Ex-Gush Katif Residents Settling Down in Maskiyot

The Civil Administration has issued irrelevant demolition orders for seven homes built for families expelled in 2005 from Gush Katif.

Hillel Fendel,

Civil Administration demolition orders for seven homes built for families expelled from Gush Katif in 2005 have been issued - but even the United States does not understand why. 

The homes are located in Maskiyot in the Jordan Valley, and are meant for former residents of Shirat HaYam.  Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the construction in late 2006, but withdrew his approval in early 2007, fearing that it would anger the United States.  Specifically, ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised US President George W. Bush that he would not build or expand any Jewish towns in the areas liberated by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967.

"However," a spokesperson for the Jordan Valley Regional Council told Arutz-7, "just last month, on Feb. 20, a U.S. Embassy official arrived to inspect the site, and said he could not understand what all the fuss was about.  The homes are merely a slightly enlarged version of regular caravans [mobile homes without wheels] - sometimes known as caravillas - and they are built in the same area in which a pre-military academy was located."

Maskiyot used to be the site of a Nachal army base, and now houses a boarding school that prepares high school graduates for military service.  It has been continually populated since the early 1980's, and at one time, former Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein ruled that turning it into a residential community does not require renewed governmental approval.

Maskiyot: New Home for Gush Katif Expellees
The Shirat HaYam expellees - thrown out in Sharon's Disengagement plan - have been kept in limbo since 2006 regarding the status of Maskiyot, which is the only community in Judea and Samaria being developed specifically for Gush Katif expellees. Eight expellee families currently live there, having moved in two months ago after tiring of waiting for official permission to do so. Ten additional families are on a waiting list, willing to move in the minute the word is given that more caravillas are on their way.  Other families continue to show interest as well, according to the long-time community secretary, Yossi Hazut.

Shirat HaYam - lit., the Song of the Sea - was a small, seaside community in Gush Katif that had a special place in the hearts of many.  Its location literally on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, its founding in response to the deadly Kfar Darom bus bombing, and its growth spurt in response to the terrorist murder of one of its founders - were all part of its uniqueness.

After the Disengagement/expulsion, several of the 21 families of Shirat Hayam moved directly to Hemdat, a ten-minute drive from their designated location of Maskiyot in the Jordan Valley. Others decided to wait in Nitzan (with hundreds of other Gush Katif expellees), in the Shomron, or elsewhere, for the homes in Maskiyot to be ready.

"We originally had a few choices," Hazut, who took up temporary residence in Hemdat, told Arutz-7, "including the Galilee, Lachish/Negev, and here in the Jordan Valley.  But we chose this location mainly for two reasons: We were told that it would be first to be approved, and because it seemed to be the location that was most in need of people..." 

Hazut says that what bothers him most about the past few years is the government's seeming callousness to the needs of hundreds of families whose homes and lives it uprooted over two and a half years ago.  Shirat HaYam families, in particular, have not received many of the promised compensation - but, renewing their bonds with the Land as they did in Gush Katif, they are plowing ahead with their lives in any event. 

The families of Maskiyot/Hemdat are already making a big difference in the not-necessarily thriving Jordan Valley.  They have planted 62 dunams (over 15 acres) of olive trees, and are the driving force in a partnership with two other young communities to plant 600 dunams of date trees.  The 2000 saplings are currently temporarily planted in Maskiyot, and will have to wait until after the upcoming Shemittah year ends to be transplanted in their permanent quarters some 45 minutes to the south.