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"100,000 Show up in Gush Katif; Tens of Thousands Were Turned Back" ------FOR PICTURES:
Over 100,000 Turn Out for Gush Katif
100,000 Show up in Gush Katif; Tens of Thousands Were Turned Back
Over 100,000 people showed up in Gush Katif today - and several other tens of thousands were turned back by police for lack of room. Large traffic jams - 8 kilometers long (4.5 miles), in some cases - were registered throughout southwestern Israel - but, as the Gush Katif website Katif.net reports, "the people who were stuck in traffic did not honk and did not lose their tempers. Those who came to show solidarity with Gush Katif did so in the belief that this is what must be done at this time, and that it doesn't matter whether they actually made it or not." Most if not all of the visitors marched in the Gush Katif solidarity march from N'vei Dekalim (Palm Splendor) to Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea). Many of those who could not make it into the Gush were redirected to Katif solidarity events in Yad Mordechai, Sderot, and Saad. Twelve busloads from Beit El, three hours away, were unable to get in to Gush Katif; at 3:15 they turned around and spent an hour or two in nearby Eshkol Park.Minister Natan Sharansky (Likud) was able to make it by car - taking four hours for a two-hour trip from Jerusalem - but Minister Effie Eitam had a slightly different experience. The traffic jam proved too much for him, and like many others, he parked his car near Kibbutz Be'eri and walked to the Kisufim Junction entrance into Gush Katif, ten kilometers away. Both said that the event was a clear signal to the Prime Minister that Gush Katif can never be abandoned.One Jerusalem family sent a message to friends in Gush Katif: "We also didn't manage to get in today, but still, it was great to be stuck in the traffic together with all of Am Yisrael [the People of Israel]. Be strong and courageous - and add some more lanes to the highway."IDF Soldiers at Kisufim greeted the arrivals with a flower and an ices. Witnesses said that never in history had the Kisufim parking lot held so many cars.Police and army sources said that they never expected so many visitors to arrive. Some 150,000 people thus sent a message to Likud voters, who are being called on to vote this coming Sunday in a party referendum on Prime Minister Sharonâ€™s unilateral Gaza withdrawal plan. The scores of thousands expressed their total opposition to any plan calling for the uprooting of the Jewish presence in Gaza.Gaza Regional Council officials say that today's mass event was "just the beginning." Residents will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) morning to travel around the country, meeting with eligible voters and seeking to persuade them to oppose the unilateral expulsion plan.Approximately 7,800 Jewish residents live in Gaza. Some of them moved to Gaza over 20 years ago after Sharon, in his capacity as Defense Minister, uprooted them from their homes in Yamit and other Sinai towns over twenty years ago. They now face a second expulsion.
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Pictures: Dror Vanunu, Eran Sterenberg