A special fair will be held on Tuesday in the religious Har Nof school in Jerusalem: The fair will include products made by former Jewish residents of Gush Katif (the Katif Bloc) who were expelled from their thriving greenhouses, businesses, Torah institutions, synagogues and homes during the 2005 ‘disengagement’ from Gaza that then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised would bring quiet to southern Israel.
The fair, which will be held from 5:00pm to 10:00pm, will offer jewelry, clothing for children and teens, pictures of Gush Katif, electronic products, caps, disposable utensils for Purim and Pesach, and much more - all made by evacuees from Gush Katif.
The fair has become an annual event, and Zipporah Segal, one of its initiators, told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website on Sunday: “It started when I visited the private home of Olga Anavi who was expelled from Gush Katif. I saw beautiful glass menorahs there and I asked her if she sells them. She replied that she did but noted that since the expulsion there are no buyers since she lost her business location. I immediately bought menorahs for my sons and son-in-law. After I left her home, I made the decision to bring her to the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem and allow her, as well as other expellees, to sell in our neighborhood what they had become accustomed to sell in their communities in Gush Katif.”
Segal noted that “the response to the initiative was and still is very warm and sympathetic. They are people of the highest quality, and I draw great strength from them.”
She said that she has learned much from the expellees about mental strength and resilience of faith, especially when her attempts to help them failed. “Sometimes I tried to arrange fairs like this in other places and not just Har Nof, and I could not get the hosts to be excited about it,” she said. “Sometimes there aren’t that many sales and yet the expellees are always happy to cooperate and go almost anywhere.”
Segal explained that “When you buy the expellees’ products it’s not just about giving them money. It’s mostly about giving them a sense of caring and of goodwill. We tell them: 'We are with you and we will never forget you.’”
She noted, however, that money is also very important in this case, since many of the expellees find it difficult to cope financially, some of them have no regular income and many of them have literally “eaten up” the compensation funds they are given by the government, as bureaucratic delays prevent their resettling.
These comments echo those of Mazal Cohen, a founder of the community of Gadid who lives today in a caravan in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, who recently told Arutz Sheva that despite the many years that have passed since the 2005 expulsion, many deportees have still been unable to find new employment.
“When we were expelled we were given compensation, but the money was used by the people who did not have a job,” explained Cohen. “Fifty percent of expellees do not have the money anymore. We'll have to take large mortgages and I have no doubt that some will remain in caravans forever.”
Segal also noted that when one gives to the expellees, it actually means that one is helping people who gave so much of themselves for Israel over the years. She recalled a conversation she heard several days after the expulsion, between a representative of the Disengagement Authority and a representative of one of the charities. “The Disengagement Authority representative asked the charity to bring baby equipment and other products as it could to the expellees, who were then staying in crowded hotels. The representative of the charity said that he owes a large debt to the residents of Gush Katif who contributed a great deal to his charity over the years. He said that the residents of Gush Katif had contributed generously to the organization before the expulsion, providing tons of vegetables as well as anything else that was needed.”
Segal also expressed her gratitude to the residents of Har Nof who always help out in making the fair possible. “The Har Nof school has helped out from the very first year – both the administration as well as the students. The expellees were very impressed by the entire community here.”
While many of the Gush Katif evacuees still live in temporary caravans, officials have recently promised a “turning point”. At a recent meeting of the Tnufa Administration, the body charged with resettling the thousands of Jews who were expelled from Gaza, the Prime Minister’s Office Eyal Gabbai said the government was making an effort “so that this will be the last winter in caravans.”
92 families of the hundreds expelled from Gush Katif in 2005 entered permanent homes in 2010. More than 100 plots of land in the Lachish region were distributed to expellee families.