Monday, October 31, 2005


Arlene Kushner's October 31, 2005 Report on The Evacuees from Gush Katif

From Israel: The on-going plight of the evacuees from Gush Katif

by Arlene Kushner, October 31, 2005
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It has been a while since I have discussed the evacuees here in any detail, but they are not forgotten and this posting will be devoted to them.

The Land of Israel Legal Forum, which has over 50 lawyers working either pro bono or for token pay on behalf of the evacuees recently submitted its second report to the Comptroller, describing problems the people are facing. It is based on "written and oral testimonies of residents, correspondence between settlement leadership and the various government ministries and documents in the name of Forum lawyers and others."

I attempted to, but have not been able to secure the original report. What I am relying on here for information is a major article on the report, which ran recently in Arutz Sheva, as well information from Toby Greenwald, who took some of the testimony of residents. (Toby has filed extensive independent reports, which now total about 60 pages and can be found at

A summary of available information with some commentary and additions from first hand knowledge follow. Even this is lengthy -- but well worth the read if you care about understanding this situation. I encourage you to go as far as the description of the various communities for a sense of what they're going through.

I urge people to distribute this information because there is so much disinformation regarding large sums the people have received and how well they are doing. Hopefully more will follow...

Many are still in the hotels. Conditions are bleak and overcrowding is common. In some instances adult brothers and sisters must share a room -- something that runs contrary to the beliefs and life style of religious persons. Hygiene in the hotels is not always the best (we are not looking at four and five star hotels in the main.)

The residents have a sense of being embarrassed and demeaned because they have no way to adquately receive guests who come to see them and end up sitting crowded on the beds. This is more of a problem when there is a family simcha such as a brit milah. A hall sometimes must be rented at cost that can be ill-afforded, because there is no home into which the guests might come. All of this severely affects morale.

As for food, there are issues of level of kashrut and quantity. In one hotel in Jerusalem in which evacuees were housed, the Health Ministry found the food sub-standard.

Phone lines are inadequate for the number of persons in the hotels. This has caused the necessity of relying on cell phones, which are expensive. In most of the hotels there is no access to the Internet, which badly interfers with the ability of people to execute work that requires Internet connection.

Before the onset of the holidays some hotels informed the evacuees that they would have to leave for other hotels because there were previous reservations for this time. This was enormously unsettling to the evacuees, who had done such things as organize kindergartens and classes in the hotels. Most significantly it undercut the sense of community cohesiveness and whatever meager sense of stability they were able to achieve.

Evacuees are now required to pay for their hotel stays -- this money will come out of compensation packages. People are not staying in the hotels for the joy of it, but because there is no alternative until more permanent solutions can be arranged.


Nitzan site:
In Nitzan, which is on the coast to the south, 400 caravans (euphemistically called caravillas) have been constructed to provide temporary housing solutions. There are serious deficiencies and problems with them: numerous water shortages, electricity failures, holes in the ground, no sidewalks, dirt mounds the children play in, bulldozers moving around inhabited houses, no grocery store, a very small synagogue, no meeting room for the residents, no convenient transportation out of the site.
Temporary Houses Unprotected:
Some temporary housing site have been set up in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip but they are not being provided with sufficient security. Some members of Elei Sinai inhabit temporary houses in Kibbutz Carmia, which is in range of Kassam rockets and at risk for terrorist infiltration; two weeks ago five terrorists penetrated the kibbutz area. The temporary houses have no sheltered spaces and there are no public shelters in the kibbutz; there is no guard for the kindergarten. The kibbutz houses are made of stone and thus resist fire; the temporary houses are made of flammable material and might burst into flames if hit with a Kassam.

