Finding Jobs for People Without Homes

Employment continues to be possibly the most acute problem facing the former population of Gush Katif - economically, socially, family-wise, and emotionally.<BR><br/>

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 14:46

Several factors contribute to the problem: Many of the expellees are aged 45-60 who now have to start new careers; most of them do not know where they will be living; and most of them have been occupied with expulsion-related problems such as helping their families cope, loss of income, no belongings, temporary residencies in hotels, planning for the future, maintaining community ties, and more.

Many of the people involved worked in Gush Katif-related jobs, such as in the local council offices and neighborhood stores. In Nitzan, the largest of the pre-fab sites set up for the homeless until permanent communities are built two years from now, the problem is particularly acute: Men and women who used to awaken early and eagerly for a full day's work in their fields or elsewhere now feel they have nothing for which to get up. Their lack of ability to support their families has lowered their self-esteem and weakened their family structure.

Avi Duan, formerly of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, founded the Placement Center for the expellees in the Ministry of Industry and Trade this past May. He told Arutz-7 that of the nearly 2,000 job-seeking expellees, some 300 are currently working, just over 200 are being re-trained, and another 120 are being given emotional, financial or vocational counseling.

Duan confirmed that the State deducts 30% of the unemployment payments for those in re-training courses, even though it was the State itself that caused them to be unemployed. "We are working on a proposal in the Knesset to exempt the [expellees] from this requirement," Duan said, "and it has already passed its first reading. We hope that it will be in place within a month."

Duan said that he works in cooperation with other organizations "such as L'maan Achai and Lev Echad, and with the volunteer employment center [JobKatif; see below]; this is an urgent problem, and whoever can help is welcome. In addition, we have to work with the leadership of the population, and we do so."

Seeking to speed up the pace of job-placement, the government implemented yet another approach yesterday. A new directive orders government companies seeking new employees to turn first to those expelled from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

Expellees who possess the necessary qualifications will be given preference over other potential applicants. The administrator of the Government Corporations Authority will be required to file a monthly report with the Finance Minister, the Minister of Industry and Trade, and the ministerial disengagement committee regarding the number of refugees accepted for employment.

Another way expellees find new jobs is via a volunteer Hebrew website entitled JobKatif. Over 800 potential jobs are listed, available only for those who have previously registered - i.e., former residents of Gush Katif and northern Shomron. One page on the site includes links to 33 Israeli websites offering employment.

An English page is to be added shortly, on which English-speaking employers can list their jobs and attract employees.

The site and enterprise is run by Netta Shapira, Rabbi Yosef Rimon and David Porat. "In about two months of operation," Porat told Arutz-7 today, "we have found jobs for around 40-50 people - a very nice achievement, but not enough. Unemployment is problem #1 for the expellees, in Nitzan and wherever they are around the country. Some 80% of them are still out of work."

"We know that the expellees are high-quality people, and very productive, and we seek to find them jobs in a large variety of fields, making great efforts to find them jobs that match their abilities. We distributed forms to most of the expellees, in which they filled in their details and professional preferences. We have about 100 volunteers - we want to have about 100 more - and each one works with five families. The volunteers are trained to write resumes and to help the job-seeker present himself to the job market in the best way possible."

With some 1,700 expellees still seeking work, the difficulties of the Sharon Disengagement plan are still from solved.