Disengagement Problems Raised in Knesset Session

Gov't ministry spokesmen and officials presented plans for the residents to be expelled in areas such as social work, education, housing and others, in today's special double-committee session.

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, | updated: 15:08

Government representatives, such as Housing Ministry Dir.-Gen. and Yonatan Bassi of the Disengagement Authority, said that the government has housing solutions for all the families in Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

"We will make all possible efforts to enable even those communities that come after the disengagement and say they want to live together, to do so," Bassi said. He also said that N'vei Dekalim, the largest community, is scheduled to be rebuilt in Nitzan, and that 400 units will be built on the golf course of Ashkelon.

The background of this unique double Knesset committee session can be found here.

Naomi Eldar, head of the Cultural Center in Gush Katif, broke down in tears during her talk - and caused some others in the room to tear as well. She was supposed to ask questions about education, but had trouble sticking to the topic. She said, "My little daughter had trouble falling asleep last night. When I asked her what was bothering her, she said she doesn't know if it's because of her uncertainty about where she will study next year, or because of the fear of mortar shells falling near her. She in fact has no idea where she and her friends will learn next year, and at 2:30 in the morning, a mortar shell in fact exploded nearby; luckily, it did not wake her up."

Mrs. Eldar then proceeded to say that as head of the Cultural Center and as a mother and grandmother, she does not know how to educate her children: "My husband is a farmer and has no idea where he will work on September 1. I have no idea where I will work on Sept. 1. Should I teach them about the State of Israel that treats its citizens this way? Should I teach them about the army that when the mortar shells fall on us, doesn't fire even one shot in response? ... You called us the 'salt of the earth,' Mr. Prime Minister, and you said how much you love us - is this how you treat us? For the relocation of the fisheries [in Eilat], you gave two and a half years. What, am I worth less than a fish?! Push off the decree ... Which values am I supposed to teach tomorrow morning?"

When Chairman MK Eitan tried to get her to talk more directly about education, MK Hendel said, "Why are you shutting her up?" There was then total silence in the hall as Ms. Eldar continued her emotional speech. Only after the next speaker got up to speak did left-wing MK Zahava Gal'on begin to protest about some of Eldar's remarks, "no matter how emotionally they were expressed."

An Education Ministry spokesperson presented the government's preparations in this regard. She said there are currently 3,335 students in Gush Katif, and 102 in northern Shomron, who are slated to be assigned to different schools for next year. She presented charts showing how many students will study in Ashkelon and how many in other locations.

MK Tzvi Hendel, a resident of Gush Katif, had many questions. Among them was: "The Education Ministry has prepared nicely, and the spokesperson spoke nicely, but what good will it do to have schools in Ashkelon if the housing solutions are in Be'er Sheva?"

Prime Minister Sharon left the session three hours after it started - angering Hendel, who had not yet had a chance to ask his questions. Chairman MK Eitan said that those who submitted their questions in advance were permitted to speak first. Hendel and Sharon, who are bitter political enemies, traded several very tense barbs during the course of the session.

Sharon said he would be agreeable to take part in another session of this sort.

Questions regarding police brutality, civil rights for protestors and agents-provocateurs were raised. MK Yuli Edelstein strongly implied that the recent incident of oil and spikes spread on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was perpetrated by provocateurs. "It was announced that 20 cars had blowouts," Edelstein said. "How is it that we did not hear even one driver of those cars interviewed on the radio?"

Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz said that he does not know of any agents-provocateur.

Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said that 2,300 places have been prepared in prisons around the country for people who might be arrested during the disengagement itself. "I don't think we'll need that many, but even if we need more, we have an arrangement with the army," he said.

Among the issues discussed were also the psychological problems that face those who are to be expelled. Shinui MK Erela Golan said that she has been in contact with many residents of Gush Katif, and "there is a big problem there of psychological readiness. I have not found effective communication between the residents and the Disengagement Authority. 15% of them are expected to undergo a form of trauma, and 7% will suffer from it for the rest of their lives." She asked if the government would provide mental health packages for them.

In this connection, sociologist Dr. Miriam Billig of the College of Judea and Samaria said that she has made many studies and has found that preserving both the communal structure and the structure of the blocs of communities "from the beginning to the end, is very important... This will contain the damage and prevent further damage."

Billig also said that "double and triple uprooting must be prevented," meaning that the residents must be housed, immediately after the uprooting, in the same places in which their permanent homes will be built. "Double uprooting causes great damage that did not have to be. It shouldn't have been done this way. There are two possibilities - expulsion, with people not knowing where they are going, or relocation. It could have been done in the latter way; the first way is damaging. The government paid more attention to the expulsion and not to the day after."

Social worker Yael Avraham of Shilo said that she is a member of a volunteer forum of 60 social and mental health workers from Judea and Samaria. "Every two weeks," she said, "and, of late, every week, we go to visit the communities that are to be dismantled and we deal with the family, social, and communal issues. As volunteers, we have found that there is a vacuum in this area [in terms of government help]. Families in these places have traumas one after the other. We want to know who will deal with these problems that are already surfacing."

A government representative outlined the measures that the government is taking in this regard, including the assigning of two social workers to each community "before, during and after the disengagement."