On the eve of disengagement, a massive government public relations campaign maintained that “there is a solution for each evacuee.” Today, more than 100 days after nearly 9,000 Israelis were uprooted, it emerges that there is no solution for many of the evacuees, and indeed there never was.
Many Israelis are indifferent, if not downright hostile to the plight of these fellow citizens. The daily Hatzofeh newspaper recently found a novel way of gauging sentiment by launching a fictional initiative to house evacuees in Tel Aviv. Its make-believe real-estate office, it reported, was inundated with antagonistic responses, hotly opposing the introduction of personas-non-grata into the city.
Families whose world literally came crashing down must somehow cope in this atmosphere of apathy and worse. It need hardly be stressed that officialdom’s failure does not distinguish between those who pulled up stakes prior to the deadline and those who stayed put to the last minute.
According to the Government Employment Service, 1,990 of Gush Katif’s former residents – 75 percent of the income-earners – are unemployed to date. There’s no unemployment office at any of the large evacuee concentrations, including at the fiberglass mobile-home camp in Nitzan. Job offers are scant and the few available are often at minimum wage.
None of the evacuated farmers has yet been compensated and none has received land to cultivate. There hasn’t even been remuneration for the greenhouses purchased via the World Bank to offer employment to local Palestinians. The World Bank argues that since these hothouses were looted (by Palestinians) there’s no obligation to reimburse Israeli farmers who kept their part of the bargain.
In the meantime, families eat up the advances on their overall compensation packages, providing such advances were paid. Many families now realize that at this rate they won’t have enough money to replace lost homes even with much smaller and inferior accommodations.
Besides having nothing to live on, they must also pay rent for temporary housing, which means further deductions from the compensation package. If that weren’t enough, the mortgages for their demolished homes, as well as insurance premiums for razed structures, are deducted regularly from the compensation each family is due. Thus families – whether or not they cooperated with the disengagement authorities – are forced to continue making payments on houses the government demolished.
The least the government can do is pick up the tab or amend the relevant legal regulations.
As things stand now, over 35% of the evacuees are still without even interim housing. They reside in hotels (from which they are also sometimes threatened with eviction), tents or youth hostels.
The Education Ministry does not finance kindergartens for those evacuees still in hotels, hostels and tents. Many school-aged youngsters in these sites still aren’t in regular classroom frameworks either. Presumably the government is not deliberately trying to punish these children, or to punish their parents through them. But the reality is bitter.
An immediate concern is the inability of the families to reach their possessions, still locked up in containers. They cannot recover these containers (for which they must also pay rent) until they have a home for all their belongings. This means they are unable to merely unpack some of the items therein and many do not have any of their own winter clothing.
The withdrawal left the lives of many families in shambles. Some youths even ended up in closed psychiatric wards as a result of emotional trauma. They didn’t have it coming. Our society can ill afford to look upon such tragedies with equanimity.
This was not how disengagement was supposed to turn out. The lot of these citizens, who bore the brunt of years of terrorism before they lost everything this summer, should appall everyone, opponents and supporters of disengagement alike. This is not a matter of political orientation but one of plain decency. Only in a heartless society would such governmental incompetence or indifference, and the plight it spawns, be allowed to persist.
This editorial ran in the Jerusalem Post on November 26, 2005