Shirat Hayam I Lost My Parents in a Car Accident; This Is Harder'

Nathan Lipson
Nathan Lipson
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Nathan Lipson
Nathan Lipson

A group of teenage boys and children in orange shirts met the journalists when the bus stopped opposite the gate of Shirat Hayam. It was almost 1:00 A.M., but they were full of energy. They would not let us near the settlement gate, certainly not to go in. They were very determined, but used no violence.

Shirat Hayam, which was established four-and-a-half years ago, originally had less than 20 families, but now more than half the people here are from the outside. Avner and Oria, two of about 30 people who met us at the entrance to the settlement, are from Kiryat Ata near Haifa.

"When did you get here?" we asked.

A week ago, answered a third young man. "It was really well organized," he said. "They brought out identity cards of Gush residents, and started to look for people who looked like them. I looked like one of them, so I got it. I passed all the checkpoints without any problem, so here I am."

We manage to move a little closer to the gate and find our way blocked by a meter-high pile of rocks, tires and barbed wire. It can't stop anyone. It can only delay a vehicle.

Sagiv, one of the young men from the outside, gets nervous. "Don't move," he says. "If you move, I'll call the `good guys.'"

He calls out toward the gate. "There are a few reporters here who have to be shown the way out." No answer. No one shows up.

Inside, Boaz, one of the youth counselors, is holding a heated debate, surrounded by teenage girls and boys. There are no raised voices, no sanctions for dissenting opinions. They see the reporters watching and they go on talking.

"We have nothing to hide," one says in response to another's comment about the reporters. "Not even our differences of opinions. The walls have ears."

The settlement's spokeswoman, Hannah Picard, joins the discussion. She has no problem with the reporters being there. She brings us together for a talk opposite the gate, under a street light.

Picard, one of the founders of Neveh Dekalim, and then Shirat Hayam, has been living in Gush Katif for 16 years. She is 48, a mother of eight and a grandmother. The disengagement has brought everyone together - seven of her children are with her here.

"We decided not to use violence under any circumstances," she says, although she admits that among the young people tensions are high. "But that's the reason we gave them counselors, all married people. If the boys don't listen to the counselors, they get kicked out." So far, she says there was only one case of someone who almost got kicked out.

While we are talking, a young teen with megaphone approaches. It looks like something's bothering him, and when he starts breathing into the operating megaphone, Picard turns to him with a message he understands right away: "Yehuda, don't wake anybody up - not the Arabs and not the Jews." He backs off.

Picard leaves no room for doubt about the pain this process brings with it. "When I was young, I lost both my parents in a traffic accident. It was terrible, but it's harder now." Tears choke her throat; she shudders, and momentarily is unable to go on.

The settlers here don't intend to be altogether passive, she notes. "We will get in the way. This roadblock is in the way. It can't do any harm, but it will get in the way of the army, if they come."

"We are going to exert psychological pressure," she adds. But the poster on the inside gate of the settlement gives a different significance to her words: "Soldier, stop! We love you."

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