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Gush Katif, 28 Months After: 85% Still in Temporary Quarters

The Gush Katif Residents Committee has released its latest report on the state of the families expelled during the Disengagement of 2006.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/18/2007, 12:20 PM

The Gush Katif Residents Committee has released its latest report on the state of the families expelled during the Disengagement of 2005. The starkest finding: 85% of the expellees are still, 28 months later, living in temporary quarters.

Additional numbers:

8,800 people in 1,667 families were thrown out of their homes in Gush Katif and lived for months in hotels, tents, and dormitories.

85% of them still live in communal frameworks in temporary pre-fab sites.  A large number of those who do not currently live with their former neighbors plan to do so in the future when their community is rebuilt.

The caravan sites were built to last 2-4 years, but it is now clear that they will be in use for much longer - at least 6-8 years.  "This fact has ramifications on many problems," the report states, "including a lack of public buildings, infrastructures, housing, employment, education, communal framework and operation, and more."

Unemployment among the expellees is still high - 23%.  While nearly 2,000 people are working, well over 800 are still out of work.  Among the latter, 317 - many of whom owned and ran thriving agricultural businesses - have despaired of finding work because of their age or their lack of professional training.  Some of them never received unemployment or funds to help them adapt, while for the others, these funds have long run out.

The widespread unemployment that was extant until now, and which continues in many families, ate and eats into the compensation monies that were to have paid for permanent housing.

Out of 180 non-agricultural small businesses in Gush Katif, only 80 have returned to operation. Bureaucratic difficulties and holes in the Compensation law are largely responsible for the other 100, as well as for lack of compensation for the losses incurred in transferring the businesses.

Only 50 farmers, out of 400, have received land - and only a small portion of them have actually begun to produce.
"Many of the expelled residents are facing difficult psychological pressures," the report states, "as a result of the expulsion. Many of the families are suffering from economic difficulties because of the forced unemployment, their uncertain future, the dismantling of their community and loss of friends, the lack of space in their pre-fab home leading to dysfunctional family life and inability to host relatives, the exhausting bureaucracy, and the general pressures and instability."

The Permanent Sites Fiasco
The report includes details on the 25 planned future communities.  In only one of sites have the families' permanent homes been built, and in one other location, construction has begun; in 23 of them, construction has not even begun.

Two out of the 25 permanent locations have infrastructures, five of them have partial infrastructures, and in one other a tender has been issued; in the other 17, work on infrastructures has not begun.

Most of the permanent sites face bureaucratic and legal tangles of an unfamiliar and surprising nature to most observers.  For instance, some 60 families from the former town of Atzmonah are headed for Shomeriyah, between Be'er Sheva and Kiryat Gat.  However, the necessary three square kilometers for farming have not yet been purchased by the government, the town has not yet been officially transferred to the appropriate government body, and government budgeting for 40 housing units has not yet arrived. 

For another example, 30 families from three northern Gaza communities are headed for N'vei Yam, 15 kilometers south of Haifa - but the authorities have not been able to finalize an agreement with the kibbutz there, nor have the families yet been recognized as a community with rights.

Other situations in limbo include:

460 families from various Gush Katif communities are currently living in the transient Nitzanim location, near Ashkelon, but no progress is being made on the nearby permanent location.

Nearby, 380 families from N'vei Dekalim, the largest Gush Katif community, are residing in Nitzan, but various technical and other problems - with no solution in sight - are holding up their move to permanent quarters.

50 families from Moshav Katif would like to move to Amatzia, while 85 families from Ganei Tal, currently in Yad Binyamin, have long been awaiting their move to Chafetz Chaim, a few kilometers away; both projects are stuck.

50 families from Netzer Hazani are waiting in frustration for a final agreement with the government in order to finalize their move to Yesodot in the Yad Binyamin area.  Other localities that continue to wait for expellees to make their permanent homes there are Bustan HaGalil in the Galilee (30 families from northern Gaza), Avnei Eitan in the Golan (22 from Kfar Darom, Netzer Hazani and elsewhere), Ariel in the Shomron, (20 from Netzarim), Maskiyot in the Jordan Valley (22 from Shirat HaYam and others), Tene-Omarim (15 from Morag), and many more.

An emergency plan is sorely needed, says the Gush Katif Residents Committee: "The Prime Minister must intervene in a massive manner to implement his authorities and/or put into action an emergency plan to establish the permanent communities - including budgeting, timetables, and rushed proceedings."

Tremendous Government Failures
"There is no doubt," the report states, "that the picture depicted here testifies clearly of tremendous failures and faulty action by the State.  The period of residency in temporary sites is extending well beyond the period originally designated by the State, and it appears that none of the government ministries or offices have a real working plan for the coming period. It goes without saying that an urgent plan with clear timetables and full authorities for the middle-level and will circumvent the customary blocks will speed up the solution, and will save both national resources and suffering of the expellees."

Conclusion
"It is important to emphasize that despite all, the communities of Gush Katif continue to thrive and to act.  Over 85% still live in our communal frameworks for the purpose of continuing our values and ideals, and the mutual help and support that was a mainstay of life in Gush Katif continues now as well.  Torah and educational institutes are being established in new locations, as are informal educational frameworks for the youth, and volunteers work daily to maintain the protection of our communal frameworks and work towards the construction of the permanent towns."

"There is no doubt that once the proper tools are returned to us, the population of Gush Katif will once again be a strong, creative, productive and contributing sector."