(VIDEO) About 70,000 ultra-Orthodox pullout objectors gathered at Jerusalem's Western Wall Wednesday evening to protest the upcoming disengagement. Meanwhile, the Yesha Council, which organized the protest, says 100,000 people arrived at the holy site for the rally.
The rally is attended by rabbis from all ultra-Orthodox factions. In addition, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also arrived, marking the first time he is choosing to attend an official anti-pullout event.
Former chief rabbis Avraham Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu were also scheduled to attend the rally along with West Bank and Gaza rabbis.
Meanwhile, far right activists are planning to use the rally and the masses expected to flock to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in order to force large police forces to remain in the Temple Mount area. Activists said they are planning to hand out leaflets inviting the public to another Kfar Maimon-style event. However, this time settlers are invited to stay in a tent city in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter for a lengthy period of time, from which they will attempt to proceed to the Temple Mount.
Flyers have been handed out calling on those who have been unable to reach Gush Katif to arrive with tents and food supplies at the Old City’s Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.
A right wing protest organizer told Ynet that “whoever cannot reach the Gaza Strip or Northern Samaria is invited to do their part in Jerusalem. We are talking about a public cry for help to prevent a loss of control over the place holiest for the Jews. We want to make it so the police come and pray with us in Jerusalem instead of evicting Jews in another place. On the day they close Gush Katif, we will close Jerusalem,” threatened the activist.
Hundreds of police and border guards, accompanied by Jerusalem district police, are securing the Old City as the protest begins. Organizers claim that a thousand buses have arrived from across the country for the mass prayer service, and Jerusalem police say that private vehicles will not be allowed into the Old City.
Tel Aviv rally on Thursday
On Thursday, the Yesha Council plans on holding a mass rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, and the protest’s organizers are holding coordination talks with police.
Yesha Council has also said that thousands will march to Gush Katif next week.
The protest in Tel Aviv will take place under the banner, “Gush Katif, I swear to be there,” and instructions will be handed to the general public, detailing plans for Tisha Be’av, the day of mourning commemoration of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, which falls one evening before the disengagement plan.
The Yesha council plans a multi-colored event in Tel Aviv, with marchers representing different organizations, and signs which will read: “Towards Gush Katif.”
Speakers will include Ida Nudel, who spent years in prison in the Soviet Union for her Zionism, mayor of Sderot Eli Moyal, a Kfar Darom resident, Hannah Brett, who was injured in a terror attack, and Gush Katif’s rabbi, Yigal Kaminsky. While politicians will not arrive, singers will perform at the protest, including Dudu Elharar.
The possibility of a flyover featuring anti-disengagement signs attached to planes is being considered, and throughout the protest, there will be a live broadcast from Gush Katif, which will be scene to a human chain which will envelop the settlements around the Gush.
The head of Mount Hebron's Regional Council, Tzviki Bar Hai, will give instructions to the masses who are expected to arrive at Thursday’s Tel Aviv rally, and explain to them what will take place following the end of Tisha Beav, during which a mass afternoon prayer will take place at the Western Wall.
A Yesha spokesman said that his organization would “do everything to prevent the expulsion machine, and to bring the matter to the people for decision.”
“We believe around 100,000 people will arrive at the protest,” he added.
-Efrat Weiss contributed to this report
Video: Yaron Brenner