Arutz Sheva exclusive
Developing the Gaza Belt Like Judea and Samaria

Ex-Yesha Council director Pinhas Wallerstein tells Arutz Sheva he 'owed it to himself' to be in Nahal Oz as mortars fell.

Benny Toker, Ari Yashar ,

פנחס ולרשטיין
פנחס ולרשטיין
פלאש 90

Former Yesha Council director and Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein was called on to help develop the Gaza Belt communities, and has been doing so while staying at Kibbutz Nahal Oz even as it came under intense Hamas mortar and rocket fire.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Wallerstein recounted how Energy Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud), who also serves as Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, asked him to help develop the Negev and Galilee in the way he fought to strengthen the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

Even before Operation Protective Edge began on June 8 after Hamas launched a rocket terror war, Wallerstein noted "we chose the community of Nahal Oz and I asked for the help of the Amana build in the manner we did in Judea and Samaria, the 'cooperative society' method by which new residents can rent and then decide to buy or not."

Wallerstein divides his nights between sleeping at his home in Ofra to the north of Jerusalem in Samaria and Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where mortar shells tragically took the life of four-year-old Daniel Tragerman hy''d on August 22.

"During Protective Edge I was with them during the heavy shelling, I owed it to myself to feel what they feel," explained Wallerstein.

"The people who live there are pioneers and the state must help them. If we reach a situation today where a home in Nahal Oz costs between 500,000 and 600,000 shekels while a similar home in Ofra costs 1.3 million shekels, then I'll be proud of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) who are advancing this," he added.

The former Judea and Samaria leader noted his opposition to the criticism of some former residents of Gush Katif in Gaza, who criticized members of the Gaza Belt kibbutzim for their support of the 2005 Disengagement plan in which they were forcibly removed from their homes.

"There are those who are trying to settle accounts with them in an irresponsible way," said Wallerstein. "We even heard after the four-year-old child was killed someone wrote 'they deserve it' - did someone really lose their head like that? The uprooting of the communities was a disaster, but the people will not allow in the army those who supported the expulsion."

Calling for unity, he added "we must work together, even if not all of us think the same. We must preserve the unity that is in this nation. They are pioneers that are in difficult conditions and I salute them."

Along those lines of "not thinking the same," Wallerstein concluded by saying the Gaza Belt communities would preserve their secular character.

"I invite the secular youth to come here, as the religious youth will continue coming to religious communities in the south," said Wallerstein. "I'm careful not to demand from them something that would change their lifestyle, but if in the future they want a religious group we'll consider it."