According to the Eibim solution, student olim from Ethiopia and Russia living in the village were to move for three months to attractive new apartments in Sderot, closer to their college, and receive additional scholarships, to compensate them for “loaning” their village to the community of Moshav Katif for that time period. This solution was rejected by the Jewish Agency, that owns the village.
Yarden Vatikay, spokesman for the Jewish Agency, when asked for a clarification, replied, “There was a request from the Disengagement Authority that we, the Jewish Agency, evacuate the student village in Eibim for the evacuees [from Gush Katif]. We examined the request carefully and arrived at the conclusion that it wasn’t possible. I understand that the Prime Minister also was against the idea.” The Prime Minister’s office denied this.
“We all know,” said Vatikay, “that it won’t be only three months, that there are no real solutions for the evacuees [from Gush Katif]. If the Ethiopian and Russian students, most of whom are alone in Israel, go into city apartments, they’ll lose their connection to each other.” When asked if what the students want is a “community solution”, Vatikay said, “Yes, that’s it.” Then why doesn’t the Jewish Agency understand that the people of Moshav Katif also want a community solution? Vatikay said, “Of course I understand. But it isn’t the mandate of the Jewish Agency to find the solution. But we do help out in some ways. The Jewish Agency company, Amigur, is directing things at the building site of Nitzan, and we’ve given school supplies to the children of the evacuees and helped the volunteers.”
But most important was the next information from Vatikay, which he followed up with a five-page fax of documentation. “The Prime Minister asked Salai Meridor, who was at that time the head of the Jewish Agency, to be involved in solutions for the people of Gush Katif.” According to the documents Vatikay sent, on June 23, 2004, the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency voted to create new communities for the people of Gush Katif in the Negev and the Galil. A “clipping” of a radio report includes the Gilboa, as well. Why was this never implemented? Vatikay says that the people did not speak with the government (a claim denied by some of the people in Gush Katif, including Debby Rosen, a spokesperson who says that there were people who spoke with the government, sometimes through a third, legal party), and that then the Disengagement Authority was created. “The Disengagement Authority, rather than create long term solutions, took a different tactic, of only looking for temporary solutions,” said Vatikay.
When Avner Shimoni, the former head of the Council of Gush Katif, was asked today if the Council’s people, even now, ever went back to the Jewish Agency to ask that they fulfill the mandate that they voted to accept on June 23, 2005, Shimoni said, “The Jewish Agency never did anything for us. They gave out about 100 schoolbags in Nitzan, that’s it. Everyone is always asking us why we didn’t demand things.” Debby Rosen also said, “They kept saying, ‘There is a solution for every settler.’ They just don’t get it, they still don’t understand that we don’t want to be sent to bad neighborhoods in cities around Israel, or to every failing moshav, that we want to stay together.”
Questions that remain:
- Why did the original solution plan to scatter them, albeit within individual communities, to opposite poles of the country – the Negev (at location where they still would have been within mortar range from Gaza) and the Galil?
- Why did the Prime Minister and the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency assume that it was appropriate to, once again, send the people who had, at the encouragement of successive Israeli governments, made the barren Gaza area bloom, to locations that other movements in the State of Israel had not succeeded in settling and developing over the last 57 years? Did it not occur to anyone that they would have a) wanted to remain together and b) following the trauma, preferred to rebuild their lives in a more central area?
- The Disengagement Authority has obviously failed in its task. Why then is the Jewish Agency not building communities today for the people of Gush Katif, as per its decision of June 2005? When asked why the job was turned over to the Disengagement Authority, and why there is an apparent strategy to disperse the Gush Katif communities, including the original plan that was to send them as far away from each other as the Galil and the Negev, the Prime Minister’s office replied, “There is no strategy, then or now, to disperse the communities; on the contrary.” It is not clear how sending some to the Galil and some to the Negev is “not dispersing” them, nor is it clear how “there is no strategy…to disperse the communities”, since the only solutions that the Disengagement Authority has offered have been for individuals. Thus far, all the communal arrangements (Hafetz Haim for Ganei Tal, Ariel for Netzarim, etc.) were organized by the communities of Gush Katif and like-minded communities, not by the Disengagement Authority.
