The government program to match funds for the donations raised by JobKatif will end in December 2013, according to Eileen Bloch-Levy, a JobKatif coordinator. The group was established after the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza which removed all Jewish communities from the region. Bloch-Levy spoke to Arutz Sheva- Israel National Radio on the Jay Shapiro Show about the project.
"We had a special agreement with the Israeli government. In short the government matches our donations on a 3-to-1 basis to get reimbursed," she stated. "The agreement comes to an end on December 31, 2013. It's a short time frame in which to finish our mission," she added. "The government's part was crucial," she said of the independently initiated volunteer program.
Bloch-Levy said that 600 people are still unemployed. "4,000 farmers lost their farms. 85% of the working population were employed and worked locally and independently," she said. She explained that Gush Katif had a 3% unemployment before the Disengagement and shot up to an 85% unemployment rate after the Disengagement.
Approximately 8,000 - 9,000 people were relocated as part of the 2005 Disengagement plan. A government commission was established to resettle the residents but many felt more as necessary. JobKatif was established by volunteers as an independent initiative to fill in the gaps.
Last week marked the 8th anniversary of the Disengagement which involved thousands of Israeli troops who were sent in to physically remove the residents and demolish the buildings. Bloch-Levy called it a traumatic experience.
She explained why the residents of the agriculturally based small townships have found it hard to move on. "They require retraining. Many are people in their 50s," Bloch-Levy stated.
"These are people who worked for 20 to 30 years and got up every day at 4 or 5 in the morning. They couldn't just start that up again because you need time to get the land ready," she said. "A lot of them were in organic agriculture. A high percentage of organic crops that were exported from Israel came from Gush Katif. To ready the land for organic farming requires special preparation," Bloch-Levy explained. "Those who owned small mom-and-pop shops that supported their families comfortably, all of that collapsed," she added.
For the full interview download the Jay Shapiro show by clicking here.