Gush Katif Expellees to Build Gush Lachish

A new Gush Katif - "Katif Bloc of Settlements" - is to arise in the Lachish area, east of the Be'er Sheva-Kiryat Gat area, west of Hevron. It will be built mainly by former residents of Gush Katif.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 12:16

Five new communities are scheduled to be built along a north-south 15-kilometer range - though most of them are still very much in the planning stage. It could be anywhere from 2-4 years before all the permitsand approvals are obtained and construction is completed.

Lior Kalfa, who has taken over the duties of the Regional Council head of the Gush Katif expellees - despite the large distances that separate them one from another - outlined the five new communities he hopes will arise:
"The northernmost and largest one is planned, with G-d's help, for a beautiful hilltop area known as Givat Egoz, not far from Kiryat Gat. Families from N'vei Dekalim and elsewhere in Gush Katif, who are now living in Nitzan, Ein Tzurim and Jerusalem hotels, hope to move there and build it up into a beautiful town. The problem is that the government is giving us a hard time with all the approvals and permits, but I truly hope that its policies will soon change, in accordance with its declarations about developing the Negev."

The town of Egoz is to be designed by the same architect who designed N'vei Dekalim, and will be planned for 600 families, making it slightly larger than N'vei Dekalim.

Proceeding southward, the next community to be built, Kalfa said, "will be a new neighborhood adjacent to the existing town/moshav of Amatzia. At present, families from Moshav Katif and others are living in pre-fab caravillas there, and are fortunate to be living close to where their permanent homes are to be built. Next on the route is Mirsham, which will be just west of the planned security partition wall. Families from Tel Katifa and N'vei Dekalim hope to build it and move in; in two weeks, they will be moving to caravilas in nearby Shekef."

The fourth in line is Kibbutz Shomeriya, which already exists. Some 50 families from Atzmona moved in last week, after the government paid the remaining members of the failing secular kibbutz some $300,000 each to move out.

Last in line, south of Shomeriya, is Karmit, northeast of Be'er Sheva. It is being designated for the former residents of Kfar Darom, who are currently living in a high-rise building in Ashkelon. The Kfar Darom-Karmit connection has not yet been finalized, however.

Kalfa explained that this will not be the only bloc of settlements to be formed out of what was Gush Katif. He said that in addition to the 300-400 families he foresees living in the Lachish bloc, there will also be three other blocs of new "settlers:"

* Close to 450 families who will opt to remain in the Nitzan-Nitzanim area, north of Ashkelon;

* 150 families living in the Halutza Sands area, due south of the southernmost Gush Katif community Morag, and along the Israel-Egypt border. Approximately 100 families already live there, in Yated and Yevul, and another 50 are expected to arrive.

* Close to 300 families in the Nachal Sorek area, building new towns in Yad Binyamin, Chafetz Chaim, and Yesodot.

"It's as we always said," Kalfa summed up. "Whoever doesn't want one Gush Katif, will end up with a few of them."

Michal Shomron, a former resident of N'vei Dekalim who is leading the Egoz project, said, "This is our mission now: to actualize the long-waiting vision of settlement in this area, until, with G-d's help, we can return to N'vei Dekalim and Gush Katif. [We may be angry at the State], but not at the Land of Israel..."

Each plot of land in Egoz will cost $10-15,000, and 100 families have signed up thus far. "Egoz will be similar to N'vei Dekalim," Shomron said, 'with the same educational institutions - a yeshiva high school, a higher-level yeshiva, etc. It will be located in a beautiful green area, and a large-scale tourism project is planned for the area. Investors have already started showing interest. Employment opportunities will abound, as we will be only 15 minutes from Kiryat Gat and 45 from Tel Aviv."