- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip — A girls’ boarding school in this Jewish settlement has become an absorption center for some 800 opponents of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, complicating the military’s effort to extract thousands of settlers in the coming days.

The new residents of the school sneaked past military roadblocks at the entrance to the Gush Katif settlement enclave in the hope of buoying resistance to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to leave Gaza and perhaps derail the effort.

“You need connections to get in here,” said Yisrael Ze’ira, a religious school principal from the West Bank who secured a spot in the dorms for himself, his wife and several children through his colleagues.

With large space to house the anti-disengagement faithful, at least two other educational institutions have absorbed new arrivals.

Known as the “ulpana” — a Hebrew nickname for a religious seminary for girls — the school is a campus near the entrance to the settlement that includes a dining hall, a double row of dormitories and broad plaza surrounded by lush grass and palm trees.

Most of the new inhabitants are women in their twenties — whose numbers are thought to approach 600 — who spend the night in hallways and in small camping tents pitched outside on the grass. The remainder are families with young children who have moved into 20 small dormers that sleep as many as 10.

From the dormitory, the voices of hundreds of female residents singing in unison from the Jewish Sabbath could be heard yesterday. Educational seminars are offered for the young women while the families pass the time looking after their children.

Elisheva Ginsburg, Mr. Ze’ira’s mother-in-law, said she was given a dormer because police evicted her a month ago along with more than 100 disengagement opponents from an abandoned beach resort.

Israel’s army acknowledged last week that more than 2,000 settler sympathizers have infiltrated Gaza, even though the area was declared a closed military zone and entrance limited to older residents.

Observers are concerned that the new inhabitants are more extremist and could put up a stiffer resistance to the evacuation than the residents.

Mr. Ze’ira said that although the anti-disengagement protesters have been largely non-violent, there are some leaders advocating a more confrontational approach. The religious instructor smuggled in his 14-year-old nephew, Itai, on Friday, telling soldiers the boy was his son.

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