Katif Cemetery Prayers, Residents Without Homes, and Other News

* Well over half of the families that have agreed to leave their homes voluntarily - or more than 2/3 of the total number of families - still do not have keys to their new homes.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 13:56

Voice of Israel Radio reported today several times, "Approximately half the families that agreed to leave Gush Katif have received keys to their new homes." The report detailed the numbers: Out of 1,020 families that have reportedly agreed to leave, some 200 will live in rented apartments, 62 will move to nearby Kibbutzim, and some 200 will live in the new caravilla site of Nitzan.

Left implied but unstated, however, is that the other 55% of the families who have agreed to leave still do not know where they are going - just a few hours before the expulsion orders are to be issued.

Other Gush Katif news:
* Homes in N'vei Dekalim were left without electricity for several hours last night. No explanation was provided, but some residents surmise it may have been related to the intermittent shooting at soldiers along the Kisufim highway last night and/or the incident at Kfar Darom.

* Hundreds of people took part in a prayer ceremony at the Gush Katif cemetery this morning, where 48 people, including several victims of terrorism, are buried. Rabbi Yosef Al-Nekaveh, head of the local burial society, explained, "Our prayer is that these graves be left for G-d to open, with the special 'Revival of the Dead' key that only He possesses. We pray that we need not be forced to see the terrible sights of IDF soldiers opening these graves to take the bodies out. We have tried everything - a human chain, politics, face-to-face meetings, protests, crying and prayers - and we have not succeeded; we now ask that the dead themselves be advocates for themselves and for us in the Heavenly court."

* Residents and visitors in N'vei Dekalim - 4,000 in number, according to eyewitnesses, in a town usually half that size - experienced a tremendously inspiring Sabbath yesterday, according to participants. The visitors sponsored a large Kiddush - small festive repast after the morning prayers - for the residents at the site of the Yemenite synagogue.

* In nearby Gan-Or, as well, many long-time residents and newcomers gathered together for special Sabbath prayers. They also took part in a thanksgiving celebration of a visiting family that survived a Kassam rocket attack without a scratch. The family, which recently moved to Gan-Or from Kiryat Arba, was traveling in its car several days ago when the car suddenly shook; they felt the rocket pass directly overhead and saw it land adjacent to the car.

* As of this evening, the army plans to close all gates between the various communities in the Katif bloc, thus that people of one town will not be able to visit another nor travel between the towns. Most of the towns are separate one from another, but it has been reported that residents have begun to tear down fences separating the adjacent pairs of N'vei Dekalim and Gadid, and Gadid and Gan-Or.

* The outermost Disengagement circle of police has deployed, setting up checkpoints as far as Ashkelon and along roads in the western Negev. The police are trying to prevent protestors from reaching Kisufim for the purpose of interfering with the expulsion. Residents of Be'er Sheva, Sderot and environs have been advised to use longer alternate routes to reach their homes. Traffic disruptions are expected throughout the region in the coming days, and possibly longer.

* The army plans to use large D-9 bulldozers to clear away cars that might block the Kisufim route. Officers at an IDF briefing said that the longer the expulsion process takes, the harder it will become, due to physical exhaustion of the troops. The soldiers say they are exhausted, as well, from their arguments with Gush Katif residents. They say that it would be easier to deal with violence rather than with the psychological warfare waged against them.