When the evictions were done, residents of Gush Katif were able to take very little with. They were supposed to return to their homes and pack up containers in the days following. In a joint meeting of the Kesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Commitee and the Constitution Committee, Defense Minister Mofaz, according to the Forum report, explicitly promised that property not collected by its owners would be collected by the army, and that there would be accessibility to the containers. These promises have not been honored. In some cases the army failed to provided required protection and looting was done before packing was accomplished. In some cases, when houses were destroyed belongings were destroyed along with them.
What is little known is that the evacuees are charged for opening the containers in which their property is stored and that this is permitted only once. Thus in some instances evacuees have bought duplicates of belongings in their containers; in some cases, equipment needed for work, or for the beginning of the school year, was inaccessible.
Residents who did open their containers reported damaged property. The containers not arranged for privately, but via the gov't, are in Kastina, sitting in sun and heat. The heat is so intense in the desert that some property is permanently damaged.
A host of education problems exist that will only be touched upon here but which are causing trauma to the students who came out of the schools of Gush Katif. In some instances there are severe transportation difficulties, as schools are a distance from where families have been temporarily located. In some instances there have been attempts to re-establish schools that operated in Gush Katif, but this has been a struggle, as the teachers have been scattered and are not all accessible, facilities are not available, etc.
Since there is no permanent solution for the communities, and families are being shifted from place to place, there is no permancy in the educational lives of the youngsters. Already traumatized by the loss of their homes, this is for some more than they are able to cope with. Many may lose a year of schooling, and parents, strapped for cash, may need to hire tutors or repeat a year's tuition.
This too is an overwhelming problem that can only be alluded to in general terms here:
“Many residents have lost their means of support as a result of the eviction. This creates horrible economic distress for these families, who have contributed to the general society throughout their life and are now dependent on the kindness of strangers.”
People whose jobs still exist often find themselves places far away from these places of employment -- which are all in the south. Someone living in the Golan or Jerusalem may have hours of commute, which is draining and expensive.
Some who were self-employed (e.g., caretakers) have lost their jobs completely; others who had businesses that could be moved received no compensation for the expense of moving them.
There are farmers who did not receive alternative plots suitable for their needs. Some received less land than they had, some were located to areas so different from Gush Katif that they must learn new cultivation techniques; some farmers received no land. According to the Forum report:
“the farmers’ request to relocate their greenhouses also fell on deaf ears, and they were slandered and portrayed falsely in the media.”
In some instances large numbers of volunteers spent long grueling hours moving growing plants and equipment from greenhouses in Gush Katif to greenhouses located elsewhere. Because of the deadline set by the gov't for doing this however -- and in spite of appeals for extensions -- the work could not be completed and plants were lost.

In reading this section, please note:
[] the failure to keep communities together -- which is what the people want
[] the use of other temporary quarters not mentioned above, such as tents, for the most part initiated privately
[] the wanton disregard for the psychological state of the people and the instability that has been created -- the shameful lack of planning and organization, the confusion, the politicking -- the attempts to place people in one place until something temporary but more stable comes available and then to a final place later.

