GADID, Gaza Strip — It is July, when climate and custom tell the Lev-Ran family that the time has come to plant again.
Planting now might seem folly -- the Israeli government plans to remove all Jewish settlers, including the Lev-Rans, from Gaza next month. But they are pressing ahead anyway, setting out fresh crops of coriander and chives that they may never harvest.
For the family, which has farmed in the compact Gadid settlement since 1990, planting at this moment is an act born of defiance and faith. With each seedling pressed into the sandy soil, the Lev-Rans are expressing resistance to the withdrawal in a concrete way, while holding out hope that it will somehow be stopped.
The pullout plan calls for emptying all 21 Gaza settlements, along with four tiny ones in the northern West Bank, which together are home to about 9,000 people.
"We continue to work as usual and we hope we will be able to cancel this evil decree," said Zvi Lev-Ran, 52, a ruddy, barrel-shaped man who moved here with his wife and children 15 years ago. "And we pray," he said.
Six of his nine children still live in the Gaza settlements, and three of his sons have taken over running the family greenhouses, spread out over 15 acres. Although they differ somewhat over how far to go in opposing the withdrawal, the Lev-Rans agree they should plant anew, at a cost of at least $50,000, including starter plants and irrigation hoses.
A pro-settler aid group is helping Gaza growers cover their planting costs, and the Lev-Rans will get about $20,000 in assistance.
On a recent afternoon, two of the sons and several of their workers poked rows of holes in the sandy floor of a sweltering greenhouse and planted inch-high coriander sprouts. The greenhouse, made of nylon webbing stretched over an arched frame, is among several the family erected a few months ago at a cost of about $30,000.
Segev Lev-Ran, 25, gestured toward the seedlings.
"This is our way to say that we trust in God and we believe in the land -- not the country or the government," he said.
Segev and his older brother, Ron, seemed certain the withdrawal would be stopped. But neither one could pinpoint what might prevent it.
Ron, 28, said there was still a chance that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would change his mind amid strong protests by settlers and their right-wing political allies. Or, he suggested, the government might change hands. Or violence by Palestinian militants might abort the plan.
"My hope is that the people of Israel will stop it," said Ron, who, like his father and brother, wears the skullcap of the observant Jew. "But there are a lot of things that could happen."
Segev, his sandy hair pulled into a thick ponytail, offered his own theory. "A miracle," he said, without elaborating.
So far, the government has shown no sign of budging, and Sharon has pledged that the settlers will be relocated in mid-August, on schedule.
Although many residents say they will have to be taken from their homes by force, about 400 families have applied for government compensation. An equal number have indicated that they would leave as long as they could move as a group, according to Israeli news reports.
Some farmers in Gaza's main settlement block, Gush Katif, have begun taking their greenhouses down and preparing to relocate inside Israel. Near the Lev-Ran plots in Gadid, parts of several dismantled greenhouses lie neatly stacked.
Other greenhouses, still standing, appear to have been abandoned, with rows of tomato plants going brown in the Mediterranean sun.
Segev said he didn't blame fellow growers who had started preparing for life after Gush Katif. "It's sad, but I understand them," he said. "This is their living."
As the pullout approaches, Segev and his brothers follow a methodical planting schedule: half an acre per week until well after the withdrawal's Aug. 15 start date.
The planting season is set by the summer heat and wintertime demand in Europe, where the Lev-Rans' produce is exported. The earliest coriander plants will be ready for cutting in about three weeks. But none of those planted later, nor any of the chives, will mature until after the withdrawal is to have taken place.
Apart from losing the family home, Segev said, it is difficult to imagine a life not centered on farming in Gush Katif. The Lev-Ran children grew up tending the crops -- tomatoes, roses, lettuce and herbs -- and the grown sons now tease their father over his work ethic.
While their friends headed to the movies Saturday nights after the Jewish Sabbath, the Lev-Rans were in the greenhouse clipping roses, sometimes until after midnight.
"My father says it's like a disease," Segev said.
They differ subtly on how aggressively to resist the pullout. Ron, the family's self-described militant, said Israeli soldiers should refuse orders to remove the settlers. Segev said that's too simplistic.
Their father insisted that any protest should remain nonviolent.
The elder Lev-Ran said the government had not offered an acceptable alternative to his family's life in the Gaza Strip. In any case, he doesn't expect to go. The Bible and modern history offer plenty of examples of Jews surviving unhappy odds, he said, and Gush Katif could be next.
"Jewish history has proven that things can change at the last minute," he said. "We're being tested. We have to do what we are doing."