Commissioned by Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research
In this issue:
Special Needs Children from Ir Haemuna Ir Haemuna Neve Dekalim Elei Sinai still at the Crossroads Moshav Katif – Wither now? More on Carmia and Lack of Security Ganei Tal in Yad Binyamin Gdid School Closes Seminar Day for Professionals who Dealt with Gush Katif Community The Media The Youth Legal Forum Report to the State Comptroller Compensation, Unemployment etc.
[Backgrounders are added for the benefit of new readers.]
Special Needs Children from Ir Haemuna Receiving Treatment Now
[Background on Ir Haemuna: Ir Haemuna is a tent and caravan “city” located in an empty hanger on the outskirts of Netivot, housing 57 former families from Atzmona. The families have lived this way for two months, rather than accepting government offers of living in scattered apartments in various cities, in order to preserve the unity of their strongly religious community until the government can offer them a community solution. The latest report is that there has been some progress toward the possibility of them moving in the next few months to a caravan city in the Lachish area. The final decision is being held up because the eleven families who live nearby, in the Communist Kibbutz Shomria, are reportedly bargaining with the government for higher compensation, in order to be relocated, even though the Atzmona people have said that they have no problem whatsoever living near Kibbutz Shomria.]
As a result of the pressure and outcry generated by the plight of the three children from Ir Haemuna, who were not receiving treatment for their needs, as of November 2 they are receiving a portion of the treatment -three hours of occupational therapy a week and four hours of specialized help provided by an additional individual, within the regular pre-school. A spokeswomen for the Ministry of Education said that the Ministry is working on arranging additional treatment for them, such as physical therapy. In Gush Katif, the children also received hydrotherapy, music therapy and communications therapy, and the parents hope a solution will be found for these needs as well. [Details on this topic in previous report.]
In the same reply by the spokeswoman, she noted that the parents had been offered the option of sending their children to a regional special needs pre-school. However, Lia Yered, the mother of one of the children (who was receiving treatments as a result of being injured by a kasam rocket, and is recognized as a victim of terror), reports that the pre-school at which they would have been permitted to sign up the children was far below the level of the children.
The Prime Minister’s office responded to questions with a statement denying that they had issued an instruction denying treatment to children from Ir Haemuna. In that same statement, the PM’s office also reported that the children were learning in a pre-school in Sharsheret. However, this is, in fact, an abandoned pre-school that the people of Atzmona are using for their own (unrecognized) pre-school.
The PM’s office also said that as of October 16 it was agreed with the parents that the children would receive treatment in that pre-school. That was, indeed, the day that the Educational Ministry supervisors met with the parents after the parents’ repeated requests to help solve the problem.
Regarding the atmosphere of “He said, she said”, there appear to be two possibilities: 1) Being that the PM’s office does not, in general, recognize Ir Haemuna, or allow the Ministry of Education to provide educational services to the schools and pre-schools of Ir Haemuna, the Ministry of Education supervisors did not originally attempt to find solutions for the special needs children, or 2) The supervisors did speak to someone inside the PM’s office who told them, in fact, to refuse services to these children as well.
People who tried to help bring the problem to resolution included an aide of Minister of Science and Technology Matan Vilnai (Labor), and MK Gila Finklestein (National Religious Party), who is also a member of the Knesset Education Committee and of the Committee for the Advancement of the Child. The Ministry of Health (under Minister Danny Naveh, Likud), was also contacted, as the children had received these treatments in Gush Katif through Kupat Cholim, but they did not respond to queries.
More on Ir Haemuna
The Talmud Tora of Atzmona, the “jewel” of Atzmona and renowned in Gush Katif and beyond for its high level of Tora study, has been somewhat rebuilt in Ir Haemuna. Classrooms and a makeshift teachers’ room/pedagogical center have been built along the side of the hanger. The government and the Ministry of Education have not provided any funding either for these temporary rooms or for the teachers’ salaries. The community has also set up pre-schools, game rooms and sports rooms in caravans.
The large central area of the community, though open at the sides, has a roof that the community also put up on their own, and children’s activities are held there, including story-telling sessions and the saying of Tehilim. There are several communal washing machines and dryers at the end of the compound, and some teenaged boys have created a clubhouse.
The contents of the large, beautiful synagogue of Atzmona are being stored in the hanger, and benches, chairs and bookcases, along with the Aron Kodesh (holy ark, with Tora scrolls) have been placed in an enlarged caravan, where regular prayers and Tora classes are held.
The families have done their best to turn their tiny caravans, tents and huts into homes. The compound is clean and the there is a sense of comradeship and determination in the community to survive this difficult period in tact.
