N´vei Dekalim Families in Jerusalem Trying to Plan Future

The families of N'vei Dekalim housed in Jerusalem's Regency Hotel have been informed that they must leave in the coming days - but they can choose other Jerusalem hotels to move to. And then what?

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 13:19

Confirming that they will probably not be permitted to stay in the hotel beyond next week, Ayalah Goldstein - formerly of N'vei Dekalim - did not sound overly worried. "We won't be thrown into the street," she said, "but it's certainly unpleasant to have to move again to another place. While waiting for our caravillas to be ready, we have amassed lots of extra stuff since we first moved here a month ago, and it won't be easy to pack everything up. And there are other issues - but that's not our main problem."

Ayalah explained that the main problem is where to live for the next 2-3 years while their permanent housing solutions are being prepared. "Originally, we thought that Nitzan [north of Ashkelon, where the government is preparing hundreds of small temporary houses - ed.] would be the next Gush Katif," she said, "but little by little, it sems not be turning out that way.

"Instead," she said, "there are some families there from each of several other smaller communities, and several people from N'vei Dekalim began to consider other options, and as of now, we don't see that there will be room for the real strength of N'vei Dekalim, both communally and religiously, to shine forth. The Disengagement Authority (SELA) says that there are 65 caravillas there ready and waiting - but they are empty precisely because people checked them and rejected them for various reasons. So there's one house there, two over there, and another one somewhere else - and we can't form a community that way."

"However," Ayalah continued, "we are also concerned that if there is no religious leadership in Nitzan, it will cause problems there - and so my husband and I, and several other families, are very seriously considering moving there, in order to form a core group. SELA says that a new group of caravillas will be ready in Nitzan in six or seven weeks, and it is likely that we will move there. But it's not an easy decision."

Though experts advised the government many months before the actual expulsion that it was important to find communal solutions for the expellees, many residents feel that the government is bending over backwards not to find such solutions. The vast majority of families from the communities of Katif, Atzmonah, N'vei Dekalim, Netzer Hazani, Kfar Darom and others are still in hotels or tent encampments precisely because they wish to stay together and not disperse.

Another former N'vei Dekalim resident, David Banjo, lives in the Jerusalem Gate hotel. He says that there are rumors that the government's contract with the hotels will expire in a few days, "but I'm not worried. Originally, we were supposed to be here for ten days, and then it was extended, and then it was extended again - so that's not the issue. When I was thrown out of my home in Gush Katif, I ordered a caravilla near Shafir, and we are waiting for it to be completed. If it's not ready, that's the State's problem."

The strain of the recent weeks, and of the uncertain prospects for the future, can be discerned in the voices of both David and Ayalah. For the latter, it is the second expulsion; she and her husband were thrown out of the Sinai town of Atzmonah in 1982 in honor of the peace agreement with Egypt. They were moved in an organized fashion to Morag, and many of the residents gradually built a new community in Gush Katif - officially known as Bnei Atzmon, but popularly referred to as Atzmonah. The Goldsteins moved, in time, to N'vei Dekalim.

Banjo, an outspoken activist for N'vei Dekalim over the past years, continues his voluntary work on behalf of his neighbors even in Jerusalem. He says he has amassed a list of 35 families in Jerusalem who are willing to give their apartments to a Gush Katif family for the upcoming Rosh HaShanah holiday. "Living in a hotel for weeks at a time is barely conducive to a normal family life," he explained. "The families who have offered to lend their homes will provide us a chance to be together in a normal setting, and we are grateful."

In the meanwhile, David has found out that some of his belongings were damaged beyond repair in the heat of the large storage containers. The residents packed up all but their most important belongings into these containers, which are now being stored in various locations in the south. This has not stopped him, however, from also arranging holiday meals for the families for whom he has found the apartments.

In other Gush Katif news, the 60 families of Kfar Darom will not have to pay for their continued stay in a Be'er Sheva hotel. This decision was made in recognition of the fact that the delay in their planned move to an Ashkelon high-rise building is due to government officials.