Faceoff in Gaza

Israeli army officers look on as Ronny Eluz reads an eviction order to leave his house within 24 hours in the northern Gaza settlement of Elei Sinai on Aug. 15. (Brian Hendler)

Israeli army officers look on as Ronny Eluz reads an eviction order to leave his house within 24 hours in the northern Gaza settlement of Elei Sinai on Aug. 15. (Brian Hendler)

NEVEH DEKALIM, Gaza Strip, Aug. 15 (JTA) — The flatbed moving truck ground to a halt as an angry crowd blocked the road. In front of the truck, activists opposed to the Gaza withdrawal refused to budge — an act of protest against the decision by many residents of the Neveh Dekalim settlement to move out their belongings Monday, when the Israeli government officially began its historic and controversial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In the sweltering heat, residents faced off with anti-withdrawal activists who entered the Gaza Strip illegally in a bid to quash the pullout. “You’ve been here one month; I’ve been here 20 years,” a young man from Neveh Dekalim shouted at an older, bearded man from outside Gaza who was barring the truck from passing. Those blocking the roads said they were saving the Jewish people. The residents shot back that they were trying to save their belongings. The scene was repeated throughout the day Monday in Neveh Dekalim, the largest of Gaza’s 21 Jewish settlements. “That they’re not letting the trucks through is chutzpah,” Tsvia Ohana said as she waited for a moving truck, surrounded by boxes at her home of 20 years. Tensions flared throughout the day in Neveh Dekalim, beginning early in the morning when the first police arrived outside settlement gates with the intention of delivering letters to residents — officially notifying them that they would have to leave by Wednesday. Hundreds of settlers and anti-withdrawal activists swarmed the settlement’s gates, chanting the slogans of their struggle: “A Jew does not expel a Jew” and “Soldier, Policeman: Refuse orders!” A few police ultimately entered through a different gate and attempted to verbally inform residents that they had to evacuate. They soon were surrounded by angry settlers and activists, who tried to convince them that their mission was immoral and should be abandoned. Confronting one policeman was David Hoffman, 58, who moved to Neveh Dekalim 12 years ago when he made aliyah from Phoenix. “You’re being used, son, and it’s not worth your life to do this,” Hoffman told the policeman. “You’re being used by a criminal,” he added, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. As an act of protest, Hoffman said, he and his wife were refusing to pack their belongings. “We’re prepared to lose everything, because someone has to stand up for the truth,” he said.

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