Five Jewish families forcibly expelled in 2005 from Gush Katif began once more to build their lives this week in the new town of Naveh, located in the Halutza Sands, just a few miles from their former homes in Gaza.
Some 200 families are planned for the first phase of development, which has already taken four years longer than originally expected.
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom kicked off a cornerstone dedication ceremony Monday together with officials from the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet L'Israel (JNF-KKL) to formally open the community for settlement.
Municipal planners expect to eventually see 1,800 families in the town, leading to an eventual projected population of 150,000.
Two solar power stations will be built in the community, which has incorporated green planning into its infrastructure development and will use recycled water to grow organic crops. Planners also hope to attract high-tech firms to the town's industrial zone.
Although there are no direct Biblical sources for the site, Halutza was founded as a way station for Nabatean traders traveling between Petra and Gaza, and is mentioned in Midrashic sources. The ancient way station is located about 12 miles southwest of Be'er Sheva, along the Nabatean Spice Route.
The new community is located just seven kilometers – four miles – from the Egyptian border, and barely a stone's throw from the region Israel handed over to the Palestinian Authority five years ago.
At least six communities are planned for the area, in fact, including two which have already begun to be populated by former Gush Katif residents. It is anticipated that more than 20,000 people will eventually live in the area, according to the JNF.
As the agency notes in its online flyer promoting the new community, “All structures will meet IDF safety standards with bomb shelters and reinforced roofs to protect against rocket attacks from neighboring Gaza.”
Numerous communities in the Gaza Belt area have campaigned for years for such protection, because of the ongoing rocket attacks fired at southern Israel by PA terrorists in Gaza.
The Gush Katif region has been transformed into a training area and rocket-launching base for terrorists since Israel's withdrawal from the region in 2005. Thousands of rocket and mortar attacks have been fired at civilians in southern Israel by Gaza terrorists since that time, exacerbating doubts among many as to whether the “land for peace” formula has any merit when negotiating with the Palestinian Authority.