Kissufim Crossing, GAZA – Residents of Jewish Gaza reacted to their first day of living in a declared military zone with prayer vigils and dance sessions, while preparations continue for a massive march here next week.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday ordered the Gaza Strip and towns in the northern West Bank completely closed, declaring the areas military zones in an effort to thwart plans by protesters to flock here. The order permanently bans all non-residents from entering the Jewish communities slated for evacuation Aug. 17.

In response to the closure, residents here today held a large prayer vigil at the Kissufim Crossing, the checkpoint that leads into their communities. Hundreds gathered to recite Psalms and read a special prayer composed for Gush Katif, the group of Gaza’s Jewish neighborhoods.

Prayer vigil at Jewish Gaza entrance. Photo: WND.

Leaders told hundreds of area residents to “remain strong and don’t give up faith.”

One community leader, addressing the crowd with a loudspeaker, instructed residents to withhold their government-issued cards confirming they live Katif when entering and leaving Gaza.

“This is our country. We should be able to come and go as we please. Let us not have our dignity taken away by Jews having to use ID to travel within a Jewish country and to return to our homes,” the leader said.

In an act of protest last night, dozens of Katif residents without ID badges passed through the Gaza checkpoint on foot and immediately turned around, but were stopped by officers for lack of identification. The protesters were held at the checkpoint for five hours until community rabbis negotiated their passage.

Kids at dance session in Gush Katif. Photo: WND.

A large prayer rally was also held today at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. More than 10,000 people were reportedly in attendance and recited prayers asking for mercy for those facing the evacuation. Former Israeli chief Rabbis Mordechai Eliyahu and Avraham Shapira led the services, which were reportedly attended by several Knesset members and public officials.

Also this afternoon, dance sessions for children were held in several Katif neighborhoods. Kids danced to Jewish music and played games in several community centers in an effort to lighten the atmosphere.

Mayaan Yadai, organizer of the sessions, told WND: “We’re just trying to keep the spirits up for the kids, to show them everything is all right. It’s a scary thing for these kids to know they are blockaded in their communities.”

Meanwhile, preparations continue for a massive protest march to Gush Katif that is scheduled to kick off Monday. The Yesha Settlers Council said it will lead the march to bring tens of thousands to “aid our brave brothers” in Gaza and “halt the disengagement plan.”

According to the Yesha Council, “A huge operation will be launched [Monday], aimed at delaying the [evacuation] plan by transferring many people to Gush Katif. Starting in the morning, convoys will depart from all cities and all towns across the country. After convening in the afternoon, the people will set out in convoys to the Gush. Wherever police officers decide to stop the vehicles, we will start walking.

“The aim is to reach the Gush Katif settlements within two or three days and populate the settlements with hundreds of additional families. Reaching the Gush and the rate of progress depend on the responses of the authorities. Even if military and police forces try to prevent the advance of the protesters, they will continue to advance on foot until they join our besieged brothers in the Gush,” the council said in a statement.

Editor’s note: “ISRAEL BETRAYED?” – the July issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – is devoted entirely to an in-depth exploration of the controversial forced removal of thousands of Jewish residents from Gaza planned for August, and the likely creation of a Hamas-run terror state many believe will follow. Read more about “ISRAEL BETRAYED?”

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Massive march to flood Jewish Gaza

Israel might close Gaza within 7 days

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Protesters to flood Gaza if closure not rescinded

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