Op-Ed: Gush Katif Residents Take Another Step Towards Normalcy
I have a very vivid memory of that day, the beginning of the new school year following Ariel Sharon's 2005 Disengagement Plan, when we dedicated the new Gush Katif elementary school to take the place of the school I had attended.
I had just started my year of national service, and as a graduate of the original Gush Katif elementary school, I found it all very emotional. The school was, of course, all very temporary – the classrooms were set up at the Ashkelon Holiday Village, where many former Gush Katif residents were dwelling as they waited for the government to finish building the caravillas at Nitzan and Ein Tzurim. The expulsion, as is now known by all, had taken place without proper government planning for over 8000 law-abiding, loyal citizens whom it turned into "homeless".
I remember greeting my former teachers, and tears welling up as the familiar tunes played and the older grades welcomed the new first graders. Despite the past, it all seemed so right, so proper, so in keeping with the Gush Katif spirit. And looking around, I saw I wasn't the only one with tears in my eyes. Although our homes and communities had been destroyed and we had been uprooted from our land, we were moving forward. And rightfully so; our precious children, our hope for the future, remained!
Since then, the Nitzanei Katif elementary schoo lpopulation has grown until it now numbers 450 students. For the past 8 years, its pre-fab classrooms have somehow endured all weathers and political climates. In fact, several bomb shelters were brought in when there was heavy missile fire from Gaza on southern Israel.
Now, the time has finally come for the Nitzanei Katif School to move to its permanent abode! The latest heavy storm caused considerable damage to the pre-fab classes, and rather than (once again) invest funds in repairing temporary structures, the Hof Ashkelon regional council has decided, with the full cooperation of the parents' committee, to speed up the move to the permanent school.
Many parents remain doubtful about this hasty move. At the meeting last week (December 29) in which the parents' committee explained the reasoning behind their decision and answered parents' questions, many parents adamantly insisted the move shouldn't be happening this way. "We've waited 8 long years, we can wait another half a year and move in once it's finished and there's a playground – instead of it being a construction site" was one father's words, which were wildly applauded.
However, the Nitzan population doesn't have half a year's grace to remain in the current school. The ceilings leak, the classrooms are drafty and moldy, and parents fear their children might get electrocuted. In other words, the sooner they move to the permanent building – the better.
But they can't move until they have government permits declaring the new school is safe and permission from the Ministry of Education. This is expected to be granted within the next few days.
Then, in the new school, in the permanent location, Gush Katif parents dream of recreating the unique characteristics and special programs they had back in Gush Katif: the on site synagogue, the petting zoo, the sport stadium, the arts and music.
If you will it, is no dream, said a great man. Good friends who care can help us turn this dream to a reality.