|Israel Resource Review
||8th September, 2005
The State of the Communities of Gush Katif
and Northern Gaza
by Toby Klein Greenwald
Method of Research
Key people (heads of community secretariats, spokespeople and
community workers) were interviewed from almost every community
in Gush Katif or northern Gaza to obtain this information.
General assessments were cross-referenced with a number of
There are some assessments and feelings that are common to the
members of these communities and their leaders. "They" refers to
the communities and individuals of Gush Katif and northern Gaza.
- They feel that, based on the glaring failure to adequately provide for the communities post-disengagement, there has been a concerted effort on the part of the government to make them feel shamed, abandoned and degraded. Their assessment is that this was not the result of mere incompetency, but an active rather than passive strategy, "to break them", in their words. It is important to note that this is also the feeling of communities and individuals who had discussions with the disengagement authority before the disengagement, not just those who refused to speak with them.
- Of special note are the cases of Moshav Katif and Netzer Hazani. (See below)
- The communities and individuals who have relatively better peace of mind (and the word "relative" is critical here) are those who did not go to where the disengagement authority would have sent them, but who were taken in by like-minded communities, such as was the case with Ganei Tal going to Hafetz Haim, Netzarim to Ariel College and Tel Katifa to Moshav Even Shmuel. Apparently the disengagement authority in many or most of these cases helped to cover some of the costs (of food, etc.) in these communities after the fact, though most of the services at these locations were provided by volunteers. Other examples below.
- The main aid, both physical and emotional, that the communities received in the days following the disengagement, and now, came not from the disengagement authority, but from the hundreds of volunteers, most of them from within the religious Zionist community, who have been coming forth to aid in every way possible. (In the case of help extended to farmers transferring greenhouses, there were also volunteers from secular kibbutzim.) This help included providing both real and "comfort" food, counseling, medical (including psychological) aid, help with the children, the laundry, organizational issues and more. Ordinary citizens donated and continue to donate their time giving therapy workshops, massages, etc. There were also monetary donations gathered for some people so they would have ready cash for essentials, as, in many cases, they did not have the funds in their bank accounts as the banks do not extend credit to people who have no steady income, as a result of the disengagement.
- There was almost no unemployment in Gush Katif before the disengagement but now there are people who have no income in the foreseeable future. This includes farmers whose mode of farming could not be transferred, people who had businesses within the Gush who have not yet reestablished them and others. A few examples: a woman who ran a successful gift shop in Neve Dekalim and who is now in Kibbutz Hafetz Haim, a man who had a successful export company but grew spices and cherry tomatoes in the ground, and is now considering, for lack of choice, returning to the profession of his youth - driving teacher - when he is in his 50's and has not worked in it for many years, etc.
- They absolutely want to remain united as communities, preferably as a "gush" - bloc - or as close to that as possible. One of the rare exceptions to this is a group of approximately 14 families from Atzmona who have reestablished a farming community near Kerem Shalom, as that is the land within the green line that is best suited for the type of agriculture that they have been involved in for the last 30 years, that necessitates growing in the ground, as opposed to greenhouses. This necessity to go where the livelihood is has caused its own level of grief and hardship for both the people who left the larger community and for those who stayed behind.
- They continue to maintain, even without the physical closeness, a sense of community. Special note should be made of the website www.katif.net, operated by Moti Sender of Ganei Tal, which continues to bring them updates and information regarding events and the state of the various communities. (The website has been operating with no outside funds for the last five years.)
- Except in cases where individuals, or the individual communities, looked for a solution for themselves regarding the containers holding their possessions, the containers handled by the state are out in the open, unsheltered, in high temperatures, and the possessions inside will probably be ruined. Nobody knows anything about any insurance that will cover the losses.
- The containers sold to them by the state/army were more expensive than the identical containers that people bought privately.
- There was widespread looting and theft that went on during the packing and moving process that was handled by the state. (This, in spite of the fact that receiver Yoel Maharshak announced on Israel Radio that there was no looting.) Among the many items that were stolen were computers, municipal equipment, playground equipment, personal possessions, items that were part of homes and businesses that their owners were in the process of returning to pack up (air conditioners, sun boilers, etc.) and more. They claim that there were residents of Gush Katif who had difficulty at the checkpoints getting in, in spite of their certificates approving their coming in to pack, while other individuals with no connection to Gush Katif were allowed in freely, including people from other municipalities and from the ministry of defense, who came in with large trucks.
- Nobody seems to know if any of these possessions are insured by the government. Mr. Assaf Shariv of the prime minister's office told this researcher, before the disengagement, "There will be two video cameras in every house documenting everything. The settlers will not bear the financial burden of anything [stolen or broken]." Whether this will be the case remains to be seen.
- According to Edi Amit, a community leader from Alei Sinai, the Ministry of Defense workers did not create a register that indicates which containers belong to which families.
- At least some of the bulldozers that destroyed the homes were manned by Arabs.
- People continue to pay full mortgages for homes that no longer exist, in addition to the fact that the rent or other fees in the places in which they were placed by the government (not those that were organized privately) will be deducted from their eventual compensation.
- There were many low points in the last year and a half and during and following the disengagement, but one of the lowest points was the transferring of the bodies from the cemetery in Gush Katif to their places of reinternment. This has caused serious depression; the sister of one soldier whose body was transferred has been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward as a result of her overwhelming grief. Some teenagers have dropped religious practice.
