Liora made her life in Gush Katif at the onset of her marriage 18 years ago, and never looked back. But, the events of the last weeks have forced her and many others like her into “Disengagement Limbo”, dispossessed and feeling like refugees in their own country.
On the surface, it seems a bit odd that many of the former residents of Gush Katif left with only a small token of their belongings. Why not pack up and take all your things with you, I mean, the fight was over, right? Not so. There’s the small matter of integrity.
“We did not want to help Ariel Sharon one bit. It was a difficult decision, because hopefully we’ll be able to go back and pack, but that hasn’t been finalized. But we did not want to help this monstrous act of evicting Jews from their homes,” says Wexler.
According to show host Yishai Fleisher, many psychologists have concluded that in situations like this it’s healthy to resist, lest those demons return later to haunt you. Many people who did not resist are now feeling the negative effects much more so than those who put up a valiant fight.
“A struggle in general is very healthy. You do all you can do,” adds Wexler.
Wexler also took photographs of the things that were left outside - garden furniture and the like, just to document the scene. There is still some hope that she may be able to return to collect the remainder of her belongings. But, like so many issues surrounding the expulsions, this remains unresolved.
For those who have criticized the victims of Sharon’s expulsion plan, some facts need to be brought out into the light of day. While there has been a steady stream of denial about arrangements not being made, it’s clear many people who were forcibly evicted were given little or no options for housing.
In the Wexlers' case, on appearance, one would think, hey, they’re at the Regency Jerusalem hotel. Not bad. But, according to Liora, it was not the government, but their own efforts that got it done. At first, the government was trying to send residents to hotels that have problems with their certification for Kosher food. Says Wexler, “No way am I going to a hotel where there’s a problem with whether the food is Kosher.” So, Wexler, who was escorted by a SELA employee (the disengagement authority), heard that there may be rooms at the Regency Jerusalem.
So, off to the Regency Jerusalem they went, where she was told there was room, but that SELA had to agree to pay for it. Calls were made, arguments ensued, and jets were cooled. Finally, after three hours of waiting, the OK was given. But, to the kids in tow the trauma was almost too much to bear. It was bad enough having been ripped from the only home they had ever known, but then to wander about like refugees, they felt, was patently unfair and inhumane.
“One of my kids was hysterical, saying Ema [Mommy], don’t leave me,” says Wexler. “But, I keep reassuring them. We’re going to stay together, no matter what. My seven-year-old daughter is having a very hard time. It’s taking lots of hugs. Lots of reassurance,” adds Wexler.
In order to fully understand the difficulties thrust upon these displaced families, one only has to look at the laundry list of issues they now face. Short term housing, long term housing, how to get their possessions, employment, schools, health care – to name a few.
“We’re taking one minute at a time; forget one day at a time. The first thing we want to resolve is to get back to Gush Katif to get our stuff packed. School and employment seems so far away. I’m not even there yet. Right now, we only have 10 days in these hotels. After that, we are supposed to pay out of our supposed compensation package,” says Liora.
A common theme among expelled residents is that they are insisting on staying together as a community. However, finding suitable options is not so easy. One of the very reasons these people made their lives in Gush Katif was the idyllic communities they created. Now, having to accept inferior situations, in possibly undesirable areas is not acceptable to these proud and hard working people. Nor should they be.
This is a story that does not have a happy ending yet, as much as this reporter would like to give you one. So, stay tuned, and we’ll keep you informed on the progress (or lack thereof) of these new Jewish refugees – exiles in their own country.