CaravansFlash 90

Israelis expelled from Gush Katif seven years ago got a letter this week telling them that beginning in late July, they will be required to pay rent for the caravans they have been living in since the expulsion.

The caravans were built to last for one year, and many are in poor condition.

Officials in the Tenufa Administration, tasked with resettling expellees, said the move is aimed to push 150 families to move into permanent homes. Community leaders back the plan, they reported.

The 150 families in question are the 20% of those expelled from Gush Katif who purchased land in order to build a new permanent home, but have yet to begin construction. Another roughly one-third of Katif expellees have relocated to permanent homes, one-third are in the process of building homes, and 10% have yet to receive land.

Tenufa head, Rabbi Dr. Ofir Cohen, said the 150 families have a variety of reasons for not having started construction. Among the reasons are financial woes, he said.

Tenufa is offering solutions, he said, including 250,000 shekel loans. Another option is a program allowing caravan residents to move their caravan onto their land, and convert it to a house. Cohen noted that the latter program is to end in 2012, and advised eligible families to register within the next two months.

The decision to charge rent was made reluctantly, Cohen said. “The Tnufa administration has tried over and over to avoid taking this step,” he said. “But now there is no choice, it’s required by our regulations and agreements.

“We will keep accompanying the settlers and working on their behalf until the last family has entered its home and returned to a life of creativity and Zionism,” he concluded.