“Don’t Evacuate Us”
An estimated 130,000 people formed a human chain stretching 55 miles across Israel, in a massive protest against Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan: Human chain from Gush Katif to J’lem.
“Don’t evacuate us,” wrote six-year-old Yael Better in a note she stuck in a crevice in the Western Wall.
She was the last participant in a human protest chain anchored by her grandfather Yitzhak Shamir, one of the founders of Kfar Darom, who lost an arm and a leg fighting for the Gaza Strip settlement during the War of Independence in 1948.
The chain, the first of its kind in Israel, and the third longest in history, stretched 90 kilometers (55 miles) to Jerusalem, as Police said an estimated 130,000 people linked hands Sunday evening to protest the disengagement plan.
The two-hour event ended at 7 p.m. with the singing of the national anthem “Hatikva” and the blowing of three large horns with blasts that sounded like shofars at the Western Wall.
While its organizers stressed that the human chain was “a chain linking the people of Israel,” the string of humanity also served as a political bludgeon.
“This is the spearhead of the settlement’s passive resistance campaign,” said Avner Avraham, who trekked up from Eilat to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai with his six young children to protest the evacuation. “This is about love, but it is also about showing Sharon that physically he will not be able to uproot Jews from their homes.”
Avraham wore a T-shirt whose large bloc letters spelled out “BAD JOKE.” He was convinced that is how the majority of Israelis feel about the evacuation.
Certainly that is how Better’s grandfather Shamir, Avram Dimant, and their comrades — all of them nearing their ninth decade — feel. They had virtually chained themselves to the original incarnation of the embattled settlement during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. “We refused to leave, even though we survived on half a cup of water and a cube of chocolate a day for weeks,” said Dimant, then-commander of the outpost.
“That is why we cannot allow another pullback from any piece of land in the middle of a war,” said Shamir, who served as the first link in the chain just outside the Erez checkpoint north of the Gaza Strip.
Purchased by Jews in 1946, Kfar Darom earned fame as a beacon of Israeli self-sacrifice and bravery in the face of an unrelenting Egyptian onslaught. Eventually Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, personally ordered its members to abandon the settlement.