He Ru Follow us: Make a7 your Homepage
      Free Daily Israel Report

      Arutz 7 Most Read Stories

      Blogs


      Quarter-Million Demonstrate Against Expulsion in Tel Aviv

      Tel Aviv became the epicenter of the anti-disengagement movement Thursday night, with activists operating around the city all day long, leading up to a mass rally in the main Rabin Square.
      By Hillel Fendel and Ezra HaLevi
      First Publish: 8/12/2005, 1:02 PM / Last Update: 8/11/2005, 5:06 PM

      As evening fell, the giant Rabin Square was completely filled, after 300,000 Jews - according to organizers' estimates - poured into the main plaza from all directions. Side streets, as well, were packed with protesters in every direction.

      "Monday, everyone will be heading south - on foot, by car, by any way possible. We will block the roads into Gush Katif with our bodies," Yesha Council logistical director Tzviki Bar-Chai told the crowd. Large maps flashed onto giant screens showed the routes to be taken in order to try to reach Gush Katif.

      "Just like we came to Kfar Maimon, to Sderot and to Ofakim," Bar-Chai said, "all of us, every one of us, will be there on Monday, saying we will not move from here. Beatings from Yassamnikim (riot police), the horses of the police and the water cannons of the IDF will not stop us. We will be there! ... Come to Kisufim and lie down on the road and don't leave. Our common objective is to arrive at Gush Katif, and to interfere with and impede the expulsion until there is either a referendum or new elections."

      "We won't be stopped at police checkpoint nor at military checkpoints," Bar-Chai said. "It's not their job; Sharon sent them to fight with us instead of with the enemy. We will detour them from right and left, and just like we reached Kfar Maimon against the Prime Minister's decision, we will do the same again. We won't fight back; we'll be hit and arrested, but we won't lift a hand, until the Prime Minister calls new elections. If the nation decides in favor of dismantling Gush Katif, we'll cry and protest, but we'll accept the people's verdict."

      Bar-Chai added that this is a fight not only for Gush Katif and northern Shomron, but "for the character of the State of Israel."

      Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky, rabbi of Gush Katif, told those gathered, "Though everything appears to be finalized, nothing is actually sealed! In one moment, with the help of Heaven, things can turn for the good - that is the story of the Jewish people throughout history..." He also called upon the public to come en-masse to the country's southern region next week.

      A video was shown of many of Gush Katif's victims of terror, including children who lost limbs in Arab attacks. The victims demanded to know how Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could send soldiers and police to perform the crime of throwing them out of their homes.

      The theme of the rally was, "Gush Katif - I Swear." Some 2,000 policemen were on hand to safeguard the event in Rabin Square.

      Details of next week's efforts to reach Gush Katif were not publicized, though many speakers called upon the public to take part. Three simultaneous marches are expected to be held, beginning Monday afternoon. One march will begin in Ashkelon, heading for northern Gaza. A second one will begin in Netivot or Sderot and will head towards the Karni Crossing entrance to Netzarim. The third one will head out from Ofakim towards the Kisufim Crossing, which is the main entrance to Gush Katif.

      The organizers say that the marches are not limited in time, and will end only after they reach their destinations. It is assumed that, as on the two previous occasions when similar marches were initiated, the police will send out thousands of forces to prevent the marchers from reaching their destinations. The organizers hope that this will greatly impede, and possibly thwart, the expulsion plans.

      Three weeks ago, in Kfar Maimon, 17,000 police and soldiers were deployed to stop the tens of thousands of protestor/marchers who set off in the direction of Kisufim. A similar scenario played out last week in Ofakim.

      The number of police and soldiers are limited, organizers say, and therefore "Sharon can either expel Jews from their homes, or ensure that tens of thousands of people not enter Gush Katif - but not both."

      A notice posted on bulletin boards in Gush Katif today encourages local residents to play their part in these protest activities as well. "We can inspire those on the outside to realize that they simply cannot sit at home and do nothing," the announcement - signed by the Bayit Leumi (National Home) organization - states, "by making our own efforts to hamper the security forces."

      Specifically, the announcement states, "The army has given us a gift, in saying that as of Sunday at midnight, they will prevent us from traveling from one community to another within Gush Katif. This means that thousands of forces will be assigned with the task of guarding the gates and fences. The first soldier we encounter on our way out - he is the front. With wire cutters or with whatever means - except for violence against the soldiers and police - we must break through the fences and prevent the siege."

      Earlier Thursday, orange ribbons lined Tel Aviv's yuppyish Shenkin Street as anti-expulsion activists painted the town orange - the color of the anti-retreat movement.

      Groups of teenage activists could be heard marching down the main thoroughfares singing "Everybody knows that Tel Aviv is orange" to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." In addition, a tent city was erected in the park opposite the Tel Aviv's main train station. A command center was erected there from where young activists embarked on "orange" operations such as handing out orange ribbons and anti-expulsion material.

      Among the other speakers were Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, Ramat Gan Yeshiva Dean Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Col. (res.) Yehoar Gal, Col. (res.) Moshe Leshem, and others.

      Thousands of Gush Katif residents - some of them who have lived there for only days - lined the main road linking most of the Katif communities yesterday afternoon. Holding and wearing orange ribbons, and adorned with orange hats and shirts, they lined kilometers of road in commemoration of last year's orange chain leading from Gaza to Jerusalem.

      If you don't see video below, click here and scroll to bottom