Gaza settler gardening
Peter Alexander  /  NBC News
Anita Tucker works on the celery stalks in her garden in Gush Katif, a settlement in Gaza. Despite the fact that any harvest won't be forthcoming until after the date set for Israeli disengagement from the settlements, she is confident that she won’t be going anywhere and that she will see the fruits of her labor.
By Peter Alexander Correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/13/2005 12:59:20 PM ET 2005-07-13T16:59:20
REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

With little more than a month left before the scheduled Israeli disengagement from Gaza, the nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers here are showing few signs of leaving this disputed land.

While shuttling between a series of settlements in Gush Katif, not a single packed box or moving van could be seen.

There is clearly no sense of urgency here, certainly not on the part of the settlers.

Instead, more than a dozen residents — religious men and women separated by a wooden fence that juts into the Mediterranean Sea — could recently be seen relaxing at the beach.

Signs of civil disobedience
Just a few miles away, crouching over her freshly-planted celery seedlings, 59-year-old farmer Anita Tucker was more focused on the timetable determined by her crops than by the Israeli government.

The evacuation is set for mid-August, but her celery stalks won't be ready for picking until a month later.

Tucker, a native of Manhattan, has no intention of leaving.

Still, if Israeli soldiers forcefully remove settlers from their homes, Tucker's aware she won't be here to cultivate her crop.

"Every time a farmer plants, he takes a risk with what the weather will be like and what the market is going to get," she explained. "This is another risk. But if I don't plant I won't have anything to eat in two-and-a-half months."

She and her husband Stuart raised five children here. They are among 86 families living in the Netzer Hazani settlement — a community that has been victimized by terror several times in recent years, she added.

Tucker blames Palestinian snipers for killing three local settlers, including their young rabbi. "We all loved him," she said. "He had not one enemy in all of Gush Katif."

Now, inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in the United States, planting has become Tucker's form of civil disobedience.

"If you're a conscientious person, you can't let something that's immoral, unethical happen," she said, "because next time it could happen to you."

Defiance and violence
While Tucker’s effort is peaceful, across Israel and Gaza many settlers and opponents of the disengagement have demonstrated their defiance in more violent ways.

Fierce confrontations have already marred the weeks leading up to what many Israelis fear will be an ugly chapter in this nation's history. Opponents of the disengagement have battled with Israeli police and soldiers, blocking roads, burning tires and spreading nails and oil across busy highways throughout Israel.

On June 30, Israeli soldiers stormed an abandoned beachfront hotel in Gush Katif, forcefully evicting Jewish radicals. The property is now under the control of the Israeli military, deployed to prevent new resistors from moving into the area.

The orange banners — representative of the anti-disengagement movement — that once waved outside the hotel have been removed. In their place, the soldiers raised new flags that represent their unit. The color of those new flags, ironically: orange.

Settlements surrounded by surprising images
In Gaza, defined for decades by violence and often described as one of the most populated pieces of real estate on the planet, the Jewish settlements present at least two surprising images: the beach and the spaciousness.

In other parts of the world, a coastline with this view would host hotels, restaurants and tourists. Here the sandy dunes along the water are barren, but for an Israeli military outpost, built on a hill above the beach.

Unlike the Palestinian areas that surround them, the neighborhoods of Jewish settlers are spread out and sparsely populated.

Gaza is a strip of land slightly more than twice the size of Washington D.C. While more than a million Palestinians crowd into communities covering roughly 80 percent of Gaza, Palestinian leaders recently announced that after the disengagement, a quarter-million of them will move into the other 20 percent, land presently occupied by just 9,000 settlers.

For Jews, the debate over disengagement is an ideological stalemate on a collision course.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has consistently declared there will be no delay.

"I regret that there are people fostering vain hopes, but in the middle of next month the evacuation from the Gaza Strip will commence," Sharon reiterated to the Israeli government on July 5.

Back at her greenhouse, when Tucker was asked where she could be found this fall, after August's scheduled disengagement. Her answer: "Absolutely right here."

Peter Alexander is an NBC News correspondent on assignment in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

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