- There is a feeling, for most of them, of uncertainty and a lack of clarity regarding what compensation they will receive, and the future in general.
- In spite of everything, the people of Gush Katif are trying to gather their spirits and their wits and rebuild their lives. Many of them have compared this period to a period of mourning, with a shiva, a shloshim (the 30 days after death), and the next stage of dealing with the grief and moving on. They are accomplishing this with their own internal strength and help from loving and caring family, friends and volunteers, not with the help of the State of Israel.
Specific Community Examples
Contact people: Eran Sternberg and Debby Rosen, spokespeople for Gush Katif
This is a community of 600 families and about 2500 people that was the main town and seat of municipal government in Gush Katif, where large educational facilities and the Gush community center were also located. They had specifically and repeatedly asked to remain together. They claim that nobody in the government did anything to provide them with a community solution, although the Legal Forum had spoken at length with the prime minister's office about this in advance, in the course of this year. The disengagement authority sent them to 13 different locations, mostly hotels, scattered throughout Jerusalem and Ashkelon. They do not know where they will be long term, just that they have requested that it be somewhere where they can be together as a community. At some point they assume they will be sent to Nitzan, when there are enough caravans there. They have no idea when that will be. The (Hyatt) Regency Hotel, one of those housing the Neve Dekalim people, has told them to vacate their rooms before the High Holidays and those people have no idea where they will go
Contact person: Ezra Heidu
The story of Moshav Katif is one of the hairiest of the disengagement.
It is a community of 65 families, about 500 people, with successful agricultural industries, including a large cow industry (refet) and cherry tomatoes (which Moshav Katif introduced to Israel) among other things.
On the day of the disengagement, the state did not have a solution. Heidu says, "We wanted to stay in our homes, but it was the obligation of the state that was removing us to find a solution." So they arranged their own solution, and were accepted by the people of Kfar Pines, who housed them in the Ulpana dormitory. "We were received wonderfully, but the school year is beginning and they need the space for the students, who they have housed temporarily in tents." 4-5 families moved to Nitzan.
The PM's office offered them Eivin for a period of three months, a community near Sderot, as a temporary solution until they set up caravans at whatever location they'll be at, until they arrive at a final solution. After they began to pack to leave for Eivin, they were told that they could not go there.
The Eivin story: It is a student community that was established for new immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia who attend Sapir College. The solution of the PM's office, with the full agreement of the Jewish Agency, would have been that the students, who would be temporarily displaced, would receive upgraded new apartments in Sderot to live in during those three months, and an additional scholarship. It was all arranged, and then Alon Shuster, the head of the municipality of Shaar Hanegev, objected and went to the media, bad-mouthing the people of Katif, arguing that "olim should not be thrown out", etc. According to Heidu, Shuster has tried to stop every possibility of the expelled community of Gush Katif from settling in his region, or from transferring their greenhouses to his region. He was joined in his objections to the Eivin plan by Shay Chermesh, gizbar of the Jewish Agency, who, like Zeev Bielski, is a close friend of PM Sharon and had previously approved the plan. They have now reversed their decision and the people of Katif have nowhere to go.
Heidu says, "The Jewish Agency is ruining the plan. Shay Chermesh apparently stirred up the Americans who had donated to Eivin, claiming that olim were being 'thrown out for the sake of the people of Gush Katif', even though it is only a period of three months, which were supposed to give us time to put up caravans somewhere, before a permanent solution is found. Incidentally, the project of the apartment building and the shopping center in Sderot to where the student were to be moved, is a project of Gilad Sharon, son of the PM.
As things stand now, they have nowhere to go. Heidu says, "The state made every possible mistake in dealing with us."
Regarding the NIS 50,000, "90% of our people are not speaking to the disengagement authority. We received information not to sign anything.
What does he think is the government's reason for wanting to split up the communities of Gush Katif?
"First of all, they want to 'divide and conquer' the people of gush Katif. It is a war against our culture, against our religion. They see how much we are giving to the state - even the media recognizes it now - we're progressing and it scares them.
"Secondly, tactically, before the disengagement, they tried to divide between us so we would leave on our own, they want people to end up in separate apartments and then they could say they have a solution for everyone. There are now 700 people scattered in hotels. We need the togetherness as therapy to heal us, but they are trying to destroy us as communities, and to destroy our families."
This week the people of Katif were scheduled to speak with the PM's office to try to solve the problem.
Their possessions are in containers in Kastina, "being ruined," Heidu says. The disengagement authority wanted to give them less compensation because they didn't want to leave before August 15. They are paying for the moving expenses even though their possessions will probably be ruined and the state will have to compensate them, says Heidu.
Contact person: Asher Mivtzari, spokesperson
This a community of about 60-65 families, numbering close to 400 people. It includes the Cohen family, whose three children lost limbs in a terror attack, who had been visited personally by Ariel Sharon, who told them, 'We will never leave Kfar Darom.' The community had successful educational institutions and was the seat of the well known "Alei Katif" business. Almost everything from Alei Katif has been destroyed. A much smaller version has been reestablished in Shaar Hanegev. They are currently in the Paradise Hotel in Beer Sheva and will be transferred soon to a high-rise apartment building in Ashkelon, where they expect to stay for a year or two. Even though this is a far cry from their lifestyle, it was the only solution they could find to be together, maintaining their educational institutions. Their long term plan is to reestablish Kfar Darom in the Negev, even though the government wants them to scatter.