Elei Sinai – Still a tent city
57 families from Elei Sinai continue to live at the crossroads near Yad Mordecai, also waiting a community solution from the government. They have arranged for larger, industrial sized-tents to be set up before the winter, as during the Succot holidays the rain made it impossible to sleep on the ground. Now each large tent holds about 15-20 smaller tents, on a raised wooden floor. Wooden walkways have also been built due to the rain and mud. Similar tents have been set up for the pre-schools. The elementary school children and teens travel to a regional school in Shaar Hanegev.
Edi Amit, a spokesperson for Elei Sinai, said that the community has refused all compensation to date, including the individual NIS 50,000-per-family grants, as they are waiting to use the money to create a community solution. They have asked to be given an area of land within or near the nearby failing kibbutz, Palmahim, which would also give new life to the kibbutz, but the government has to date refused.
Even though Elei Sinai is a mostly “secular” community, it has designated one tent for a synagogue, including a women’s section and a mechitza. Shabbat prayer and weekday late afternoon and evening prayers are held there.
Moshav Katif – King Saul Hotel, Ashkelon
[Background: Several days following the Succot holiday, the approximately 55 families who spent the last two months in the dormitories of the Ulpana in Kfar Pines moved to the King Saul Hotel in Ashkelon. The community numbered 70 families and 65 families originally stayed in the Ulpana following the disengagement, but the difficult conditions (physical, distance from work and schools, etc.) caused many families to leave. About 20 families created a new caravan city near Ir Haemuna, 10 families moved into the Kibbutz Hafetz Haim guest rooms that were vacated by the Ganei Tal people after Succot, and several scattered to other places. Moshav Katif in Gush Katif boasted an enormous turkey farm and cattle industry, in addition to their extensive agricultural export.]
The close to 35 families currently living in the King Saul Hotel are living in abysmal conditions. There are rooms 3 x 5 meters that have six children sleeping in them, not to mention trying to do homework in those conditions. The carpets in the halls and the rooms are filthy, and the evictees are given towels with rust stains and holes. The curtains are falling down in places in the bedrooms and the lighting is sometimes bare bulbs from the ceilings.
The schoolchildren have to travel 30 minutes each day; half of them go to school in Ir Haemuna and the other half attend school at Yad Binyamin, where the Ganei Tal children have also transferred. Their transportation is not covered by the Ministry of Education because the option exists of them attending public school in Ashkelon. The families, who have been uprooted from their homes, and who have had to move from place to place, prefer that their children both stay in schools that they are familiar with, and that are at the educational and Tora level that they are accustomed to.
About 20% of the men and 80% of the women are still unemployed. There are many mothers who wanted to register their (22) babies for daycare so they could look for work, but the Emunah daycare center has asked that they pay NIS 800 a month, a prohibitive amount for people who have limited funds, with sometimes both family members still unemployed, and who have not yet, for the most part, received compensation. Emunah, when contacted, said that they are looking for a solution to the problem, and stressed that they are already providing daycare for babies at all many hotels where the evictees are located, free of charge, and without receiving any government funding.
Naama Zarbiv, the community coordinator, says, “Since Tisha B’av we’ve become a ‘private’ problem – surviving in substandard conditions and nobody cares. I feel ashamed that I must talk with people about giving us money. I fight day by day that people not leave the community. Moshav Katif left the struggle very strong, together, and we were not a community that said we would not talk about the day after. We want to rebuild a village in the State of Israel. And we want that to be part of a larger rebuilt Gush, so that we can also help communities that are weaker than ours. All we want is a caravan and a little kitchen… We don’t want charity, even though we have no money at the moment. So we set up a little store where Katif people can buy things for a few shekels.”
Naama prepared a document that was sent to an aide of Minister Matan Vilnai, who promised to look into the runaround that the Moshav Katif people have been given. This document lists the broken promises and “zig-zags” that the Katif people have been subject to for the last two months. Recently, the Jewish Agency suggested placing caravans at Even Shmuel (where the Tel Katifa community is also located) but at the last minute that also was denied by the Prime Minister’s office.
However, as of late Thursday night, November 3, the PM’s office offered to set up caravans in Amatzia, in the Lachish area. This will reportedly take two months, and in the interim, the Disengagement Authority has told the Moshav Katif representatives that in three weeks they will be moved to the Kfar Hanofesh Hotel in Ashkelon, whose conditions are better than those of the King Saul Hotel.
The Katif people are satisfied with this arrangement and say that they are praying that this time the promises will be kept.
More on Carmia and security
When asked to provide documentation proving that the caravans in Carmia, Nitzan and elsewhere are fireproof, the project manager, as reported in an earlier report, claimed they were but refused to provide documentation. When documentation was requested from the Disengagement Authority, the reply was, “The issue of safety of the caravillas is not the responsibility of the Disengagement Authority.”
In addition to the question about fire and security rooms, Carmia, especially, is well within rocket and mortar range of Gaza, and, whereas the kibbutz Carmia homes have reinforced concrete roofs, the “disengaged” caravans do not.