Neve Dekalim:
The Disengagement Authority sent them to 13 different places, especially to hotels scattered around Jerusalem and Ashkelon. They don’t know where they will be in the long run, only that they asked for a place in which they could be together as a community.
The Prime Minister’s Office, working with the full cooperation of the Jewish Agency proposed Ibim, a student village near Sderot, as a temporary three-month solution, until caravans could be set up to house them until a permanent solution would be found. After packing their belongings, they were told they could not go. The plan had been for the students who were supposed to live in the village to be temporarily transferred to new apartments in Sderot and to receive additional stipends. However, head of Sha’ar HaNegev Council, objected publicly and turned to the media, claiming that this plan was unfair to the students. His objections were reinforced by the Jewish Agency Treasurer -- a close friend of PM Sharon -- who had previously supported the plan. The decision has been reversed and the people of Katif have nowhere to go.
Kfar Darom:
The residents are at the Paradise Hotel in Beer-Sheva and will soon be transferred to an apartment building in Ashkelon, where they are meant to stay for a year or two. Although this situation is very different from their lifestyle, it was the only solution that made it possible for them to stay together and to maintain their educational institutions. Their long-range plan is to rebuild Kfar Darom in the Negev.
This 35-family community asked to stay together but they are dispersed. Some are staying in hotels in the Dead Sea area, others in Ashkelon and still others in Nitzan. Eighteen families have been taken into the Ulpana (school) of Ofra. In three weeks, they will move to Tene, a settlement in South Mount Hebron. This was organized privately and not via the gov't or the Disengagement Authority. From there, they will search for a permanent solution, perhaps near Netivot (Ir HaEmunah -- the "city of faith" tent city -- is in this area.)
Shirat HaYam:
This settlement numbered 33 families who wished to remain together. Of them, 21 families stayed together and 12 were dispersed. On the first night, they were taken to the Neot Midbar Hotel in Beer Sheva, where they stayed for one night, before being transferred to Ulpanat Lehavim in Kedumim. When the Ulpana students returned, the people of Shirat HaYam were moved to the Yeshiva dormitory of Alon Shevut, where they will stay until after the holidays. They are looking for a small community settlement until a permanent solution is found for them. This means that they will have had to move five times.
Immediately after the Disengagement, half of Atzmona’s residents established Ir HaEmunah near Netivot, where they live in tents, with outside bathrooms and showers. There are solid reports that the area in which Atzmona built its tent city had been abandoned for about ten years. However, the gov't has now begun searching for industrialists who would seek use of this area. According to the Atzmona secretary, the gov't sent them old, substandard caravans, without bathrooms or water -- which they declined to use. The people have been doing everything on their own -- without help form the gov't. They rebuilt their two well-known elementary schools, eight classes for boys and eight classes for girls. With contributions from the outside, they will now acquire better caravans, where they hope to live for the next two years. Their long-term plan is to live in the Negev in a large bloc of settlements.
The rest of the Atzmona families were invited by the residents of Sha’alvim/Nof Ayalon to join them, and they have been staying in the Yeshiva’s small dormitory rooms. Ultimately they intend to move to Ir HaEmunah, so that all 50 families will be together. The residents of Sha’alvim have been most gracious to them: having them paired off with Sha’alvim families for laundry and other purposes, providing babysitting services, playground facilities and special programs.
Tel Katifa:
They are staying in the Even Shmuel Ulpana (school) and are planning their short-term future. One option is Beer Sheva, although they don’t like the idea that their children will live in a city, very foreign to their lifestyle. Another is to move to empty apartments in Kibbutz Mefalsim, affiliated with the secular, communist HaShomer HaTzair movement, very alien to them in other ways. Or, they will stay in the Ulpana for three to four months, until they receive caravans.
Elei Sinai:
Some 50 families from this community are now living in a tent city, in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. Among them, several have illnesses such as asthma, and sleep in a hotel at night, and spend their days together with the others. They were not permitted to dig in the ground to build even the most basic infrastructure -- were even prohibited from setting up showers.
There has been in this community a very strong desire to stay together as a community. The only solution offered to them was to merge with existing settlements or a neighborhood in Ashkelon -- all of which was unacceptable to them. Before evacuation, they knew they would be placed in hotels, and they resisted. As one leader explained: "...psychologically, it’s easier to help people if they are all together and not spread out at different hotels." Individuals within the community on their own initiative tried to negotiate with the gov't for the entire community, but eventually became angry as nothing viable was offered as a solutin for them. They are at present receiving no help from the gov't.
Ganei Tal:
The 80 families of Ganei Tal made their own arrangements; most are now staying at the guesthouse of Kibbutz Hafetz Haim, crowded into small rooms.
Very soon they expect to caravans, where they will live for about two years, until new homes are built for them in a new, independent neighborhood, which will be an extension of Kibbutz Hafetz Haim.
They have been staying in the dormitories of the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, which invited them to come; and live as a settlement, amongst themselves. They are impressed that the residents of Ariel were able to organize arrangements for them in a way in which the gov't seemed incapable of doing.
They are considering several long-term plans, not necessarily something offered by the Government. Now that the holidays are over, the students will be coming to the dormitories, but the people of Ariel are willing to maintain the students in hotels for an interim, until the people of Netzarim decide where they can go.
The families from Gadid wanted to stay together but currently there are 26 families in Nitzan, and 17 in the Neve Ilan Hotel. Apparently there are difficulties regarding the number of families eligible for caravans and eventual rental payments.
This community numbers 38 families who chose to stay together. There is an average of 7-8 people in every family. They were sent to a hotel at the Dead Sea for Shabbat and Sunday and were then told that they must leave the hotel on Sunday morning. Some of the people left for Nitzan and entered the caravillas (a fancy name for caravans), which still weren’t ready (burst water pipes and other problems); some of them left for the Paradise Hotel in Beer Sheva and others went to the Shirat HaYam youth hostel in Ashkelon. Their long-range plan is to become a part of the Nitzanim settlement.
Pe’at Sadeh:
The people of this traditional Moshav wanted to stay together. They were sent to a hotel in the Dead Sea for two weeks, since the caravillas in Nitzan were not ready, although they had previously spoken with the Government. Some were thrown from one hotel to another. Some are staying in the Ashkelon vacation village.
They were the only community that turned to the Disengagement Authority during Succot of last year. They wanted to move as one community to Mavki’im, situated between Ashkelon and Yad Mordechai. However, they are still living in caravillas.
Netzer Hazani:
The people of Nezter Hazani were in touch with the Prime Minister's office before the evacuation, and expressed a strong desire to stay together as a community. No solution was offered them except for the temporary option of going to the Dead Sea and Eilat. This was unacceptable and when they were expelled they declared that they had no solution and thus would set up tents in the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza. On their arrival at the Kotel, they were greeted by thousands come to welcome them at midnight and then slept at the Yishvat HaKotel. From there they were sent to the Golan Heights and moved from one locale to another, back and forth -- from the Midrasha in Hispin, to the yeshiva high school, where conditions were unsatisfactory, and now then back to the Midrasha, where they currently are. The northern locale is difficult for some, who have jobs in the south. For a period of time, one part of the group set up a tent city in Tel Aviv.
Kibbutz Ein Tzurim offered to take them, providing them with an area where they could be together, but caravans had to first be constructed for them. A deal was supposed to have been made for them to stay in the hotel in Shoresh, in the Jerusalem Corridor, for a period of three months until the caravans were constructed; but that deal fell through and when they realized they could stay for only three weeks and then would have to move again, they opted to stay for the time in the Golan Heights. They expect Ein Tzurim to provide their temporary housing solution, where they will stay for some years.


I hope this gets posted in major Jewish papers such as the Jewish Press, Yated, Hamodia, Jewish Week. Los Angeles papers etc. It's very important that this article is widely publicized.
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