Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky took his first official tour Monday, visiting the caravan villages that are home to Jews expelled from Gaza in the 2005 Disengagement. The Jewish Agency has been among the groups offering aid to former Gaza Jews over the past four years and Sharansky committed to continue assisting the expellees.
The Disengagement was “an extremely important lesson for us as a country and us as a people,” Sharansky said when asked why he selected that particular site for his first tour.
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There are “many points for criticism” in the state's treatment of Jews who used to live in Gush Katif, Sharansky said. However, he said, there is reason for optimism as well. As an example, he pointed to the Negev village of Shomriya, established as a home for Israelis from the Gush Katif town of Atzmona.
Laurence Baziz of the Gush Katif Committee said the committee was glad to have Sharansky involved in the struggle to rehabilitate Gaza Jews. Sharansky is known for being “linked to the idea of settling the land of Israel,” she said.
Baziz said the most serious problem now facing Gush Katif Jews is government bureaucracy. The government has failed to help Gush Katif Jews by speeding the bureaucratic process in order to allow them to rebuild their towns and businesses, in violation of promises that were made prior to the Disengagement, she said.
"What was promised to us was that within the period of two years we would be in our homes and we would be able to restore everything. But this hasn't happened,” Baziz said.