Ganei Tal – Yad Binyamin
The community of Ganei Tal has moved, for the most part, to Yad Binyamin. There are some reports of problems with the water or electricity in the houses, but the people are doing their best to turn the tiny ‘caravilas” into homes. Like with all caravans, there is no security room, nor is there a nearby bomb shelter large enough for the newly built “community”.
There was an unpleasant incident when Simcha Rivlin, whose husband Gideon Rivlin was murdered by Palestinian terrorists more than six months ago, was reportedly lambasted at by an official of the Disengagement Authority when she came to sign the papers for her caravilla in Yad Binyamin, because she did not bring her husband with her. The official apologized afterwards, but people from Gush Katif report that it is not the first time that insensitivity has been shown to them. (Katif.net)
Gadid – Neve Ilan
According to Katif.net, the school that was set up by the community of Gadid, still living in the Neve Ilan Hotel, was closed and the students are forced to look for new educational solutions, until a temporary housing solution is found for their community. (Katif.net)
Seminar Day for Psychologists Involved with the Disengaged
Dr. Naomi Baum, director of the Resilience Project at the Israel Center Treatment of Psychotrauma, spearheaded a special seminar day for those professionals – psychologists, social workers and others – who had dealt with the Gush Katif community. The day was in conjunction w Machon Yerushalayim, led by Professor Yaakov Bar Siman Tov from Hebrew U., and was by invitation only. It was, according to Dr. Baum, “Non-political, professional and personal, a place for professionals who had done work in Gush Katif over the last year to share what they had done. There was a lot of learning that took place. They wanted to stop and think and hear what’s happened and think about what else they may want to do.”
The three sessions dealt with before, in the midst, and after the disengagement.
“Most of the professionals had identified with the people of Gush Katif,” says Dr. Baum, “but there were also people from academia who could help us conceptualize what we had done, who were not involved, and who were even left wing.”
Among those present were Professor Amiel Lieblich of Hebrew U., Prof Yona Rosenfeld, who is professor Emeritus of Hebrew University and with the Joint today, Dr. Danny Brom. At each session there was also a resident of Gush Katif who was himself a professional. These included Chain Tzadok, who was the guidance counselor at the Talmud Tora in Atzmona, Eliyahu Ackerman, who was a resident of Neve Dekalim and is the director of the Psychological Services of Kiryat Arba, and Veronique Hadad, who was the director of the Mercaz Hoshan in Gush Katif and a resident of Gush Katif.
Dr. Baum says, “The day was very moving and very enlightening…. The residents of Gush Katif were definitely the highlights. Yona Goodman talked about work with the youth during the week of the disengagement which was fascinating, watching how leadership developed in a time of crisis among the youth.
“There was a feeling that the sharing was very important and it was supportive listening. The needs are overwhelming. The services are miniscule or non-existence.
“The professionals were impressed by the strengths of the ordinary people in Gush Katif.”
Dr. Baum sais that there is a referral service for people form Gush Katif, being funded by government and non-government agencies. Every resident is eligible for 12 sessions. (Phone: 1-800-250-050) Help is also being offered by the Family Institute of Neve Yerushalyim and by private individuals. The center with which Baum is associated is opening workshops for communities, parents and youth. More information is available from: 6782899 – Daphne Bagad or Naomi Baum.
“The need is great and will be ongoing and the expectation is that after the holidays there will be a wave of requests for help,” says Dr. Baum.
According to the Disengagement Authority, there are currently 500 families in hotels, and the 62 families of Kfar Darom and 130 families from Neve Dekalim will be moving to temporary quarters (as opposed to “immediate” quarters) in the coming month.
The people from the community of Neve Dekalim are interested in settling in as a group to a new neighborhood being build in Nitzan, but the Disengagement Authority wants those who were only renting to first to fill up empty caravillas that are scattered throughout the large housing area. The people from Neve Dekalim have been scattered at 14 hotels throughout Israel and they were looking forward to finally being together. As of this writing, the issue is still unresolved.
SOME GENERAL ISSUES
The young people – teenagers – who were evicted, appear to be experiencing, for the most part, a high level of personal stress and disillusionment with the State. There are reports from some quarters of young people leaving religion, and leaving the country. On the other hand, there are others who, it appears, have maintained their levels of faith and religiosity and have even located new strengths within themselves. This appears to be more prevalent among those who did constructive organizational work in the months leading up to the Disengagement.
It would take a study beyond the scope of this report to determine the influence of the various factors – family, community, school, peer group, individual tendencies – that resulted in different teens emerging in different religious and/or psychological frames of mind. It is recommended that whoever is dealing with these young people in whatever capacities – parents, schools, youth groups, army, national service – give the time and energy necessary to enable them to get through this difficult period emotionally and socially in tact.
