Gaza´s Jews Rush to Accommodate Expected Influx of Residents

A new initiative seeks to provide housing for the hundreds of individuals and families who want to move to Gush Katif to strengthen veteran Jewish residents in the face of expulsion.

, | updated: 3:57 PM

In recent months the communities of Gush Katif have been inundated with requests by people who want to move there. This despite the fact that according to the expulsion/compensation legislation they would not be compensated for the destruction of their property if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan is implemented.

While aides to Prime Minister Sharon have confided that the plan largely relies on inducing the willful evacuation by the residents before a forced expulsion begins, the exact opposite seems to be happening.

The Gaza Jewish community has now made a list of all vacant housing units and structures in various states of repair and stages of construction throughout the region. They found some 260 potential housing units in various stages of readiness that they hope to make available to those who wish to make Gush Katif their home. Renovations are already underway.

Datiya Yitzhaki, one of the organizers behind the initiative, called by the Hebrew acronym Kayla, which stands for Absorption to the Gaza Region, spoke with Israel National Radio’s Weekend Edition today.

“Our idea is to bring as many people as we can to live in the Gaza region alongside the residents who have lived here for a long time already and withstood many harsh conditions, in order to strengthen them during this critical time and deliver a most powerful message to Arik Sharon,” said Yitzhaki.

According to Yitzhaki, all sorts of accommodations are available in most of the 21 religious, non-religious and mixed communities throughout the Gaza coast. “Some units are available for rent and are completely furnished. There are also caravans that are completely empty which we are trying to outfit with basic furniture and appliances for young couples.”

The influx of new residents, which Kayla expects to fill Gush Katif to residential capacity, is only part of a two pronged plan to flood Gaza with idealistic activists. “We are talking about two stages,” said Yitzhaki. “The first stage is the actual absorption of the long list of would-be residents into the communities that exist today. After Pesach (Passover), however, we will invite hundreds of thousands of people to come move here and camp out on the beaches, parks and every empty space around Gush Katif,” she said.

Yitzhaki brushed off fears of arrest as a factor that would keep people from flocking to Gush Katif prior to a withdrawal. “So far we have a team of over 60 of Israel’s top lawyers supporting our struggle in various ways,” Yitzhaki said. “They meet regularly to devise legal ways to thwart the plan and they will be around in the future to advise and help out those with legal difficulties as well.”

Yitzhaki is aware of the government’s plans to try to prevent people from joining the residents, but believes they can be bypassed with advanced planning. “We are quickly trying to get as many people as we can to officially change their addresses to Gush Katif, because unfortunately, the government is trying to block the possibility of people moving here, even though no part of the disengagement plan bans people from moving here now.”

Those wishing to make the move should move fast, though. “Every day counts – the sooner people decide to come here the more likely they will be allowed to enter,” Yitzhaki said.

Yitzhaki says the drive to populate the communities is not just aimed at thwarting the expulsion of Gaza’a Jewish communities this summer. “We are looking for families and young people to move here because we are looking past the disengagement toward families who will fall in love with our beautiful part of the Land of Israel and stay with us after this plan fails.”

Israel National Radio’s Tamar Yonah asked Yitzhaki what “people who support the Jews of Gaza but work in far away cities like Haifa, for example, can do to help?”

“Activism on behalf of the Jews of Gaza is not limited to moving there,” Yitzhaki said. “We have people all across Israel that when we, God forbid, get to a critical stage, will paralyze the entire country. So if you can’t come to Gush Katif itself then you can certainly take part in those localized activities in which the nation of Israel as one will declare that what Ariel Sharon wants to do is committing suicide for the Jewish future.”

She also said that those interested in donating furnishings for the new residents, canned goods, or funds can do so through the Women in Green – Women for Israel’s Tomorrow organization.

Asked by Yonah what Jewish and non-Jewish lovers of Zion outside Israel could do to help, Yitzhaki said, “They can contact us. We had one Christian man who is a graphic designer who told us he wanted to help out and he has designed many things for us from his home in America.”

Datiya Yitzhaki can be reached at the office of the Gaza Absorption Center.
In Israel: 08 684 7048
Outside Israel: 972 8 684 7048

Those interested in moving to Gush Katif should send a fax with their name, ID number, phone number and town preference to:
In Israel: 08 684 5128
Outside Israel: 972 8 684 5128