To the best of his knowledge, no one from Kfar Darom has received the NIS 50,000 advance on compensation. Regarding work, some worked in the south, outside of the Gush, and they are still working. Some had to leave their place of work and are looking now for work in Ashkelon. Their containers are "heating up" in Kastina, where they are sitting, unsheltered.
Mivtzari says, "The state treated us like criminals throughout the process. The main problem is a moral one because it hurt all the moral concepts on which the State of Israel is based. We felt it was a government that betrayed its sons. The rampant corruption is another manifestation of this. We wanted to stay. The body that expelled us should have prepared a reasonable temporary solution. We'll worry about the long term. We would have accepted 80 caravans in the Negev; we would have brought the containers to there. What did the state do instead? It prepared geographically scattered apartments, ignoring the fact that we're cohesive communities, including families that are victims of terror, in mourning.
"We made the decision to stay together with our educational institutions. The people of Kfar Darom, not the government, located the place where we could all be together, in Ashkelon.
"The people who received us in Beer Sheva were very warm, 'people of the south', but from the disengagement authority we experienced an attitude of alienation, a lack of humanity.
"Now that we've located the building in Ashkelon, it's taking a long time for them to get it ready. Now we hope it will be only another two or three weeks.
"Regarding our personal feelings when the soldiers took us out of the house
- We spoke with them; they very much agreed with us that it was an immoral act, but they asked, 'What will I do if they thow me out of an officer's training course? Of a pilot's course?' We left on our own, and as we were leaving I suddenly saw in my mind's eye the picture of Jonathan Pollard, when they threw him out of the Israeli consulate in Washington. We withstood mortars all these years…Israel threw him out the same way, and he's been in prison for 21 years. He just asked the State of Israel to recognize him as a Prisoner of Zion. Israel also related the same way to the soldiers of Tzadal, of southern Lebanon, who had been our allies. The state did not come through for them.
"Many people were left without work. The point of light was the positive response from Am Yisrael. Hundreds of volunteers helped dismantle the greenhouses, and they were not only religious."
When asked why he thinks the government is trying to scatter the communities, Mivtzari said, "It is like the period between Saul and David. Saul thought that maybe he had a 'bad spirit' and that was why he was pursuing David; it was the army against the enemy, but David withstood it. Arik Sharon, a secular Zionist, is saying, 'We don't have the strength to continue.' He may feel that this 'tzibur' - wider community - threatens him, but it is really this community that is so involved in the state. There was so much hesed, kindness, in this community."
Contact person: Tami Gilboa
This was a community of 35 families who had asked to be together. It had been a successful example of the meshing of people from different types of communities - people from moshavim in the south who were mostly traditional and religious families, some who were Torah scholars, who joined them. They are spread out now. Some are at hotels at the Dead Sea, some are in Ashkelon, some are in Nitzan. About 18 families were taken in by the Ulpana and the community of Ofra. In three weeks they will be moving to Tena, a community in the southern Hebron hills. This, too, was organized privately, not through the government or the disengagement authority. From there they will look for a permanent solution, perhaps near Netivot, if "Ir Haemuna" stays there.
Possible contact person: Ami Shaked, former head of security, Gush Katif
A secular community, that had wanted to remain together. We did not succeed in making contact with someone from this community but apparently its members have been widely scattered.
Contact person: Avinadav Vitkon
This was a community on the seashore of about 33 families, who want to remain together. 21 have remained together and another 12 have been scattered. The first night they were taken to the Naot Midbar Hotel in Beer Sheva where they stayed for one night, before they moved to the Ulpana Lehava in Kedumim. When the girls returned to school there, they moved to the yeshiva dormitories in Alon Shvut, where they will stay till after the holidays. Vitkon says, "Then, we are looking for a little yishuv (community settlement) anywhere, even some abandoned place, until a final solution can be found."
This means they will have moved five times.
Could not be reached, but this community, that had wanted to remain together, are today scattered among a number of places, including Kibbutz Yavna and Kerem B'Yavna.
Atzmona (Official name: Bnei Atzmon)
Contact person: Dudy Reish, head of secretariat
This was a community of about 70 families, who had wanted to remain together. 14, as noted in the Overview, have set up a yishuv near Kerem Shalom.
Atzmona was created by the core of people who lived in the original Atzmona in the Yamit Strip, that was destroyed. Its population is a combination of farmers, educators, yeshiva students and others. It has the most famous pre-army mechina program in Israel, that has produced a disproportionately high number of officers for the Israeli army. Five of them were murdered by terrorists who infiltrated the yeshiva. (Following the terror attack, the community requested $9,500 from the UJC emergency $360 million anti-terror fund, to improve their security fence, and was turned down.) It housed the largest plant nursery in the Middle East. About 50% of its nursery (40 dunams) will, by default, be left to the Palestinians because the government refused to extend the deadline for transferring the nursery, and refused to allow the army to destroy what is left, saying it doesn't have the funds.
Immediately following the disengagement, about half the yishuv established "Ir Haemuna" - City of Faith - near Netivot, where they live in tents with bathrooms and showers outside. According to Edi Amit, a community leader from Alei Sinai, that is also located in a tent city (see below), the area on which Atzmona built their "Ir Haemuna" has been abandoned for ten years, but since the Atzmona people moved there, the government of Israel has begun looking for industrialists to come forward and say they want to use that land.
