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Gaza Settlers Focus on Celebration

Jewish residents say they won't let their looming relocation diminish their Passover fete.

April 24, 2005|From Associated Press

NETZER HAZANI, Gaza Strip — Under heavy military guard, families in this Jewish settlement gathered Saturday for their Passover seder, the last time they and thousands of other settlers are likely to celebrate the holiday in the Gaza Strip.

Some said they tried not to think about the Israeli government's plan to remove them from their homes this summer, focusing instead on the holiday that commemorates the delivery of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Most Gaza settlers say they will put up at least passive resistance to the planned withdrawal, although some settler leaders have begun negotiating compensation deals with the government.

Anita Tucker, 59, a vegetable farmer in Netzer Hazani, part of the Gush Katif block of settlements, said she had been going on with her life as if no pullout were planned.

"It's our way of dealing with it," Tucker said as she prepared a seder for her five children and their families. Tucker immigrated to Israel from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1967 and settled in Netzer Hazani in southern Gaza almost a decade later.

At nightfall Saturday, Israeli army vehicles patrolled the settlement of 500 people. The sound of singing drifted into the streets from homes where families gathered around the Passover table.

During the holiday, Jews refrain from eating bread products and instead have meals with matzo, an unleavened cracker, to symbolize how the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise as they fled.

Gaza settlers hope that thousands of Israelis will visit them during the weeklong holiday, traditionally a time of outings. Concerts, picnics and rallies were to be held in the Gaza settlements during Passover week as a show of support for the settlers.

The relocation of the 8,500 residents of the Gaza Strip's 21 settlements was initially set to begin in July, but Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has agreed to postpone the pullout until Aug. 15.

The decision is expected to be affirmed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after Passover.

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