Settlers Jam Jerusalem to Protest
By Etgar Lefkovits
JERUSALEM (June 20) - Tens of thousands of settlers from across Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip converged on Jerusalem yesterday in a day of demonstrations against further territorial concessions.
They fear the concessions will give the Palestinians control of 90 percent of the West Bank.
Under the slogans "Barak is losing the country" and "Brothers do not abandon us," the day of protest was sponsored by the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. It started with a demonstration in the Wohl Rose Garden opposite the Knesset, followed by a prayer vigil in Kikar Zion, and culminated with a protest opposite the prime minister's residence also attended by right-wing MKs.
Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef estimated that 80,000 people had come to Jerusalem for the day. Police declined to give a figure.
Conspicuous throughout the day were the thousands of young children, whose schools had been shut for the occasion despite the opposition of the Education Ministry.
"They are trying to give up our homes, and our children live with us, so is there something more important than that?" asked Malha Solomon, who came with her four children from Yitzhar to protest.
"The danger is as poignant to their lives as to ours," said Ya'acov Katz, who lives in Adora and brought his five-year-old son to the rally. "Besides it is a good lesson in active politics and about how things get done here."
Carrying a huge yellow sign that read "Barak is irresponsible," Leah Morgenstern, of Jerusalem, whose three children are living in various settlements, felt it was imperative that she take part in the demonstration.
"Barak must understand that the nation is not an army. He acts as if he is still an officer in the army. He acts like everything he says is right, and that he is a genius."
Raya and Yisrael Berma helped establish Beit El nearly 22 years ago and are now worried about the futures of their five children, who live in various settlements nearby. Yisrael, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, thinks back to a demonstration he attended at three with his parents in 1947 in Germany against the British, who still forbade Jewish immigration to Palestine.
The rally opposite the prime minister's residence was the turn of the politicians.
"You have all come here because you are fighting over the existence of your homes and for our very existence in Eretz Yisrael," said Likud MK Limor Livnat.
Speaking to the youth, she said, "It is your duty, your obligation, and your moral right to be here."
To chants calling on Barak to resign, Livnat said, "This prime minister has forgotten the meaning of Zionism and the meaning of a Jewish state."
MK Benny Elon (National Union) called on the National Religious Party, Yisrael Ba'aliya, and Shas to quit the government immediately. "Enough with the games. Get out of this government so we can have new elections," he said.
But at least one woman in the crowd, carrying her 10-month-old baby in her arms, had enough of politicians. "Why did they bring politicians? " she wondered.
© Jerusalem Post 2000
Photo © AP