The rest of the families were taken in by the community and yeshiva of Shaalbim/Nof Ayalon, where they lived in little dormitory rooms. (The mother of one family of five living in a small, prefab hut said, "We're lucky. We have the shower and bathroom in the same room." Ensuite, as it were.) The families from Shaalbim are also completing their move to Ir Haemuna so there will be about 50 families there. The Shaalbim community ran a well organized and generous operation during the weeks the Atzmona families were there, pairing up Shaalbim families with Atzmona families to do their laundry and for other purposes, providing non-stop babysitting services, play facilities, and special programs.
According to Reish, the government did not want to provide them with normal caravans to live in "Ir Haemuna"; they were sent old rickety caravans without bathrooms or water; now they are receiving better ones. Nothing is from the government; they are organizing everything on their own, and from contributions. They have reestablished their well-known elementary school - eight classes each, for boys and girls. Their long term plan is to live somewhere in the Negev, within a larger Gush. They expect to live in caravans for the next two years. Nobody requested the NIS 50,000 advance from the government yet. All of the communities' containers are in a storehouse in Beer Sheva that was organized privately by the community, so their possessions would be well protected and stay safe.
Reish says that the families who went to the Kerem Shalom area were well taken care of by the government.
Yaron, of the community secretariat (054) 568-4564
This is a community of 21 families and about 80 people, who lived close to the sea, who wanted to remain together.
They were taken in by Moshav Even Shmuel - privately organized - where they were housed in student dormitories, and a few of the families went to Nitzan. One family moved to Ashkelon, where they found a job as a couple in Beit Hayeled. A few joined a kollel in Tel Aviv.
As the girls have returned to school, even though the school and community has been wonderful to them, they are in the process of deciding what their short term plan will be. One option, not ideal, is Beer Sheva, however, they don't like the idea of having their children in a city, which is so foreign to their lifestyle. Another option is moving into empty housing in Kibbutz Miflasim, a Hashomer Hatzair (secular communist) kibbutz. Or they can stay in Even Shmuel for a period of time, but it will take 3-4 months till they are provided with caravans, so that is not ideal for the school they are currently housed in.
Regarding work, more than 50% have work, the others do not. Only a few of them have applied for the NIS 50,000, as the forms that they have to fill out, they say, indicate a conflict of interests.
Their containers are in a sheltered area in Even Shmuel, privately organized by them.
Contact person: Edi Amit, community leader
This is a community that was established by a core of people who remained after the destruction of Yamit. They are at the uppermost corner of the Gaza Strip and lived on land that, like the land of Gush Katif, was barren sand before they got there. They walked, as a community, five minutes to their new location, inside the green line.
They are currently living in a tent city, within Yad Mordecai. There are 50 families, about 150-200 people. Some people are sick with asthama, kidney problems, etc., and they took rooms in a hotel to sleep in at night but they spend the whole day with the rest of Alei Sinai. They have not been permitted to dig in the ground there to create even a primitive infrastructure; they were not even allowed to put up showers.
There were people who had expressed a willingness to go in small groups to various yishuvim, even on the day of the disengagement, but they were put in hotels because there were not caravans ready for them.
Amit quoted the research that after a trauma like this, the community should stay together. Nevertheless, the government did not offer them any community solutions. Amit says they were not officially in contact with the disengagement authority, as a community, "Because we anticipated that they would not have solutions, but there were people from our community who went to the disengagement authority on their own, and tried to find solutions for the community. They didn't speak in our name officially, but, in any case, they also did not received solutions. They went to Basi and to [Justice Minister] Tzipi Livni. Their [Basi and Livne's] solution was to add us to some yishuv that already exists. There were people from Alei Sinai who said, 'Okay, let's see if we could get something for everyone.' They thought that if they came with a solution, we would follow. We knew all along what the answers of the disengagement authority would be.
"In the end, the people from Alei Sinai who had spoken to the disengagement authority became the most militant [against the authority] because they kept getting burnt. Also, before the disengagement, Ilan Cohen of the PM's office was in the yishuv, and we tried to arrive at some solution so we'd have a place to go to, but they don't have a solution for us as a community - a kehila - just within a yishuv that already exits, and we don't want to lose the kehila.
"Since we knew in advance that they wanted to put us in hotels, and we weren't willing to do that, we said that as long as we don't have a long term solution, we won't go anywhere. We also didn't want hotels because psychologically, it's easier to help people if they are together, not scattered throughout hotels.
"We are in tents in Yad Mordecai, and the disengagement authority doesn't deal with us, only Ilan Cohen, but he's also not willing to take care of us because we live in tents, so he's insulted. There is nothing being planned by the government for us, for the future. There were attempts, but they always return to what we're not willing to do, to join existing yishuvim or neighborhoods in Ashkelon. We want to keep the kehila.
"Nobody knows what their reasons are for wanting to scatter us; dealing with them is like facing Satan."
Regarding their possessions, he says, "Some of us took out our things and they're all over the place; anything taken out through the Ministry of Defense is standing in the sun. I took out very little in advance, only what could be useful in our tent city. Most of my things were destroyed with the house, because I knew they would be destroyed anyway, by standing in containers in the sun. There is no insurance. Before August 15 I was required to take my things out. When I didn't, the soldiers offered us help. We had to pay for it. Later, all the property that stayed, it was as if we gave it up. How much the state was willing to provide regarding the moving expenses was linked to how many children the family has. Also, the government workers did not register the numbers of the containers with the household goods inside, which container belonged to which family, so now things are all mixed up."