The media in Israel, and the Jewish media abroad, for the most part are not relaying the full picture of the plight of the evicted, and in some cases are depicting a picture that does not exist in reality. One small but, unfortunately, representative example is the radio host Gabi Gazit, who announced on his show this week that the evacuees are in the situation they are because they did not take care of things in advance. This has become the “big lie” that is repeated, like a mantra, by both government officials – including when they are on speaking tours abroad – and by media personalities. It also is not an excuse for the foot-dragging and insensitivity of those required to provide them with solutions and basic humanitarian needs.
It is recommended that media-conscious people who are aware of these misrepresentations or omissions take the time to contact, by phone of fax, the editors of both the print and electronic media when they feel an injustice has been committed.
Legal Forum Report to State Comptroller
The Legal Forum has submitted its second report to the State Comptroller, entitled, “The Failures in Caring for those Uprooted from Gush Katif and northern Shomron.” [Translation of title from Hillel Fendel of Israel National News, who also provided a good short synopsis of the report, in English.]
The 19-page report in Hebrew can be read at: http://www.mishpat.org.il/doc/bikoret2.doc
The report deals with the problems faced by people in the hotels, with the lack of adequate housing, even for those who did try to negotiate with the Disengagement Authority before the Disengagement, with the serious problems regarding the storage and accessibility and safety of the containers in which their possessions were stored, with the lack of solutions in the areas of education and employment, with the lack of sufficient help to farmers, including those who were in contact with the Disengagement Authority long before the Disengagement, with the lack of proper behavior surrounding the issue of the digging up and moving of graves, with the inefficiency of the Disengagement Authority, with the lack of security in the temporary housing and more.
Compensation and Other Financial Issues
Unfortunately, there is no non-governmental data base registering the number of people receiving compensation. The Legal Forum, which brought petitions to the High Court of Justice before the Disengagement, is working with hundreds of cases, but they do not have information regarding those individuals who have obtained other legal help, neither does the Committee of the Gush Katif Settlements, attempting to reestablish itself, have any data on this issue. (They also do not have updated statistics on the number of unemployed.) According to the Disengagement Authority, as of November 1, approximately 1100 (out of 1900) families received some form of compensation – about 700 of those received 75%-100% of their compensation, and the rest received NIS 289,000 or $50,000.
A number of Gush Katif community leaders who were approached and a member of the Legal Forum said these statistics sound unrealistically high, even taking into account the fact that things change on a daily basis. Future reports will attempt to provide more information on this issue.
The Legal forum has filed court appeals for scores of people who were evicted from Gush Katif. Yitzhak Meron, the leading attorney of the Legal Forum, wrote, “Everything being done is being done too little, too late, and too slowly.” [Quote from Haaretz English edition.] The claim is that, according to the Hok Pinui-Pitzui – Law of Eviction and Compensation – the residents should be receiving higher compensation, and that the process is lengthy and inefficient. These cases will be dealt with in the coming days and updates will be brought here.
Reports by individuals from Gush Katif and northern Gaza on the foot-dragging and bureaucracy surrounding the compensation issue are rampant. This is resulting in high levels of anxiety and aggravation among the disengaged. Anita Tucker of Netzer Hazani reports that she was asked to provide phone bills going back 29 years to prove her residence in Netzer Hazani, and there are other absurd examples such as these. “What could I give them?” Anita says, “We didn’t have a phone for the first seven years we lived there.”
On the basis of our research, if one were to summarize the causes of financial distress, it would be thus (and it must be emphasized, again, that this includes people who did speak in advance to the Disengagement Authority):
• People have lost their homes but must continue to pay mortgages, while they are also paying $450 a month for caravans (or at least $1000 a month in hotels), which is technically being paid by the government but which will be deducted from their compensation. • Many of them have no jobs and have not yet received compensation. • Many of those who do have jobs are paying for gas or public transportation from greater distances, and are not being compensated for that. • They are paying for transportation to their children’s schools that are now farther away, and are not being compensated for that. • They are spending money, when they move into the caravans/caravillas, on new closets or other items because what they had before is not appropriate for the tiny spaces they will be in for the next two years. • They are buying winter clothes since they cannot access their containers, because once they access them, they will have to take them, and they have nowhere to store them, as they are in temporary dwellings. (A hair-raising incident occurred this week when a resident of Gush Katif attempted to remove some winter things from his container at Kastina. The security guard was reportedly verbally abusive and refused to let him in at first. Eventually, after phone calls and interventions, we was allowed in, but out of four containers – two of his own and two of his father’s – only three were located; it is not known where the fourth is. There are also reports of stolen containers being found in the Galil or elsewhere.)
For questions or comments, contact Toby Klein Greenwald at: firstname.lastname@example.org 0523-822104