Only Bare Synagogues and Some Public Buildings Remain

An intensive 2-week campaign to take out whatever property can be taken from Gush Katif ends today. The houses have all been razed, and one organizer said, "Gush Katif essentially no longer exists."

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 16:42


Menachem Granite, a resident of Ofrah and Director of the Shomron Development Authority, was one of those who took part in organizing the campaign to save whatever could be rescued. "All the homes and residences will be down by Thursday afternoon or evening," he said, "except for synagogues and some shelters and public buildings."

Granite said that the efforts centered on contacting people who had not yet packed up their homes, or who had not yet retrieved the crates they had packed: "On Friday, the day after the expulsion, we went down to Katif and tried to establish a body to take care of this. Amazingly, over 300 homes in N'vei Dekalim weren't packed up at all on the day of the expulsion or shortly afterwards. In some places, like in Ganei Tal and Gadid, the crates were packed up but were still inside the houses. Though there was very great cooperation with the army - I have to emphasize what a great job they did in this area - there was a case in which a house was destroyed with its contents inside. There was another case in which a bulldozer began 'knocking' on the door while a man was inside packing..."

"There was a decision not to break down any house without exhausting every effort to find the inhabitants and make sure they had removed everything they wanted. The army provided manpower, and groups such as the Kibbutz Movements and L'maan Achai provided volunteers - there were days when we had over 1,000 or even 1,200 volunteers working there, plus many soldiers who came to volunteer. The Defense Ministry kept bringing in containers and other packing material. There were some groups who worked with the residents themselves in taking apart the greenhouses."

"You have to understand that on the one hand, though there were many volunteers, it still wasn't enough. If we had 200 people come to Atzmonah to take apart the greenhouses, that's like a joke, compared to what was needed... In addition, the army was working under great time pressure; they had warnings of possible terror attacks, and there was concern that the Arabs from nearby Khan Yunis, for instance, might start marching en-masse on N'vei Dekalim. What would we do then? So there was a lot of pressure..."

"Storing the equipment and containers was another issue. Many of the containers were brought to Kastina, near Kiryat Malachi, where the owners were able to choose a place to send them to for the next three months. But some people found their own places to store it - Kibbutz Alumim, for instance, prepared a large area for storage; by the way, so many people and organizations helped out that I could write a book on all the ways in which the People of Israel wanted to help."

Granite said he could not say that everyone who wanted to remove his stuff, was able to: "Many greenhouses are still standing - I'm not sure if it's a third or a half. Neither do I think that Atzmona will be able to retrieve their nursery [the largest in the country] and all their greenhouses... Some people sold their greenhouses to the World Bank, who paid per dunam [quarter-acre]; in Netzarim, however, they made a principled decision not to sell at all [so as not to violate the Biblical commandment not to give away the Land of Israel]."

"An attempt was made to take everything and leave nothing behind - even street lamp poles, and fences, and the like. We didn't want to leave anything behind... The synagogues are totally empty of every possible piece that could be moved - including the windows, and of course the benches and everything else; only the bare structures remain."

"In general, the people doing the work - partly from the Yesha Council, and Sha'ul Goldstein of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, whose idea it was, and some other people who just did it, sleeping on boxes in some corner, etc. - everyone did a simply amazing job."