Regarding livelihood, "We tried to help most of the people go back to work. The children returned to Shaar Hanegev for school. We want to settle in a place between Ashkelon and Ashdod so as to not hurt our livelihoods and school continuity.
"Now that we're here, the people of the disengagement authority come and try to engender arguments between people. They have tried to create a power struggle between themselves and our community leaders."
Contact person: Ezra Eldar, member of community secretariat
One of the oldest communities in Gush Katif, with a "boomer" aged population, Ganei Tal is the home to many successful agriculturists and people of other professions. It is also the home of MK Tzvi Hendel.
The people of Ganei Tal, which consists of 80 families and about 350 people, made their own arrangements and most of them are currently living in the guest house of Kibbutz Hafetz Haim. Many of them had spacious homes of 250-300 square meters or so and they are currently living in small guest house rooms of approximately 4x6 meters.
Their short term plan is to move to caravans in Yad Binyamin within two months, after the holidays, where they will live for approximately two years until new homes are built in a new and independent neighborhood that will be an extension of Hafetz Haim.
Almost nobody signed the papers that would enable them to receive the NIS 50,000 advance on compensation.
Regarding their livelihoods, those who were municipal workers are not currently working but are still receiving their salaries, it is not clear for how long, some people returned to their places of work if they were inside the green line, such as in Beer Sheva or Ashkelon, those who worked in agriculture that could be transferred, such as greenhouses, have moved their equipment and plants, though usually at great financial cost and loss that will never be totally covered, and then there are the unemployed. These are either farmers who planted in the land (some of whom grew organically, and no substitute land has been found for them), or others who worked at businesses in the Gush. They are in their 50's, and it is anticipated that it will be very difficult for them to find work and rebuild their lives.
They made private arrangements with Hafetz Haim to store their containers of possessions in sheltered storage houses.
Regarding the looting, his assumption, based on conversations with others and cross-referencing, is that much of the looting was done by the workers who came in to pack and transfer the containers.
There were several frightening stories regarding the destruction of the homes in Ganei Tal. Itzik Tzur relates that the bulldozers almost brought his brother's house down on him, and in the case of his own home, friends of his from the army were dismantling his kitchen cabinets when they heard a noise outside and they saw the bulldozers already working to take down the roof. One person in Ganei Tal packed up his whole house and, while it was waiting for the Ministry of Defense contracted workers to pack it into the containers and take it away, the bulldozers brought the whole house down on top of the packed possessions.
Contact people: Itzik Vazana and Levana, secretariat members
This community, with 80 families and 500 people, wants to remain together, like all the other communities of Gush Katif. They were the last community to be removed from Gush Katif, and the one that removed the menorah from the roof of their synagogue and took it with them when they went that night to pray at the Cotel.
Ariel College offered them a place to stay; had it not been for Ariel, they might have been sent to a hotel in Mitzpeh Rimon, no one would know for how long.
They are considering several long term plans, not necessarily anything offered by the government. They say that in a few days the people of Ariel College and the community of the Shomron put together something that "the state could not do in a whole year." They are living like a yishuv, among themselves and with their familiar neighbors.
They are only now beginning to check out the issue of their compensation.
They do not know where they will go after the holidays, when the students return to Ariel. The college has said they can stay a little longer, if necessary, and will meanwhile house students in hotels.
The people of this yishuv in northern Gaza, who wanted to stay together, have been all spread out and contact could not be made with a representative.
Contact person: Lorenze Baziz, spokesperson of emergency squad
The families of this community, who wanted to remain together, are in two locations. 26 families are in Nitzan, 17 are in Neve Ilan Hotel, and those would like to go to Masuot Yitzhak, but the disengagement authority is not willing to do that, because, she says, "they are putting everything into this caravan city [Nitzan]".
They felt they were terrible degraded by the state who "not only abandoned us, but placed us in terrible conditions. We came to a barren place - Gush Katif - and did everything we could to develop it, and now we are thrown into an empty location, 200 meters from the train tracks, where everyone lives on top of each other, seeing into each others' homes, in 90 square meters, in a neglected area. We have nowhere to go, we're ready to 'swallow the frog' in order to be together. We're looking at this only as a temporary solution, before we continue to a better place."
Their long term hope is that they will be part of a government-developed project in Nitzanim. There will have to be 5,000 people there in order for the government to recognize it as an independent municipality
She says, "We have to bring pressure on the government that we receive what we should. Nobody cares if we stay in tent cities. The government screwed up big time, but together we have to be more smart than right, for the good of the families. …Today I have no faith in the government, in the courts, etc., so I have to just worry about my family."
Regarding their possessions, she says, "The army was so organized to expel us, but not to take care of our possessions. We ordered a mover [through the government] and it didn't come, at a time that the soldiers could have helped us. When it got there only two days later, we had volunteers that threw things in, things were broken. Also, there were no soldiers guarding the homes. Later, I came back when my house was only rubble, when the roof tiles and bricks were scattered over the sand. Then I saw two soldiers standing there. I asked them, 'What are you doing?' They said, 'We're guarding the house.'
"I am sure there will be an investigation when it is all over. Such efficiency in expelling us, but not in worrying about us afterwards.