The Lachish Area
There have been several organized visits this week of Gush Katif people to the Lachish area (between Ashdod and Ashkelon, and a little to the East), where they are considering building a series of heterogeneous communities in order to remain together as one moetza (municipal body). Having said that, even if there will be people eventually settled in the area between Amatzia and Shomria, for example, there is still nowhere for them to live until “karavilot” (caravans between 60 and 120 square meters) are ready.
A source within the group says that at the moment there are 200 families from Moshav Katif, Neve Dekalim, Atzmona, Netzer Hazani, and Gan Or, who are interested in settling there. They’re exploring the area now to consider where to eventually build and also where to build the temporary dwellings, in which they’ll have to live for several years until their permanent homes are built. However, said the source, this could ultimately be a solution to thousands of families. Employment possibilities are also being examined. The location is 15 minutes away from Highway Six, which would open additional possibilities for work in the Tel Aviv area. The initiative is entirely by the people of Gush Katif, though they are speaking to various government offices and to the Jewish Agency, a combination of which would be necessary for the implementation of the plan.
No Security in Karmia
The caravan park of Karmia, where a number of people from Gush Katif and the Northern Gaza settlements are living, has no security arrangements. In spite of the fact that, according to law, every new house or building must be built with a special security room, there are no security rooms or bomb shelters whatsoever in the caravan park of the evacuees. As luck would have it, a mortar fell in an open area of the caravan park this week on Tuesday, September 27, while Attorney Yuval Ganan of the Legal Forum was meeting with residents of Karmia. He wrote a letter in protest to Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz. Attorney Nachi Ayal, also of the Legal Forum, wrote a letter to Ruth Bar, Advisor to the Minister of Defense, regarding the lack of physical security among the new “homes” of the evacuees.
The IDF, Gaza and the Cotel
On Wednesday, September 28, terrorists shot at the IDF next to Kibbutz Nir Am, near the border of what was Gush Katif. In addition, Israel Radio announced today that according to official IDF reports, 3,000 rifles were smuggled into Gaza immediately following the disengagement, as were half a million bullets, hundreds of kilograms of explosives, RPG’s, etc.
On Wednesday evening, September 28, girls who had been expelled from Gush Katif demonstrated at the Cotel during an IDF ceremony at which female soldiers from the Education Division of the IDF were promoted to officers. The Education Division had taken part in the Disengagement preparations. The Rabbi of the Cotel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, condemned the demonstrators and said they were “a fringe group who hurt the holiness of the place”. It is the same Rabbi Rabinowitz who, according to the family of Elhanan Gubi, a soldier from Gush Katif who was reburied in Jerusalem following the disengagement, refused to allow the family to put up a small bit of shade in order to sit the one required day of shiva at the Cotel. Elhanan’s sister, from Neve Dekalim, who eulogized him at Mount Herzl at the reburial, said, “We have no other home, so we will sit shiva at the Cotel. The rabbi of the Cotel won’t let us put up shelter against the hot sun, so we’ll sit without shelter.”
The High Cost of Being Expelled
The people of the Neve Dekalim community, most of whom are still residing in hotels as there is no community solution current available for them, are paying about $500 to live in the hotels for the last two weeks of September, and they will be paying $1965 a month as of October 1. The State of Israel is not offering any other solution other than being scattered at rented apartments in Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, and Lod, some of them in neighborhoods rife with drugs and other crime. When they move into caravans in Nitzan, eventually, they will have to pay almost $500 a month, while they also continue to pay off their mortages on their homes that were destroyed in Gush Katif. Some of those caravans will be ready for the people from Neve Dekalim in November, but there will not be nearly enough for everyone. In addition, if this rent is deducted from their eventual compensation, then they will have even less money at their disposal for the purchasing or building of their permanent homes once an agreement regarding their location is reached.
