Jobkatif, the grassroots employment association established to help Gush Katif expellees find work, is to receive 18 million shekels from the government - in matching funds. The Cabinet decision was taken after it was shown that the organization had been more successful than government agencies in finding employment for the expelled citizens.
The government stipulated that the allocation of the sum – more than $4.5 million over the course of the next five years – is contingent on Jobkatif coming up with the same sum on its own. The money is to be used for professional retraining courses, incentives to employers to hire ex-Gush Katif residents, business grants, and more.
Jobkatif has found work for over 1,500 residents and has helped open 160 new businesses in the past four years. Over 20 new job-employee matches are found each month, and the organization is currently dealing with about 150 people.
“There are some 800 people who need our help,” says David Banjo, Jobkatif’s Deputy Director, “and this is why we need the funds." A former resident of Gush Katif’s “capital” of N’vei Dekalim, Banjo told Israel National News that of the 800, "about half are making much less than they need, and the others are not working at all.”
Jobkatif was founded by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, a communal rabbi and teacher from Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, in early 2006 when he saw the acute needs of the thousands of uprooted residents and their families. Rabbi Rimon, currently the Chairman of the Board of Jobkatif, received the Presidential Award for Volunteerism in 2008 for his Jobkatif efforts.
Situation Still Acute
Banjo says that for many of the 50-year-old former farmers, the situation has not changed much since then: “Take someone who has been forcibly uprooted from the only employment he has ever known, add to that frustration at not knowing where he will live, when he will have a home of his own, how his family will get along, his own self-image, feelings of anger and betrayal at the government, and more – and you have a situation that does not make it easy to begin retraining and everything that goes along with that. This is why we have social workers, psychologists, coaching, and employment advisors working on an individual basis.”
Before the Disengagement, 95 percent of workers in Gush Katif were employed locally. “It is crucial to get them back on their feet,” says Judy Lowy, Executive Director of Jobkatif. “Every dollar donated will be worth double, since the government is now willing to match what we receive. On the one hand, this is wonderful news, but on the other hand, it presents us with a very difficult challenge, in that in order to receive the money, we must raise $4.5 million on our own - and everyone knows what the economic situation is right now."
Another challenge for Jobkatif will be to help those who are currently taking their first steps towards building their new communities. “For instance, take the Netzer Hazani community that is now in Ein Tzurim and is expecting to build in Yesodot,” Banjo says. “They asked how we can help them. I asked them when they think they’ll be moving in, and they said a year and a half or so. So I said, we can’t help you now, but we hope to be able to help you then… Even those who have a modicum of certainty about where they will live, have no way of knowing whether or how they will find a job. Our work is cut out for us.”
For more information, visit <www.jobkatif.org>