"We're trying to go forward and we need strength and not to think about that all the time. Sometimes I am ashamed to say that I am a part of this country."
Contact person: Aharon Farjun
This community of 38 families, average 7-8 people to a family, who wanted to stay together, were sent to a hotel at the Dead Sea for Shabbat and Sunday and then told that they had to leave on Sunday morning. Some of the people went to Nitzan, into "karavilot" that were not yet ready, that had water pipes exploding; some went to the Paradise Hotel in Beer Sheva, some went to the Shirat Hayam Youth Hostel in Ashkelon.
Most of the people helping them are volunteers. The disengagement authority does almost everything by "remote control", he says.
Their long term plan is to be part of a yishuv in Nitzanim. He doesn't know what he will do personally as he grew spices in the ground for export and now he has no livelihood. His wife is a teacher and she has no work now though the Ministry of Education promised to find her some.
He was also a driving teacher but hasn't done it for years. He would need NIS 2,000,000 to get to the same point where he was agriculturally, but he'll only receive about NIS 700,000 from the state. "I'll be able to build only one third of what I had…There is no sense of 'together' from the state, rather, 'We beat you'," he says.
He stored his possessions privately at his parents' home so they wouldn't be destroyed in the sun. He said that some people who moved to Nitzan have spent between NIS 30,000- NIS 40,000 for new refrigerators, closest and beds, because their regular thing would not fit through the doors or inside the "karavilot", and they are also spending money on winter clothes, as they cannot get to their containers. There were others who put their things in containers and waited for the army to remove them. When they returned to their homes [to finish packing], they saw that half the things were missing. There was terrible looting.
Regarding the NI 50,000, he says there is a mistake in the forms and they were told by their lawyers to not sign for it. He received a small advance on his compensation before but there are others who have nothing.
"If a person goes into a store and steals an electric appliance, he's arrested. The state stole our homes from us, but they feel they can wait now to give us the money. Just like they sent the army in to speak to us, they could have sent others to speak to us about compensation. We should not have had to go to them. How dare you take us out of the house before you gave me even one shekel. There is importance to having order in the world. They could have put the money into our bank accounts. They don't care about human rights.
"I drove my son from Netivot to Ashkelon every day, for school. They promised us transportation and there were none. Only today they organized a cab.
"They sent 'dolls' who said they're from the disengagement authority but they have no authority to make decisions, they have to get permission for everything little thing. The good Jew, the volunteers - if they were not there, it would be terrible. Doctors, nurses, alternative therapists, social workers have been coming - not from the state."
Contact person: Iris Chemo, secretariat member
This traditional moshav wanted to remain together. They were sent to a hotel at the Dead Sea for two weeks, because the "karavilot" at Nitzan were not ready, even though they had spoken with the government in advance. Some of them were thrown from one hotel to another. Some are at the Kfar Nofesh in Ashkelon.
They were the only community who went to the disengagement authority on Succot last year. They want to go as a whole yhishuv to Mavkiim, between Ashkelon and Yad Mordecai. They're in "karavilot" now.
Chemo says, "They not only threw us out, but stepped on us. We don't want pity, we want them to identify with us, to understand. They didn't want people to have somewhere to go back to.
"For me the hardest part was when they took my son out of the grave. He was killed three years ago in a car accident. That was very cruel. He was reburied here on September 1. There were three weeks before that that we didn't sleep, wondering what will be, how will it be. People tried to say, 'You'll be close to him', I screamed at them in anger."
They had a successful packing plant and agriculture in Gush Katif and exported. Today her husband gets up "and he doesn't know what to do". The climate is different for growing things. She worked in the educational department of the Gush Katif municipality. They receive no help from the disengagement authority, she says. They're burning their financial reserves.
They're paying mortgages. And they're also paying rent for the "karavilot."
Some of their possessions are in containers at a location that they arranged privately. When they returned to Neve Dekalim, where they owed store locations, they saw their equipment and their possessions being stolen by the contractors who had been hired by the ministry of defense.
Contact person: Anita Tucker, community leader
The people of Netzer Hazani are living in the midrasha in Hispin, in the Golan Heights. Even though they were in touch with the PM's office in advance, there was no place found for them, other than sending them to the Dead Sea and to Eilat, temporarily. They had to move out of the Golan midrasha after a few days, into the high school yeshiva, which had terrible conditions. Now they're back in the midrasha. There was a deal supposedly made with the Shoresh Hotel in the Jerusalem corridor to be there for three months, while "karavilot" are being built for them in Ein Tzurim, which was to be their temporary solution for several years. However, the Shoresh deal, which had been approved, fell through and it is only for three weeks. After that they have nowhere to go, so they rejected the solution of moving first for three weeks and then again to - they don't know where.
Here is a fuller version of the story:
"The day before they left they didn't have a place because there wasn't enough room for everyone, and it was just a function of money to get the people out of the hotels, Yossi Russo - director of the PM's office, told them that his job was to take them to Kissufim and where they go afterwards is not his job. 'I told the media that we're going to the Cotel, the only house we have,' so they sent Yossi Russo the day before what was supposed to be the disengagement to come with an offer, and he came with his suggestion was that half the people go to the Dead Sea and the other half to Eilat, very far away and not appropriate for us.
"So he said, 'How about Tiberias,' so someone said, sarcastically, 'You may as well send us to Hispin [in the Golan Heights], so he actually called Hispin which made him happy, to throw us far away.
