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by Hillel Fendel


Part 1: A Brief History of Gush Katif

As the fifth anniversary of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the accompanying tragic expulsion of nearly 9,000 Jews from their homes nears, Israel National News presents an overview of what Gush Katif's past and accomplishments - and its goals for the immediate and long-range future.

Approximately 350 family farms and agricultural enterprises, producing $120 million in flowers and produce, were based in the Katif Bloc of Jewish towns in Gaza. Almost 70% of Israel's organic produce originated in Gaza, as did nearly 15% of its agricultural exports, 90% of bug-free leafy vegetables, 45% of tomato exports, 95% of cherry tomato exports, and 60% of herb exports. Some 60% of Israel's geranium exports came solely from one community, Ganei Tal.

The farms employed 5,000 Jews and 5,000 Gazan Arabs. Total annual revenues were $60-70 million.

History in Brief

The first community to be built in modern Jewish Gaza was Netzer Hazani, which was established in 1976. Three other IDF Nachal outposts were already there — Kfar Darom, Morag, and Katif — and they later turned into full-fledged towns as well.

The entire area was originally filled with vast stretches of empty sand dunes "with no birds, insects or even weeds," one former resident said. "Even the amount of rain was small compared to today's rainfall measurements, old-timers say. Local Arabs, who called the area El Gerara, 'the cursed land,' were later happy when the Jews returned, because the land began to produce and the rain started again... When we first arrived, two Arab mukhtars came to welcome us, and asked us, 'Don't you know you can't grow anything here in this cursed land? According to our tradition, the last people who lived here who grew anything were Abraham and Isaac...'" In time, the "cursed land" that became Netzer Hazani absorbed 70 families working in greenhouse farming of flowers, celery, peppers, spices, and more.

Within two years, Kfar Darom and Moshav Katif were formed — the latter by a group of new immigrants from the United States — and it became time to establish the Gaza Coast Regional Council.

In 1979, Ganei Tal was established, creating a bloc of three towns together with Moshav Katif and Netzer Hazani, while Gadid was built some ten kilometers to the south. Later, the "city" of N'vei Dekalim was built adjacent to Gadid, forming the hub and center of the Katif bloc of Jewish communities.

At the same time, plans were underway to build more farming towns in the north and south of the Gaza area, as well as Netzarim in central Gaza. By 1984, there were 16 Jewish towns in Gaza. The area's last two towns — Shirat Hayam, literally on the beach, and Kerem Atzmona — were established in 2000, bringing the final tally to 21.

Winds of Destruction

In late 2003, with Gush Katif in its prime — featuring the best in settlement and blossoming of the Land of Israel, religious values and national idealism, heroic withstanding of terrorist and rocket attacks, and international acclaim for its agriculture — the first winds of destruction began to blow. Ariel Sharon, who had arguably been the prime force behind the plans to develop and settle Gaza with Jewish towns, announced his plan to destroy Gush Katif at a conference in Herzliya in December.

Within 20 months, the deed was done: Nearly 9,000 men, women, and children — described by all as the "salt of the earth" — found themselves without homes, livelihoods, schools, and physical roots.

Here is not the place to describe the next five years of wandering, uncertainty and general suffering; suffice it to say that retired Supreme Court Judge Eliyahu Matza, who headed the official commission of inquiry into the government's treatment of the expellees, described it as a "complete and utter failure of the executive branch."

Plans for the Future

Though scattered around the country, most in the northern Negev and environs, the residents of Gush Katif are still united and still have big plans. Under the theme of Od Katif Chai — which means Katif Still Lives - they intend to build 18 (the numerical equivalent of Chai) new communities and initiate 18 new projects.

Among the new towns to be built or already in the initial stages thereof is Be'er Ganim, literally: Well of Gardens, north of Ashkelon. The name is an acronym of the communities from whence the new residents hail: Bdolach, Rafiah Yam, Gadid, Nisanit, Morag and others with one of those initials. Be'er Ganim was the name of a town in the Netanya region, which later merged with Or Yehuda and changed its name to Pe'er Ganim, or Beauty of the Gardens.

Other new towns will be built in the northern Negev: Katif Amatzia is to be populated by former residents of Moshav Katif, while Neta (Mirsham) will be built by residents from Tel Katifa and Kfar Darom. The former residents of the beachfront Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea) community have changed scenery and are well into the process of building Maskiyot in the near-desert conditions of the Jordan Valley.

