The families of B’doloch, who are staying at the Shirat Hayam Hostel/Hotel in Ashkelon, were told today, Sunday, that they would have to vacate the hotel by 3 p.m. Knesset Member Uri Ariel tried to intervene to postpone the next expulsion. According to Asher Tabackman, the hostel’s director, as of October 1 there is no signed contract with the Ministry of Defense, who are paying the bills. Chaim Altman, spokesperson for the Disengagement Authority, said today that, “The people [from Gush Katif] will be able to stay at the hotel until Thursday, and then they will be moved to other hotels.” When asked why, he said, “Because the owners of the hotel are making demands that are unreasonable and that don’t withstand public scrutiny.”

When Tabackman was asked for a reaction, he said, regarding Altman’s comments, “Those are lies. There is no agreement that they can stay till Thursday, and there are no new ‘demands’ on the part of the hotel’s owners. The original contract included a clause that said there was an option to extend their stay according to the same conditions. This ‘hotel’ had been closed and it was opened especially for them. If they don’t use all the rooms, we have no marketing or other system currently set up; it’s not as if we would sell 30 rooms elsewhere if they’re not being used [by the evacuees]. There are currently about 85-90 families in the hotel; there were originally 120-130.” The hostel/hotel’s contract is with the Ministry of Defense, not with the Disengagement Authority, but according to a spokeswoman at the Ministry of Defense, “The Ministry has not extended the contract because we are waiting for orders from the Disengagement Authority.” Minister Matan Vilnai, who had been asked by PM Sharon to help monitor the situation of the evacuees, was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

When asked what it is like to run the hostel for the expelled families of Gush Katif, Tabackman said, “It’s been different, and difficult, and I’ve been in the hotel business for a long time. They’re here because they’re forced to be, not because they want to be. We’ve made mistakes, and we’ve learned and tried to correct them, like leaving the dining room open an extra hour in the afternoon, or arranging to let the mothers make sandwiches for their children early in the morning, before they go to school. We set out a table with everything necessary so they can prepare whatever it is the children like. The connection has become more personal than it usually is in a hotel; you sit around and speak with them in the evenings. I come every day from the center of the country, where I live, but it doesn’t matter that I was okay with the Disengagement. The State [of Israel] could have dealt with the hotel more fairly, just as it could have dealt with the people of Gush Katif more fairly.”

As this report was being completed, we spoke with Aaron Farjun, spokesperson of the B’doloch community in the Shirat Hayam Hostel, who said, “Thanks to the questions of the media, the problem has been temporarily solved. The contract has been extended for another two weeks and hopefully by then the karavilot in Nitzan will be ready. Thank you for your help. Chag sameah and have a good year.”

Almost Work – But not Quite [from Hebrew]

On another front, there was an announcement a few days ago in the press that the Ministry of Tourism would be opening a course for tour guides that would accept 50 people from among the expelled of Gush Katif. When people from Gush Katif tried to follow up by calling the Ministry, they were told to call schools for tourism. A number of schools that were called said they had no knowledge of such a course.

In another development, a woman from Gush Katif who had directed a prestigious institution in Gush Katif, asked the government employment office to help her find work. After she filled in the forms and had a personal interview, they offered her the job of folding cartons in a packing house. When she told them that she wasn’t interested, they suggested that she learn a new profession – “Literature”.