"In the end we went to the Cotel and we stayed there for the night and then to Hispin, for the weekend, to the midrasha. We thought it would be two weeks, but it turned out that after Shabbat we had to move out, because the PM's office didn't work something out, so we were moved to the high school yeshiva dorms, and the people were wonderful, but they were apartments from the '60's. There was rust, mold…A day after we got there the minister of housing showed up and asked, 'What can I do for you?' Our children were planning to go to the school of Ein Tzurim, because we had come to an agreement with Ein Tzurim, and it was almost finalized. We were in contact with them for a year and a half, and being in Hispin was too far away. There were also teachers who had to go back to school, kids who had to go to other schools, and the few people who had jobs inside the green line didn't know what to do, because they were also far away, so there was a negotiation with Maale Hahamisha Hotel, which had started before the disengagement. It was a function of money probably. They said the hotel didn't want to give up their clients, and seminars from the Joint, so it wasn't done.
"So we started working on Shoresh. I understood that finally they agreed, Russo and Cohen, and they were supposed to come to an agreement with Shoresh, and they had to bring it to the budget committee, but they didn't approve it, but they said go there anyway and we'll work it out, but the Netzer people were afraid they would have to pay for it. The PM has his own [discretionary] budget, so he said they were signing a contract with Shoresh. Then it turned out that the agreement was not for the three months of the temporary "karavilot" buildling in Ein Tzurim, but it was for three weeks. So we didn't go because we didn't want to keep on moving. So we're still in Hispin.
"Rav Tal's yeshiva took the three week deal because he has to move to Yad Binyamin They were in Nazereth for a while, but at least they'll have three weeks, and then - who knows.
"Yesterday we packed up and moved back into the midrasha because the yeshiva tichonit kids are coming back. Some kids started school in Hispin, and gan, there is no solution for the m'onot, some people have jobs in the south, so Ein Tzurim found about 10 old caravans for the families who have kids learning in Atzmona, or who have jobs down south, meanwhile the kids and teachers are not going to school there. There are also families who have to go to the Ashkelon area, and they have nowhere to go except to their families.
"Maybe after the holidays we'll move to Beit Hahayal in Ashkelon so we'll be together again. My husband is in Dimona, sleeping at relatives in Meitar. He's probably going to rent an apartment in Dimona. Everybody is doing so much traveling and it costs a fortune in gas.
"We just dealt with Yossi Russo, and Ilan Cohen. No one dealt with the disengagement authority.
"People have not received any money.
"We never had a psychologist or social worker, or anyone like that in Hispin, all we had was social work volunteers from the Golan.
"Everyone is still paying mortgages, paying interest on the overdraft to pay the mortgage. Will we also get interest on the compensation? I don't think until it's approved, and it's a long bureaucratic process.
"The room in the yeshiva high school was big but old and disgusting. Now we're back in the midrasha in a very small room. People with young children had to take them into the room with them, as there are very few with connecting doors.
"Who's going to pay for university? Who will pay for schools not covered by aliyat l'noar? Travel expenses to come back to Hispin for Shabbat?
"Will this be taken off my compensation?"
Regarding their possessions:
Netzer Hazani ordered their containers from the army in advance and were ready to send things out before August 17, but did not receive them. When they finally came, there was no one left to help pack from the packing companies, even though they were charged for it. Guy Tzur, sgan aluf mate pikud hadarom, said he obtained a professional opinion that if the containers stayed in the sun, everything would be ruined. Their community arranged privately for them to be stored better at Ein Tzurim, though first they were taken to Kastina. The same container that Tucker had bought previously for NIS 2,500 was being sold by the disengagement authority for NIS 5,000.
Case Study I
Assaf Assis of Ganei Tal, a successful grower and exporter of geraniums and spices, tried to do things "by the book" in order to not suffer grave financial loss, and he discovered that dealing with the disengagement authority was a bureaucratic nightmare.
He started looking into renting space a year before the disengagement. While he prayed that it not take place, he also prepared to transfer his equipment and plants so that he could honor his contracts with his European customers and continue to survive financially.
"In the beginning, last August, 2004, we planned to rent but in March, 2005, it fell through because they wanted to raise the prices.
"We started to look again and in March 2005 we saw we had a problem. One possibility was setting up behind my parents' home in Moshav Bitzaron, and then we found out that we couldn't do much there because we wouldn't get compensation because it was too far north, beyond what the compensation allowed for. [So much for the noises being made about "settling the Galil". - TKG]
"So we started to look for something else. We considered Shafir, behind the in-laws of my son, who is also in the business with me, so we leveled a lemon tree orchard for it.
"Then the director of the Ministry of Agriculture came and said no, they have instead an area that we can buy, up to the size that we had in Gush Katif, at $ 3,000 a dunam.
"We went through all the procedures, etc., and then they said the attorney general cancelled the deal, which had been approved by the government, because it's not 'midati', i.e., it was not 'proportionate'. Do you understand? They can declare in a court decision that even though the disengagement is against the basic law of "Dignity and Personal Freedom", they can throw me out of my house, but when there is a law that they have to give me not less than what I have, the attorney general [Mazuz] used it to turn it around, and say, 'You're giving them more than they have because you're giving it to them in a central region.'
"So I returned to Shafir , but then someone told me, 'Something will be ready on June 30.' It was ready on July 10th."
