrators gathered in Netivot, marched to Kfar Maimon, and spent the night in a large field across from the moshav.

This morning (Tuesday), the tens of thousands of protestors awoke to find that they were enclosed by police and soldiers. They were told to hurry and rush into the moshav of Kfar Maimon, lest the soldiers and police forcibly remove them from the area.

Throughout today (Tuesday), police and Yesha Council representatives met on and off, with both sides exiting to issue conflicting statements. The police said they would not allow the marchers to continue on to their next stop - the Reim Junction - while the protest-leaders said they would in fact continue on, though without raising a hand against policemen or soldiers.

A Yesha Council official addressed the crowd this evening, and said, "We will not announce our specific plans. It could be an hour from now, or two hours, or 18, or 24 - but we will get to Kisufim. The main thing is that this tremendous crowd of people is here, showing such great self-sacrifice... Without violence, we will get there."

At approximately 4 PM, a large force of police suddenly began a scuffle, forcibly closing off Kfar Maimon. Sixteen people were reported arrested.

The police then asked the demonstrators to disperse, saying that they had placed buses at their disposal to leave towards Netivot. A police spokesperson told Arutz-7 that the police are not allowing demonstrators to leave towards the west, and have closed the gates to newcomers. She said that a "steady stream of people are leaving."

People at the site have a different story, however. "If anything, it looks like there are more people here now than there were last night," said Menachem G. of Jerusalem. "I'm right now [Tuesday evening] on my way out of Kfar Maimon, with two of my children, to join my wife, who came from Jerusalem this afternoon. Her bus was stopped outside Netivot, but now she told me that they're on the way... As I speak to you, lots and lots of people are on their way in; it looks like the police are stopping cars, but not people... We'll walk along the road to Netivot and hopefully meet up with each other, and then I'll try to drive back in."

Q. "How will you get in, if they're not letting cars through?"
A. "Either I'll go as far as I can, or I'll go through the fields, like several people have done."

Menachem said that the police are armed with pistols, and are carrying handcuffs. He said he sees no signs of police-supplied buses headed for Netivot, nor of anyone alighting the many empty buses parked outside the Kfar Maimon gates.