Gov't Tries to Break Apart Gush Katif Community

Thirty families from the former Gush Katif community of Gadid who have long demanded to remain together have now been told that they are to be scattered in different directions.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 09:55

Waiting nearly two months for their new temporary community to be ready, the families were informed last night that they are to move at the end of the month to apartments in various cities.



Almost two months ago, at the height of the Katif-Shomron expulsion when 9,000 residents were thrown out of their homes, the families of Gadid were taken directly to the N'vei Ilan Hotel outside Jerusalem. The intention was to house them there for the immediate short-range, just until the longer-range temporary solution could be found.

Negotiations between the residents and the Disengagement Authority began immediately to house them in a caravilla community in Masuot Yitzchak. Masuot, north of Ashkelon, was chosen partly because of its proximity to two other neighborhoods of Gush Katif expellees, in Shafir and Ein Tzurim.

The negotiations dragged on, but the residents understood that the final agreement was merely a matter of ironing out details and receiving the proper approvals - when suddenly last night, they received a shock: A Disengagement Authority representative named Moti Elimelech arrived and informed them that at the end of this month, they would be moved to private apartments in Sderot, Ashkelon and elsewhere.

"People cried, and many couldn't get to sleep last night," said long-time Gadid resident Orli Mazuz this morning. "It's just an impossible situation. We didn't ask to be thrown out of our homes, but now the government can't get its act together and has barely started work on our site. Why are we to blame?"

Some 30 families from Gadid, including spiritual leader Rabbi Yigal Hadaye, are currently living in N'vei Ilan; another 30 are at the Nitzan caravilla site. Mazuz said that she and the others refuse to leave N'vei Ilan without a communal solution: "Should our children have to switch kindergartens and nurseries three times in a few months? This is an impossible situation, and I'm telling you, if they want us out of here, they'll have to force us out with Yassam police again like they did the first time."

Work on the Masuot Yitzchak site has barely begun; surveyors were first seen there just a number of days ago. Government officials claim that it will cost too much to continue to house the residents in the hotel for the four months that will likely be required to complete it. The residents are not impressed: "We were perfectly willing to remain in our homes in Gadid for another few months while the government completed the temporary homes," Mazuz said, "and it wouldn't have cost the government anything. So the money issue is truly not our concern."

Mazuz said that though the hotel management is going out of its way to make their stay pleasant, "and the Disengagement Authority has tried as well, but the fact is that this is not a way for families to live. But relative to others, the conditions here are pretty good - we have nurseries and kindergartens here, and the people of Dolev [in southern Shomron] have adopted us very warmly, and our neighbors in Telz Stone are helping too. How can the government scatter us now to different places? And if we are scattered all around, who says that Masuot will ever be finished? There's no guarantee."

Chaim Altman, spokesman for the Disengagement Authority, was not willing to accept blame: "A recent government decision stipulated that no expellees will remain in hotels beyong the end of this month. They will therefore be relocated to private apartments, paid for as stipulated in the Evacuation-Compensation Law." He further said that as long as the contract for Masuot Yitzchak had not been signed, there was no government obligation to house them there, implying that the residents should also not have anticipated such a solution.

Another resident, Ariel Porat, who was involved in the negotiations with the Authority, said today,"The delay in the negotiations was certainly not due to us, except for maybe the last two days. Throughout the entire period, they kept giving us conflicting messages, saying we would not be able to get a particular approval, then saying we would, or telling us that we wouldn't last and would start splitting up... In general, they wanted to break us up as a group, hoping all along that they wouldn't have to grant us a communal solution. They keep dropping us little threats, such as that we will have to pay for our stay in the hotels, and then raising the amounts that we'll have to pay, and the like..."

"I can't say for sure that they never planned to build Masuot for us," Porat said, "but I also can't say the opposite. It could be that the contract will be signed in a few days, and I hope that work on the site will begin right away - but on the other hand, it's now the holiday season, and then the winter begins, etc. ... We have been strong until now, and I hope and am confident that we will remain that way in the future."

Many of those who remain in N'vei Ilan have no work, while others travel fairly long distances to their previous jobs in the south. Porat himself owns a flower nursery, which he rebuilt at the entrance to Masuot immediately after the expulsion. "I had no idea at the time that we might actually live here," he said, "but merely because I had no place to go and the people of Masuot were so very generous and helpful." Other Gadid farmers were not as fortunate, because they need to test the land to see what they can grow, and thus remain idle, in limbo and income-less.

Asked to characterize those who remained in N'vei Ilan, as opposed to those who have left the group and are on their own, one resident said, "We are basically those who believed up until the last minute that we could and should fight this thing, and refused to accept the decree."