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Report Details Plight of Gush Katif Families

Latest report: Of the 1,750 families expelled from Gush Katif, over 400 are still living in the most temporary of dwelling arrangements, such as hotels, tent cities and yeshiva dormitories.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 1/12/2006, 11:41 AM / Last Update: 1/12/2006, 2:09 PM

photo: Ezra HaLevi

The numbers are dynamic and constantly changing, but a report prepared by the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Task Force at the end of last week shows the following figures:

* 284 families, for reasons such as illness or other, have found individual solutions. Many of them plan to rejoin their communities when their permanent homes are built.

* 1,466 families are still seeking communal solutions with their long-time neighbors, according to the following division:

* 445 are in hotels, tent cities, and yeshiva dormitories, though this number is constantly decreasing.

* 1,021 are in their medium-term temporary homes, scheduled to remain there for approximately two years, until their permanent homes and communities are ready. The residents say they're far from convinced that it will be only two years. Close to 500 families are living in the pre-fab community of Nitzan, just north of Ashekon, and roughly 200 are in Yad Binyamin, between Ashdod and Beit Shemesh.

A map (in Hebrew) of the dispersal of the expelled residents can be seen on the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu website. An English version of the site is being prepared.

The Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Committee report details the problems facing the expelled residents. Aside from the general anxiety, uncertainty and lack of stability, the difficulties include the following:

* Much of the residents' personal property has been damaged as a result of its storage in large containers. Much property was destroyed and some was even stolen. Many families are having trouble storing it in their new locations.

* Education and Youth: Although the Education Ministry is felt to have prepared efficiently for the expelled children, several critical problems have still not been solved. These include school drop-out rates that are three times higher than Gush Katif experienced back "at home," as well as the lack of informal education programs, the lack of a satisfactory arrangement for offering social services, and more. A detailed Arutz-7 report can be seen here.

* Compensation payments: The families had their homes destroyed, yet many of them continue to pay mortgages - and all of them face increasing expenses related to their relocation - yet more than half the families have received nothing at all of the promised compensation. The remaining families have received an average of 50,000 shekels (just over $10,000). Only some 5% have received the entire compensation payment.

* Continued bureaucracy on the part of the Disengagement Administration, forcing the families to produce documentation that is either buried in their storage containers or got lost in the process of the expulsion. "Much of the information demanded by the Authority can be found at the click of a button on other government ministry computers," the report states.

* Unemployment: 2100 Gush Katif residents and others lost their jobs as a result of the disengagement, including 150 Negev residents and 150 northern Shomron residents. Some 220 people have thus far found jobs, and 50 small businesses have returned to operation.

Owners of independent businesses who have requested to re-open in Nitzan have been turned down, receiving the explanation that small-business structures cannot be placed on the site.

* Agriculture: Out of 176 farmers, 20% have returned to work. 25 people found work independently, and 11 were helped by the Disengagement Authority.

Laurence Beziz, formerly of Gadid in Gush Katif, is working on behalf of the expelled residents in the Gush Katif-L'maan Acheinu Committee. She explained that most of the body's efforts are now being made in two directions: "Alleviating unemployment, and for the youth, many of whom have fallen through the cracks and are not in school. We are trying to establish a youth club, complete with psychological help and the like. We now have a total number of about 160 youths who are categorized as 'at risk' - about three times higher than what we used to have."

Ms. Beziz emphasized that most residents agree that the extreme extent of the government's failure to help is proof that "they simply want to break us. What the government has done, or failed to do, is much more than mere bungling or ineptitude. Can there be any other explanation for the fact that it took four months to put six measly bus stops here in Nitzan so that our children don't have to wait in the rain to go to school? How else can it be explained that we don't even have one grocery store for the hundreds of families here? There are no basketball courts or normal soccer fields. It was so easy for them to destroy our homes, but they didn't think about how to build up. It is simply criminal and evil."

Asked how people can help, she said, "I can tell you that there is a group from the Jewish communities south of Hevron, such as Susia, that comes here every ten days to volunteer for a few hours and give treatments in reflexology and other methods of alternative medicine. Others have come to volunteer their services in other ways, and some people came to give Torah classes, on Sabbaths or during the week - things like these give us encouragement and are very helpful."

For information on how to help or donate, send email to catom@012.net.il.

This Saturday night, at the Yeshivat Beit Orot dinner in New York, Gush Katif spokesperson Anita Tucker will deliver an update on the plight of the Gush Katif families and the danger of further disengagement.