At least four new-old Gush Katif communities will be built in the Lachish area, roughly between Kiryat Gat and southern Judea. So decided hundreds of former Katif residents this week.
The four communities that made this decision are Moshav Katif, Tel Katifa, some 100 families of N'vei Dekalim, and a large part of Atzmonah. Other communities, such as Kfar Darom and Netzer Hazani, are considering this option.
The 60 families of Moshav Katif are still living in the girls' high school in Kfar Pines, near Hadera. They had hoped to move to a students' village near Sderot, but this option has now been finally closed off to them for what the residents feel are purely political reasons.
"On the one hand," resident Ezra Haidu said, "at least we know where we won't be moving to; there is some relief in the resolving of doubts. So for the next few weeks, we will remain here, with all the difficulties entailed in living in a high school dormitory. But on the other hand, we convened this week and decided that for our permanent solution, we will build a new community in the Lachish region... The only problem is what to do for the next two years, including specifically for the next few weeks immediately after the holidays, while we build the new community. It's all up in the air, though some possibilities include Yad Binyamin and Chafetz Chaim." Haidu said that they have not yet been able to access their containers, where all their belongings are stored.
Another large group of families from Gush Katif is close to a final decision on the construction of a new community in Nitzanim, north of Ashkelon. Yoram, former head of the secretariat of the former Gush Katif town of Bdolach, told Arutz-7 today,
"We are 38 families from Bdolach here in the Nitzan caravan site, living in close proximity to one another. We're beginning to think of our permanent community for two years from now. One plan being seriously considered is a joint community in Nitzanim of some 400 families made up of ourselves and others from Gan-Or, Gadid, Nisanit, Elei Sinai, Rafiach Yam and some from N'vei Dekalim and Netzer Hazani."
The atmosphere among the families of Kfar Darom, currently living in the Paradise Hotel in Be'er Sheva, can be described as optimistic. Only a final signing ceremony stands between the entry of the town's first families into the new high-rise building acquired for them in Ashkelon. Gershon Yonah, head of Kfar Darom's secretariat, feels that the first families will move in as early as this Friday or Sunday.
Kfar Darom has remained almost totally intact, with only a few families leaving, and 58 families remaining together in the new building. Yonah admitted that there are difficulties in general, but that things are beginning to fall into place: "Everyone is working with lawyers and getting forms together in order to get their advance payments on their homes, and I believe that some have received these [partial] payments already."
Yonah said that the containers with their belongings are stored in a military site in Kastina, near Kiryat Malachi, and that the residents have not been allowed access to them since the day of the expulsion. "However," he said, "starting this Sunday, it appears that the containers will be moved to our new building in Ashkelon, and I believe that their contents will fit into the storerooms of each apartment. Whoever has a problem, we'll help him."
Asher Mivtzari of Kfar Darom, speaking to Arutz-7 this morning, wished to emphasize the Jonathan Pollard connection:
"Make no mistake: even though we're in a hotel, it's very hard to remain without a house. But the more we remain under these conditions, the more we realize that this is not our personal problem, but rather a real ethical deficiency of our leadership. It is so reminiscent of the way the State has abandoned Jonathan Pollard - and I hear many people from Gush Katif saying the same thing. We're in hotels, but he has been in prison for 20 years, and all because of what he did to save us. Some rabbis have said that we should leave an empty chair for Pollard this holiday. It's a real ethical fault on the part of the leadership - in stark contrast with the loving embrace we have received from the people of Israel."
Though some families have basically left the community and are living in Nitzan, the vast majority of Netzer Hazani remains intact - though in two different places. Some 35 families remain in the southern Golan Heights community Hispin, in the Midreshet HaGolan guest house, while another 23 are living in Ein Tzurim, on the highway to Ashkelon.
"However, " says Yehuda Bashari, the former head of the secretariat, "we are not divided, and we hope to all be together in Ein Tzurim soon - if the government ever finishes the caravan site it is building for us there. As of now, the project seems to be stuck, and there's no end in sight."
Those who are living in Ein Tzurim were compelled to do so largely for educational reasons - so that their children could study in the Atzmonah school in which they learned in previous years. Others returned to their jobs in the south. Many others, however, are still "in-between" and do not have work.
"We miss the daily routine, and we miss being at home," Bashari says. "It gets to the point where we begged the hotel to let us clean the dishes off the table ourselves, so that we could feel at least a little at home."
The permanent families of Hispin try to help out, with each one "adopting" a Netzer Hazani family - visiting them, inviting them over, and helping with day-to-day problems.
As far as the far-off future goes, Bashari is confident that the families of Netzer Hazani will remain together and build a new community - possibly in the Lachish area, together with other Gush Katif groups.
Many families of N'vei Dekalim are still in Jerusalem hotels, waiting for another section of the Nitzan caravan site to be ready. Other N'vei Dekalim families have moved to a second caravan site in Shafir, near Ein Tzurim; it is not clear whether or not this portends a permanent split, but the sheer numbers involved - N'vei Dekalim was Gush Katif's largest community, with roughly 500 families - make it likely that they will not all live in the same place in the future.
For the coming Rosh HaShanah holiday prayer services, many of the families from the different hotels will be gathering together. Hundreds of former residents, including Gush Katif's Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, as well as "guests," are expected to attend the services, which will be held in the Heichaeli HaSimcha wedding hall in the Romema neighborhood.