NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza – A group of over 100 Americans, led by a New York state lawmaker, finished day two yesterday of a three-day mission to show solidarity with Gaza’s Jewish residents and to protest Israel’s planned withdrawal this summer from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
The mission, which includes eight Baptist ministers and Christian New York state Sen. John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, arrived here from New York Monday to live and work with residents of Gush Katif, the largest block of Jewish communities slated for evacuation.
“It’s an amazing experience bringing people of all faiths to Gush Katif, and standing with the residents here who have done nothing wrong and are being forced from their homes,” the group leader, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, told WND.
In March, Hikind led a mission of 40 Americans on a similar tour and vowed to bring hundreds more throughout the summer.
The group visited Netzarim, the most isolated Gaza settlement located less than 3 miles from Gaza City. They toured elementary schools with mortar-proof window shutters and stopped by a large synagogue hit in December by rockets during morning prayer services. No one was killed in that attack.
Following a Qassam rocket attack that killed two in a nearby Jewish Gaza community, the group dined at a synagogue in Neve Dakalim, a central Gaza neighborhood, where they were serenaded by the mission’s Christian ministers.
“The Torah says Israel is for the Jews,” was the chorus of a song led by Pastor Jim Vineyard from Oklahoma City.
Rabbi, pastors serenading mission diners. Photo: WND.
“We must stand here together and fight,” said Vineyard. “The road map plan [calling for an ultimate two-state solution] violates the Torah. … I am a Christian. I normally don’t curse. But all Jews in Israel should tell Bush and his road map to go to hell. If one of those Qassams we saw today fell in Crawford, Texas, there would be hell to pay.”
The mission prayed at Gush Katif’s Jewish cemetery. The Israeli government has been debating how best to uproot the graveyard during the Gaza evacuation. ZAKA, an organization that ensures proper Jewish burial and collection of human tissues after terror attacks, recently turned down an offer to aide in the cemetery transfer, calling the evacuation immoral.
Group praying at Gaza Jewish cemetery slated for evacuation. Photo: WND.
Later, the group toured several of Katif’s renowned greenhouses, in spite of the earlier rocket attack that hit a nearby greenhouse. The houses feature some of the most advanced agricultural technology in the world, including high-tech temperature regulation and insect-free produce.
Gaza settlements are teeming with large fruit and vegetable plants that supply Israel with nearly 70 percent of certain kinds of produce. The Israeli government has been conducting negotiations about handing over the Gaza greenhouses to the Palestinians as part of the disengagement plan.
“It’s wrong to tell these farmers they have to be uprooted from their lives’ work,” Sampson told WND.
Sampson compared the Gaza evacuation to previous human-rights violations against America’s black community: “This in certain ways is like slavery. Like Darfur. It’s the same general concept. Completely violating these Gaza residents civil rights and kicking them out of their homes. … I will spread the word in America when I return.”
For most Americans on the mission, this week’s tour is their first trip to Gaza.
“It blows your mind,” Rabbi Ari Griever, a Philadelphia resident, told WND. “Gush Katif is nothing like the media tell you. This isn’t Jews living in Arab lands. It’s one of the most beautiful Jewish communities in the world, totally away from the Arab population. The residents here just want to live in peace.”
David Bronfman, a Canadian whose famous philanthropist family has expressed support for the disengagement, told WND the trip has opened his eyes.
“It’s morally reprehensible,” he said. “How can a Jewish government create a Jew-free land and kick out Jews? It’s also a victory for terror. Hamas will take over Gaza.”
Bronfman pledged $100,000 in support for the residents of Katif. His family, according Forbes Magazine, is worth an estimated $7 billion. Edgar Bronfman, considered the family patriarch, is president of the World Jewish Congress, which supports the Gaza evacuation.
Hikind says this week’s mission is “part of a larger protest. We will bring another group of Americans. Next time more than 500. A whole plane-full. Christians. Jews. Whoever wants to come. Americans need to do something about this grave injustice taking place in Gush Katif.”