No Funds by Holiday Time
According to the Legal Forum, the Disengagement Authority refuses to pay the advances accorded by law of NIS 50,000 to Gush Katif residents who will not sign a declaration that they left their homes by August 15. “This cruel behavior, write the attorneys, is in direct contradiction to the spirit of the decision of Minister [of Justice] Livni and the significance of it is leaving scores of families without the ability to organize themselves [financially] for the holidays.” One source within the government said that from the moment a family gives in all the paperwork, they have to wait “only” up to sixty days to receive their compensation. Many of the Gush Katif families have complained of a long and arduous bureaucratic process, and one in which burdensome measures and an exorbitant amount of paperwork is demanded of them to proved that they have lived in the homes which they have lived in for more than 20 years.
There have been efforts to invite families who are currently in the hotels to home hospitality in Efrat, Gush Etzion and other areas, but most of the families prefer to remain and pray together, though there may be a “swapping” of hotel rooms, so that one hotel will be the location of those families who prefer a Sefaradi minyan and the other hotel will be the location for those who prefer an Ashkenazi minyan.
Juggling Financial Distress and Self-Respect
There has been discussion back and forth between the expelled communities regarding the issue of receiving charity. The families are torn between wanting to provide, especially for their children, and, on the other hand, they were all productive, self-supporting people who do not want to be perceived as “charity cases”.
For instance, Anita Tucker of Netzer Hazani writes, “We must keep the people with their heads up high so all Gush Katif people keep the spirit and the koach [strength] to rebuild their communities and towns as soon as possible. Meeting the great needs is essential but how it is done deserves no less thought. In Netzer Hazani we have met urgent needs with financial help to those with emergencies but have also distributed pocket money to each family so they can take care of their own kid’s needs as parents should and keep connected with their kids (this connection is super-special since the “Maavak-struggle ” connection and the mutual kids-to-parents emotional post-evacuation strong connection hat developed.
Also it is essential emotionally that we are enabled to keep some control of our lives which isn’t at all so at the moment. (The great part of this is that you really so strongly feel Hakadosh Baruch Hu is in charge (Menahel Habirah ) and not us, not to mention that without too many material acquisitions we feel angelic – only spiritual. But sometimes we feel more like Zombies than angels – we need your help in giving all your caring in a way that will help all keep some control of our lives and heads up high to continue building Eretz Yisrael.
Best wishes for Shanah Tovah to you all wonderfully caring people who live “Kol Yisrael Areivim zeh lazeh” every breathe”. Your caring gives strength!
Ein Tzurim and Hispin-Golan
There are also ongoing signs of trauma, especially among the youth but also among adults, who say they are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate. The feeling of mourning and loss is still very intense.
Honey for a Sweet Year
According to Katif.net, The World Headquarters for the Saving of the People and the Land is distributing holiday packages of honey, along with a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and holiday cards. The project is in conjunction with Rav Yigal Kirshenzaft who was the head of Beit Chabad in Gush Katif, and was initiated by Rav Shalom Dov Wolpe, who says, “The Jewish people owe a deep thanks to the heroes, and it is impossible to forget the horror and the tribulations that they have endured.” Volunteers of the headquarters are working at the hotels in Jerusalem and Ashkelon, Ir Haemuna, Yad Mordecai and Ntzan. The phone numbers of the world headquarters are: (050) 875-4674 and (052) 521-8730.
Debby Rosen of Neve Dekalim, currently at the Shalom Hotel in Jerusalem, reports that the refugees living in the hotels are organizing to give New Year greeting cards of Gush Katif to the hotel staff and volunteers who have been so helpful to them. Asked how she, personally, is doing, Debby said,
“I’m okay, but my six-year-old was reading a book the other day and the bookmark I gave him had a picture of a house and a tree and the sun. He looked at the picture and said, ‘Ima, I want to go home.'”