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American Jews Arrive in Israel to Prevent Expulsion

reprinted from Arutz Sheva
09:00 August 8, '05 / 3 Av 5765

by Ezra HaLevi

A group of American Jews arrived in Israel early Monday, leaving their jobs and families to join the front lines of the struggle against the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria.

The group arrived in Israel at 3 AM Monday, traveled directly from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem, where some immersed in a mikvah (ritual bath) before ascending the Jewish Temple Mount.

From there, the group headed to Sa-Nur, one of the four northern Samarian towns threatened with destruction under the government's Disengagement Plan.

"We are here representing the majority of Americans who are incensed that we are giving a prize to terrorism," the group's organizer Leib Schaeffer told Arutz-7. "The average Joe on the street cannot understand why we are fighting a war against Arab terrorism in Iraq, but having the Jews give a prize to terrorism in Israel. We are also here to show American opposition to Jewish expulsion.

Schaeffer, who is from Worcester, Massachusetts, says that though the group is not numerically large, it is representative of the entire religious spectrum of American Jewry. "We have Haredi-religious Jews, Hassidic Jews, Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Young Israel (Modern Orthodox) Jews and even Gentiles," Schaeffer said.

"The time for protesting at the consulates and writing letters to the editor is over," Schaeffer said. "It is time to put our bodies on the front line and exhibit self-sacrifice. We call on all our brothers and sisters outside the Land of Israel to come here - whether they have to put it on four credit cards, whether they have to tell their boss that their family members are in physical danger - they have to come to Israel to put the fire out."

The group's participants, armed with camping equipment and rucksacks, are not the typical anti-Disengagement protesters - planning on crawling through fields to get past the blockade placed around Gaza.

Masha Gansburg, a 50-year-old mothers from New York, left her young children and husband to join the Jews of Gush Katif. " I am here to tell Mr. Sharon, in the name of all the Jews of America, that this is wrong - that he must stop this right now."

39-year-old Nava Klein left her family and job to reach the blockaded communities, one way or another. "I am here for the sake of heaven," she said. "The only disengagement that will happen in Israel is the disengagement from the evil inclination."

The group plans on heading toward the Kisufim Crossing Monday evening and entering Gush Katif, "one way or another," said Shaeffer.

American Anti-Expulsion Protesters Reach Gaza Despite Blockade

reprinted from Arutz Sheva
09:00 August 10, '05 / 5 Av 5765

by Ezra HaLevi

A group of Americans who arrived in Israel Monday to oppose the Disengagement Plan has now succeeded in entering Gush Katif, despite the blockade on Gaza. The group, made up of mostly middle-aged professionals, went directly to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem upon landing in Israel. From there, they traveled to the communities of northern Samaria slated for destruction in the coming weeks.

The members of the group set aside jobs and family commitments to come to Israel for an undefined amount of time to oppose the expulsion. They were not sure what to expect, and whether they would succeed in gaining entry to Gaza and northern Samaria, which have been declared closed military zones.

They have thus far met with success beyond their highest hopes.

"We entered northern Samaria without any problems," said organizer Leib Schaeffer. "We saw the hills and trails leading to the threatened communities and heard about the plans of those living there to make sure the Disengagement does not happen. We entered Sa-Nur, as well, with no problem."

"People came out of their tents to welcome us. We just talked to people, trying to strengthen and encourage them by letting them know that there are millions in the United States who are looking to them to fight the battle against surrender to terrorism, and rooting for them."

The group then headed toward the Kisufim Crossing, the highly guarded entrance to Gush Katif. "We wanted to be in the place where the first domino would fall," Schaeffer explained.

Though an estimated 5,000 anti-expulsion activists have succeeded in entering Gush Katif in recent months, security forces have significantly tightened the seal around the Kisufim Crossing in the past weeks.

The group was told at each of the series of western Negev checkpoints leading toward Gush Katif that the area was closed to visitors. "Each time, we explained that we are a group from America and that Gush Katif is on our itinerary of holy sites we plan on visiting," Schaeffer said. "If they refused, we asked to speak to their superior officer. Each time, we were eventually let through."

Kisufim Crossing was a different story, though. They were blocked entry repeatedly as they attempted for hours to convince the soldiers there to allow them through.

"Two of our people just got off the bus and walked through," Schaeffer said, "nobody stopped them. We decided to be patient, though, and refrain from making a scene - to continue to request entry."

One of the officers at the crossing told Schaeffer, "Come back tomorrow, sign your names on the list of visitors, and I will take responsibility for your entry. "We left," said Schaeffer, "sure that they were just trying to give us the runaround, stayed at a nearby Kibbutz and came back Wednesday morning.

The officer stood by his word. "He looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and said, ‘Whoever you go in with - you come out with - all together.' What he did not say, however, was how long we could stay."

As the jubilant Americans prepared to enter the region that is supposed to be emptied of Jews in six days from now, one of the soldiers at the crossing pulled Schaeffer aside, telling him: "You should know that the army is with you. We don't want to do this, and we want you to relay a message to the residents of Gush Katif to stay strong," he said. "We of the IDF are the last people who want this Disengagement to happen," he added.

The group, sporting yellow T-shirts reading "Americans oppose Jewish expulsion" in Hebrew and English, is now settling in at N'vei Dekalim, the largest town in Gush Katif.

One of the group members, 32-year-old Julie Dicks of Kansas City, is in Israel for the first time in her life. "My husband and I both love Israel and I had been reading about the situation on Arutz-7," Dicks said. "I talked to my husband about coming here and at first he didn't really get it. I prayed about it, we talked some more and he started getting a heart for it too. Now we're here."

She attributed the fact that the group made it past the blockade so easily to open miracles - something she is confident will continue to be performed on behalf of the Jews threatened with expulsion. "If you don't believe in miracles you should have been with us yesterday," she said. "It would make a believer out of you. It is unprecedented that we got in - it's just not happening and did not look at all like it was going to happen for us."

Dicks, a non-Jew, is 100 percent confident that the Jews of Gush Katif will not be made to leave their homes. "I don't think G-d would work all these miracles for them and then just let it all go. I have more faith than that," she said. "I don't want to be like the Israelites that believed the other spies [who delivered a demoralizing report to the Jewish people regarding their ability to conquer the Land of Israel following the exodus from Egypt]. I want to believe in the word of HaShem (G-d)."

Dr. Paul Fein, 58, from Brooklyn, New York, is not sure what will happen, but is certain that it is his responsibility as a Jew to be in Gush Katif during this period. Dr. Fein, a nephrologist, is also the father of seven, but put everything aside to make the trip. "It was difficult to come, but I was able to make arrangements," he said. "I didn't think they would actually let us into Gush Katif, but I figured we had to at least make an attempt. Now I just want to do everything I can to offer my support to the people here."



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