3 Gush Katif Towns to be Rebuilt

Unprecedented: Full community status will be granted to three new neighborhoods being built for former Gush Katif residents.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:32

Synagogue in the original Ganei Tal
Synagogue in the original Ganei Tal
Israel news photo: Katif.net

Breaking with precedent, the National Planning and Construction Committee will grant full community status to three new neighborhoods being built for former Gush Katif residents.

The three towns in question are Netzer Hazani – the oldest of all Gush Katif communities – as well as Ganei Tal and Katif. The residents thereof, amongst the nearly 9,000 from 21 communities in Gush Katif and four in northern Shomron, were unceremoniously thrown out of their homes as a result of the Disengagement of 2005. They spent many months living in temporary quarters such as hotels and dormitories, with few prospects for permanent housing and complete uncertainty about their future.

The residents of Netzer Hazani, Ganei Tal and Katif were particularly notable, among some others, in their determined efforts to remain together in their communities and not to disperse. Their efforts paid off, and Netzer Hazani was ultimately granted room to rebuild in Yesodot, and Ganei Tal in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim – both between Jerusalem and Ashdod. Katif was “assigned” to Amatzia, southeast of Kiryat Gat.

Keeping Their Names
The latest decision states that the new neighborhoods will not be under the municipal jurisdiction of their “parent” towns, but will become full-fledged communities in their own right – and will even retain their own names. This latter point was not unanimously agreed upon by the residents; some felt that retaining the old names would neutralize the yearning to return to their homes, while the majority felt that keeping the names symbolizes the retention of the special "spirit and values" that were prevalent in Gush Katif.

The Director-General of the Interior Ministry explained that in light of the special circumstances and the suffering that the expellees have undergone for nearly five years, “it is appropriate to accommodate them and enable them to live the communal life that they had” prior to the expulsion. He said that it would not require building additional infrastructures, as these already exist for the older towns. 

An alternative of one joint community in each location with two local committees was rejected. Environmental groups decried the decision, saying existing towns must be strengthened and developed, as opposed to adding new, smaller ones.

The decision must still be approved by the government, but this is not expected to be an obstacle.

Yesodot is a hareidi-religious moshav (460 residents, established 1946), Chafetz Chaim (population 450, founded in 1944) is a mixed hareid/national religious kibbutz, and Amatzia (330 people, established in 1955) is a religious-secular moshav.

In other housing news:
  • The National Planning and Construction Committee has advanced the plan to transfer additional IDF units to the Negev by another stage.  It deals specifically with the establishment of an Intelligence Center, relocating various units from central Israel to the Negev.  Other IDF units are being moved southward as well, expected to bring about a major boost to the growth of Be’er Sheva and vicinity. Be’er Sheva, with a population of 190,000, was long Israel’s fourth-largest city, behind Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, but has been surpassed in recent years by Rishon LeTzion, Ashdod and Petach Tikvah.

  • The freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria has been very effective. Not one building start occurred there throughout the first quarter of this year, the first post-freeze period for which figures are available. The freeze began in late 2009. Despite this, 29 percent more homes (2,079) were completed in Judea and Samaria last year than in 2008. Although housing starts dropped in 2009 (1,873, compared with 2,107 the year before), a full 40 percent of them took place in the two-month period preceding the freeze.