Thousands of Israelis rally for Gaza resettlement

Participants were briefly forced to lie on the ground when missiles were launched from Gaza; the Iron Dome defense system shot them down.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Thousands of Israelis took time off their Independence Day celebrations to march in the southern Israeli city of Sderot Tuesday to demand that the government resettle Jews in the Gaza Strip after the current war with Hamas.

Several right-wing MKs and ministers addressed the mostly national-religious crowd, who could choose between a family-friendly walk through the southern town and a more challenging hike closer to the border.

“In order to actually end the problem once and for all, we must do two things,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) told the crowd. “One – return Israelis to Gaza now! Return home! Return to our holy land! And two – encourage emigration.”

“We need to encourage the voluntary departure of the residents of Gaza,” he said, calling it “moral,” “rational,” “humanitarian” and “the only way.”

Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, leader of the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism party that does not usually take public positions on the settlement issue, sent a video recording of support.

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The march is an expression, he said, of God’s words to Abraham to “walk across the length and breadth of the land because I will give it to you and your descendants.”

“It is thus important for all citizens,” Goldknopf added, “to identify with this march and then participate in the rally in Sderot.”

His message could be seen as acknowledgement that many haredim have espoused a more nationalist ideology as a response to the brutal Hamas invasion of October 7 in which 1,200 people were massacred and 253 taken hostage.

Daniella Weiss, veteran leader of the settlement movement Nachala that was the main organizer of the event, said that the objective was clear.

“The Netzarim corridor is the next goal,” she said. “The army is also stationing itself in Rafah, and we will wait for suitable political conditions in order to enter there [as well].”

Of the original Jewish settlements in Gaza that Israel’s government destroyed in the 2005 unilateral Disengagement, Netzarim was the only one in the middle of the Strip. Three were on the northern edge and some 15 were in the south, in what was known collectively as “Gush Katif.”

The IDF has built a wide road running right by the remains of Netzarim that cuts Gaza in two, in order to limit Hamas’ ability to re-form in the north.

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To reach their goal, Weiss said that the first step should be constructing small settlement cores on the Israeli side of the border, she said.

Even if it takes years, as it did in Judea and Samaria, of having constant marches and applying political pressure, public support must be gathered, because massive Jewish settlement was the only way to ensure quiet on this border, she stated.

“Who else will you bring there?” she asked. “The Palestinian Authority, which is actually Hamas, and they also call for the murder of Jews? An international force? Where did it succeed? Non-involved parties? There are no uninvolved ones. Everyone there is subject to the influence of Hamas.”

“There is only one way,” she concluded. “Jews enter – Arabs leave. Without settlement there is no security.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi (Likud) agreed with Weiss’ assessment.

“In order to preserve the security achievements that so many of our fighters sacrificed their lives for, we must settle Gaza, with security forces and settlers who will wrap them and this land with love,” he said.  “Not out of lack of choice, but out of a deep understanding that this is the only real way, both to exact a heavy price from the Nazi Hamas, and to protect our people and our homeland.”

During the festive walk, participants were briefly forced to lie on the ground when Hamas launched a barrage of five rockets at the town and its surroundings around 2PM.

With only the fifteen seconds of warning that the Gaza envelope town has, there was no time to run to safety indoors and parents covered their children with their bodies in the middle of the street to protect them.

Three of the rockets were shot down by Iron Dome interceptors, and two fell in open areas.

The march was the second time that nationalists have publicly demonstrated for Jewish resettlement in Gaza since the war began, with some 5,000 people gathering at a conference in Jerusalem on the topic in January.