Gush Katif Report: No Housing Solutions in Sight

The latest report on the former Gush Katif communities shows a satisfactory educational situation - but severe housing and other problems.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 3:34 PM

The report, issued in December 2006/Kislev 5767 by the Gush Katif Committee, describes the situation of the Disengagement-expelled residents after 16 months of homelessness.

45% of the residents, or some 1,460 men and women, are still unemployed, and only 150 out of 700 business-owners have reopened their businesses. The expelled residents are no longer eligible for unemployment or adjustment-period payments.

Some 500 families are receiving food packages and other aid from welfare organizations.

Only 33 out of 400 farmers have received alternate lands, and only a small number of them have resumed actual production. In general, they have lost their markets, customers and connections abroad, and various bureaucratic and other issues have cost them much of their potential income. The impending Shmittah year [during which the Torah forbids agricultural work in the Land of Israel, except via complex legal machinations - ed.] only compounds the expected losses.

Of the 1,667 families listed as having lived in Gush Katif last summer, nearly 7/8 of them continue to live in their communal frameworks - waiting for bureaucracy-mired permanent housing solutions.

For instance, some 50 families of Ganei Tal are living in a "caravilla" site (pre-fab temporary homes made to look permanent) in Yad Binyamin, and most of the families from N'vei Dekalim, Gan-Or, Gadid, and others are living in Nitzan. Several dozen other N'vei Dekalim families are in Ein Tzurim, while families from Netzarim and Atzmona are in the Halutza area.

Only one agreement has been signed with the government for a new permanent replacement community. It involves some 45 families from two northern Gaza communities, Elei Sinai and Nisanit, which are to live in Bat Hadar, just outside Ashkelon. Construction has begun, and the families are expected to move in "soon."

Families that rented apartments on the private market, whether after or before the expulsion, find themselves in total uncertainty regarding the continuation of government rental aid. This problem affects mainly families in Kibbutz Or HaNer, Carmiya and Ashkelon, who are dependent on the good will of their landlords.

Sixteen months after the expulsion, some families have received the entire compensation as stipulated by law, while other have been given nothing at all. The remainder have received various amounts in between.

Entire sectors - farmers, businessmen, and the officially unrecognized communities - "appear to have no recourse," the report states, "in the face of the clauses of the Compensation Law that prevents them from receiving the compensation they deserve."

The community of Tel Katifa - 18 families living in northern Gush Katif for 13 years - has finally had its technical problems partially solved, and should be receiving some compensation soon.

Hundreds of families with special claims are being dealt with by a single "exceptions committee," which is having trouble dealing with the heavy load. Waiting-time for cases to be heard is between six and twelve months.

On the whole, the report states, the residents are satisfied with the Education Ministry's performance vis-a-vis their situation.

However, the following problems still exist: Many students have fallen behind in their studies because of a lack of educational frameworks; there is a higher dropout rate than there had been in Gush Katif; and the destabilization of the communal and family cells has strongly affected many students, leading to fears, apprehension, frustration and anger that make school-learning difficult.

"Many residents find themselves in a very difficult emotional state," the report states, "as a result of:
  • family tensions arising following the expulsion;
  • economic problems stemming from the forced unemployment;
  • the crisis of the dismantling of the communal framework and loss of friends;
  • small houses that preclude normal family functioning and hosting;
  • bureaucracy demanding emotional strength, and more."

Among the issues is uncertainty regarding future living plans, which makes it emotionally hard to "close the door on the past." In addition, unemployed families are reduced to using up their compensation money to pay day-to-day expenses, unable to reserve them to rebuild homes in place of those that were destroyed.

More and more people require health care, both emotionally and physically. A study released last month shows that the frequency of high blood pressure, heart problems, and even malignant growths has increased by 75-90%. Diabetes and asthma attacks have also risen significantly.

The Gush Katif Committee asks that the government track down those who were being treated for emotional problems and see how they are faring. The Committee has found that the situation of most of most of them has gotten worse; the families are not willing to make their own efforts to begin once again with a new set of social workers - yet would be willing to cooperate if counselors would arrive at their homes.