In addition, new neighborhoods are being added to existing cities or communities, such as N'vei Herzog in Ashkelon, Avnei Eitan in the Golan, Ganei Tal in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, and Shvut Katif in Yad Binyamin.

Among the 18 new projects the down-but-not-out pioneers are kicking off are: The construction of synagogues in Talmei Yafeh, Yesodot and Maskiyot; two regional community centers and four youth centers for extra-curricular, cultural and supportive activities; a family unit lecture series and workshop; 150 student scholarships; financial, medical, and vocational assistance to families; the establishment of the Gush Katif Legacy Center; and more.

Part 2: The Price of Disengagement

A summary of the Disengagement and its aftermath, written by a leading Gush Katif resident and activist, concludes that the price Israel paid for the overwhelmingly negative results was a brutal one. The "Disengagement" refers to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza — an apparently unfeasible scenario that can be attributed exclusively to a man known as the Bulldozer, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It followed a "moral, political, and social struggle that... nearly caused a civil war," writes Dror Vanunu, the Chairman of the Gush Katif Committee. It involved the uprooting of army camps, as well as 21 blossoming towns and communities of Gush Katif in Gaza and four more in Northern Samaria — a total of some 9,000 people. In addition, army camps and military apparatus were removed and new positions set up precisely on the Green Line.

Vanunu lists four "declared aims" of the withdrawal:

  1. Paving the way for the peace process

  2. Improving the PA's economy

  3. From a legal standpoint, Gaza would no longer be an Israeli responsibility, and the population there would become self-sufficient and responsible for its own welfare

  4. Israel would gain international appreciation


None of these goals were achieved

Vanunu writes. Instead, the negative results encompassed all of the above and more, as follows:


Progress that has been made:

In fewer than half of the new communities — Bustan HaGalil, Bat Hadar, Golf-Ashkelon, Bnei Netzarim, Naveh, Yad Binyamin, Mavkiim, Nitzan, and Talmei Yafeh — have permanent homes begun to be built.

In six locations — Hafetz Hayim, B'nei Dekalim, Shomeriya, Yesodot, Neta, and Be'er Ganim (Nitzanim) — infrastructure work has been completed.

In five locations — Amatzyia, Palmachim, N'vei Yam, Nir Akiva, Ariel — infrastructure work has not even started.

Only 157 families (9%) have completed the construction of their permanent homes. Over 1,400 families (85%) continue to live in 18 different temporary sites. Many families, such as young couples, unemployed families and Bnei Menashe, encounter tremendous financial difficulties and will not be able to build their homes without some financial support.

There were 380 agricultural farms in Gush Katif. Only 28% of the farmers have re-established their farms. Only 50% of small business owners of Gush Katif have resumed their activities.

Hillel Fendel is Senior News Editor at Arutz-7 ( This article was originally two separate articles: Part 1 appeared July 15 in Arutz-Sheva. It is archived at Part 2 appeared August 15, 2010 in Arutz-Sheva. It is archived at


Editor's Notes:

Excerpts from the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry

"The state failed, and its failure was absolute and abysmal."

June 15, 2010
Chairman: Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Matza

State Commission of Inquiry Report

"..the Commission of Inquiry thinks that during the last years the State of Israel has totally failed in its duty to properly care for the rehabilitation of the evacuees from the Gaza Strip and North Shomron. The State has failed to fulfill its public promise that the issue should stand as a top national priority...

(p.97 of the State Commission full report)"

We cannot say that this statement is any news for the expellees who have been struggling for the last 5 years, but nevertheless the official recognition of the government's fiasco brings some hope that it will accelerate the processes for the restoration of their lifework.

Among the articles of this report, conclusions about the monetary compensation to the farmers and private businesses, datelines for the establishment of the permanent communities, conclusions for the reconstruction of the public buildings, solutions for the unemployed older population, and more.

... the responsibility of the government to the evacuees is bond by the basic civil contract that should ensure the basic human rights of any citizen of this country, all the more to citizens that the State turned into refugees in their homeland... (State commission report)

Find additional information at

These are some videos about Gush Katif:

From David Wilder of Hebron His collection of 160 photos he photographed in Gush Katif.

In the Freiman Kitchen That's the trailer of 50 minutes movie — It's a powerful movie

Gush Katif The last Kaddish The last Kaddish 11 minutes film — shows the tragedy

Shows the hope. From destruction to renewal


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