There was a line of orange T-shirts representing a range of Jews and Christians from across the United States waiting to inspect the damage done to the Susna home hours after the Quassam rocket landed yesterday in Sderot.
"To me this looks like a hole in the road map to peace," said one onlooker from New York, as he surveyed the sky through the family's living room ceiling.
For the anti-disengagement delegation led by New York assemblyman Dov Hikind, the trip yesterday to Sderot was something of a detour. The group arrived late Monday afternoon and after a brief press conference, headed straight to Gush Katif, where they planned to remain as an "act of solidarity" until their return to the U.S. on Thursday. They would leave Gush Katif, they announced, but only to board the plane back home.
But that all changed when Hikind, a high-profile Jewish politician who represents some 150,000 voters in Brooklyn, heard of the Quassam rockets nearby. He cut his tour of Netzarim short, boarded the bus and headed for Sderot to meet with the mayor and greet the press outside the home.
"Can you imagine this happening in New York?" he asked the swarm of reporters and onlookers around him, soon after calling for Sharon's resignation.
Hikind has been to Gush Katif on eight separate solidarity missions, and driving around the area on what proved to be a particularly bloody day is not something that frightened him or the estimated 120 Americans who joined him. He led a similar trip six weeks ago, and announced a plan on Monday to bring another two chartered El Al planes full of Americans to protest the disengagement. He'll keep coming back with more people, he vowed, until the very end when "our fate is sealed."
But Hikind and his largely Jewish support base were not alone. Joining the delegation were two other community leaders: Pastor Jim Vineyard, an evangelical Christian from Oklahoma City who carries a well-worn copy of the Bible with him wherever he goes, and New York State Senator John Sampson, an African-American official who plans to run for state district attorney in the coming months and represents a large Jewish constituency in Crown Heights.
Vineyard asked to take part in the delegation recently and wears a matching orange hat and T-shirt with the slogan "Israel belongs to the Jews." He also quotes freely from the book of Genesis, warning all those who don't listen to the word of God of the biblical disaster that awaits them.
"If we bring a curse upon the Jews, then September 11 will be a kindergarten party compared to what we'll see," he told Haaretz. "Bush's road map violates the Torah and even though as a Christian, I don't usually curse, the Jews in Israel should tell Bush to go to hell."
"I use strong words because they use strong explosives," Vineyard, who also arranged the anti-Bush demonstrations in Texas during Sharon's recent visit, insisted over lunch in Neveh Dekalim. "If this plan goes through, I will stand here and be with the Jews until the end. It's time people learn that they can't violate this book and expect to prosper."
"Gush Katif," added Hikind on his way the local cemetery, "is obviously not just an issue for Jews in Brooklyn."
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