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Enough is Enough: Kfar Darom Quits Hi-Rise Option

After more than three months in hotels, many expelled residents from Gush Katif and the Shomron - contrary to popular perception - still do not have housing solutions for the immediate future.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/25/2005, 11:03 AM / Last Update: 11/24/2005, 4:58 PM

The 58 families of the former Jewish Gaza community of Kfar Darom, for instance, have been told time and again that their move to a high-rise building in Ashkelon was just a matter of time, and that they could expect to move within a short time. In fact, after several delays and postponements, some families actually began moving their belongings this week into what they thought would be their home for the coming 2-3 years.

But then came the last straw. The homeless citizens were told that the company that would be taking responsibility for the apartments - Amigur, a public housing provider - had a new series of demands, and that a new delay was forthcoming.

The Kfar Darom residents, who have remained a cohesive group despite the travails and uncertainty of the expulsion and, convened for an emergency meeting on Tuesday night, and decided: "The Ashkelon building is out."

The Disengagement Authority was apparently taken by surprise by the announcement, and immediately responded on two fronts: Via leaks to the media of "fury" at the residents for backtracking on the agreement, and by contacting Kfar Darom leaders and asking for a meeting, apparently as early as this evening.

"I don't know what will be," said one Kfar Darom resident, "but I can just say that this whole process is very taxing on our nerves."

Many families from N'vei Dekalim are also unsure about their future. Some of them are on their way to the Nitzan pre-fab community, north of Ashkelon, where the government has erected temporary homes - euphemistically calling them "caravilas" - for hundreds of families from Gush Katif.

Becky Winter, among the first N'vei Dekalim residents to move to Nitzan - she and her family moved in immediately after the expulsion - has taken upon herself to supervise the absorption of the new families. Her first priority is to find volunteers who can help: "Mainly we need handy volunteers who can help put together cabinets, do electric works, and the like." Within the coming weeks, 130 new families are expected.

Though 130 new homes are being prepared, this is not enough to meet the demand, and many families still have no solution.

In the meantime, the Disengagement Authority sent letters on Tuesday night to all the families who are "not eligible" - i.e., they did not own property in Gush Katif, but rather rented homes there - warning them that they must leave their hotels within a week. The families, both eligible and "not eligible" alike, reacted with resentment.

"I don't see any justified or moral reason why we don't deserve housing," said Mati Zarbiv of the King Solomon Hotel in Ashkelon. "Not only were we thrown out of our homes, but they also want to throw us out of our communities?! We won't leave this hotel unless they take us out forcibly, and if we have to, we'll live in tents in Nitzan."

"They expelled us from our homes and now they want to throw us out of the hotels," one N'vei Dekalim community council member was quoted as saying on Katif.net. "We will not cooperate with [this], and our friends who were uprooted from the Gush will leave the hotels only after an alternate housing site is found."

Rabbi Yosef AlNekaveh of N'vei Dekalim said, "Staying in a hotel is like forced hospitalization; we don't like it, and we want real homes. But as of now, there are no solutions for all the families. The state of Israel should have prepared communities for all of us."

The government made several decisions related to the expellees this week, including the following:

* 65 caravans [mobile homes without wheels] in Amatzia, between Beit Shemesh and Be'er Sheva. Each caravan is roughly 60 square meters large.

* The Construction Ministry must complete the construction of public buildings in Yad Binyamin, Ein Tzurim, Yated, and Yad Chana.

* The Agriculture Ministry will provide professional training for farmers "with the purpose of helping them transfer their activities to different climates and ground conditions than those they were accustomed to." Two courses of study will be offered: One in the Agriculture Faculty in Rehovot, where they can study five days a week for a year, and one in the Research and Development Farm in Eshkol, for one day a week for eight months.

* Aid will be given to some 30 families who move to Bustan HaGalil in the Galilee and open tourism businesses - bed-and-breakfasts - there.