updated 8/15/2005 12:06:34 AM ET 2005-08-15T04:06:34

American Jews gathered in front of the United Nations on Sunday to pray for friends abandoning their homes in the Gaza Strip as part of an historic withdrawal ending Israel’s 38-year occupation of the territory.

Several hundred people, many wearing prayer shawls and skull caps, stood before a Hebrew scroll, chanting as they awaited the official start of the withdrawal that will redraw borders and reshape prospects for Mideast peace.

“As emotionally tied in as we are to the imminent destruction of the Jewish community in Gaza, this is a day when we cry out to God rather than scream protest slogans,” said Glenn Richter, an organizer of the service at the Isaiah Peace Wall.

Israel sealed the Gaza Strip to Israeli civilians late Sunday.

Soldiers lowered a red road barrier at the Kissufim Crossing between Israel and Gaza, with a sign on the barrier reading: “Stop, entry into the Gaza Strip and presence there is prohibited by law.”

In New York, Esther Neistein held a sign that read, “Don’t make a legal terrorist state,” referring to the Palestinian takeover of Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank.

“This was Jewish land thousands of years ago, and we won it back in the Six Day War,” fought in 1967, Neistein said.

A block away, a half-dozen anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose a Jewish state for religious reasons held Palestinian flags.

“We want the peaceful dismantlement of the Jewish settlements in Gaza — and of Israel,” said Rabbi David Feldman, a teacher in a Rockland County Hasidic Jewish community, whose viewpoint is in the minority among religious Jews.

At one point, a young man tried to grab one of the Palestinian flags, but police restrained him.

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