He received a partial advance on the compensation on his home, in order to set up his greenhouses. But instead of giving him real compensation for his beautiful 300-meter home, they gave him 75% of what the original 80-meter pre-fab house was worth, the one he bought 21 years ago. After deducting the mortgage and other fees, he was left with NIS 170,000, to set up an operation that would cost NIS 1,300,000, which is only 20 out of the 40 dunams he had, and doesn't include the storehouses, etc.
In September, 2005, when Assis asked for the larger sum coming to him, understanding that, due to the decision of Israel's High Court of Justice, he could take what the disengagement authority thinks he deserves and still sue for more. The person he dealt with said he had to sign [that he received full compensation]. He said, "Didn't you hear about the High Court decision [of June, 2005, which stated that a person could accept what was offered him and sue for more later, with a private lawyer. - TKG]? he man replied, "Yes, but the orders have not been officially changed yet."
In order to receive the first amount of compensation for his house he had to bring documents going back 21 years, even though the home was registered on his name and he had been paying a mortgage for 21 years. They asked him to bring the original contract, when he had bought the house from Amidar. After weeks of looking, he remembered a tax advisor in Tel Aviv who he had gone to once, and fortunately the tax man had saved it.
Assis says, "The disengagement authority also told someone that they have to bring proof that the house is theirs. They asked to see a key. So he brought a key that he had in his pocket and said, 'This is the key to the house.'"
When he made his last trip back to his Gush Katif operation to remove some final equipment, he discovered that scores of the specialized tables, including electrical and watering equipment, that he used for rerooting new plants were stolen, at a loss of NIS 60,000 - NIS 70,000.
"We still pay the mortgage and the state will deduct from our compensation the amount of mortgage that we haven't paid. I.e., we paid the entire price, even though the house was destroyed.
On September 7, Ilan Cohen of the PM's office, together with Nachman Shai, came to visit Assis's greenhouses in Ashkelon, along with a delegation of U.S. Jews, probably from the UJC. Their goal was to show how someone from Gush Katif was getting back on his feet. But Assis said to them, "I haven't received the money yet. The state took my land, let the state be the guarantor." They said, "Yes, you should get the money." When I asked if he told them about the stolen rooting tables, he said, "What's NIS 60-70,000 when you're talking about a cost to me of NIS 1,300,000?"
Case Study II
Moshe Levy (not his real name) lived in a community in Gush Katif almost his whole life. He has been serving in the IDF for the last seven years, most of those years as a career officer. Today he is a senior officer.
In June, 1999, he married Sara. Due to the fact that she had one year left to complete her B.A. at a school far away from Gush Katif, they rented a caravan in the Binyamin region for a little more than a year.
In 2001 they moved back to Gush Katif. First they lived in a little house near Moshe's parents, then they decided to join another community in Gush Katif.
Just as they were discussing plans to buy the house they were living in, the Disengagement was announced.
Moshe and Sara discovered yesterday that, due to the fact that they moved into their latest house one month after the official date that had been given by the disengagement authority (which was two years before the disengagement was to take place), they will receive no compensation.
Moshe, who lived almost all of his 28 years in Gush Katif, first in his parents community and then in another community, including most of the last five years of terror, whose home had shrapnel marks from mortars that had fallen nearby, and whose wife spent most evenings alone with their children in order to enable Moshe to serve in the IDF, sometimes too far for him to come home every night, were expelled from their home under a law that gives them not one penny of compensation. They will probably even have to pay, on their own, for the moving of their possessions.
They will have to hire a private lawyer to fight the decision.
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Why Does the Israeli Government
Persist in Spreading The Word thst "All is Well"
News reports today indicated that contrary to what was stated in
an earlier government policy (designed to make the residents of Gush
Katif move out of their homes complacently), those who did not
move out of their own volition but were evicted by the IDF will
be entitled to full compensation after all (if they weren't
violent). I found no mention of the efforts of the Israel Legal
Forum, working on behalf of the evacuees, with regard to this
matter -- but the fact is that they had stated from the
beginning that the government position was illegal and they were fighting it.
Be that as it may . . . I was particular caught by a statement in The Jerusalem Post attributed to PM Sharon on this matter:
At the same time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that since the evacuees were getting their hotels paid for by the state, and at the same time receiving rental subsidies, "it needs to be clear to everyone that they must leave the hotels to homes set aside for them in a gradual and orderly fashion."
This, so typical of the government misrepresentation on the issue, cannot be permitted to pass without comment -- which should be shared broadly. To read this is to gain an impression that the evacuees are doing all right for themselves (perhaps even taking advantage of the situation): staying free in hotels while receiving rental subsidies. Not so! An outrage!!
More than half of the evacuees have not received a shekel from the government yet and are hurting badly for money (most likely having lost their farms or their jobs as a result of the evacuation). In some cases, money received is not housing money, but simply a first emergency payment to help tide them over; even if housing compensation has been applied for it takes weeks, at best, to start receiving it. That is, if indeed, it comes. What is more, in the majority of cases where compensation has been arranged, evacuees are then supposed to find their own housing. The "homes waiting for them" to which they are supposed to repair in an orderly fashion, in cases where indeed there are such "homes," are for the most part unsatisfactory to the former residents of Gush Katif because they do not provide an opportunity for them to sustain their communities -- they are scattered apartments or apartments in inaccessible areas. Because the people are determined in the main to keep their communities together many are simply not applying for the compensation now and are seeking their own solutions.
The government has no shame.
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