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About a month before the expulsion of the Gush Katif communities, the government of Israel initiated a tremendous advertising campaign -- at a cost of millions of shekels -- using the slogan "There's a solution for every settler." With this campaign on television, Internet, national newspapers, and radio, the government took pride in having completed preparations for the expulsion and in having planned for all-inclusive solutions for the needs of the future expellees.
Today, 5 months after the expulsion, even the well-oiled public relations machine cannot hide the fact that the SELA Disengagement Authority scored a massive failure in its lack of preparedness to deal with all the aspects of the problems of the refugees: housing, employment, education, farmland, compensation payments, and more.
Inability to recognize the importance of the communities' desire to stay together, inexcusable bureaucracy, inadequacy of the provisions of the compensation law -- all these contributed to the comprehensive failure of the SELA Authority in assisting the rehabilitation of the former residents of Gush Katif and North Shomron after the "disengagement" program.
In order to meet with the needs of these communities the Gush Katif Committee was established and administers the entire system of rehabilitation and assistance. The Committee is the only body, which represents all the former residents of Gush Katif. It is run by former Gush Katif residents with the participation of representatives of all the scattered communities.
Below is information about the status of the expellees from a number of key perspectives -- information gathered by the Gush Katif Committee and correct as of 4 January 2006.
[Note: A detailed table is available in the original article. See Table.]
344 families are still living in interim accommodations (waiting to move to temporary homes within the next 2 months -- in Amatzia, Shomriya, caravans at Ein Tzurim, etc.). Of these, 235 families are still living in difficult conditions in hotel rooms and 109 are living in the tent cities at Yad Mordecai and in the "City of Faith" near Netivot.
1021 families are living in temporary homes until permanent homes are arranged (in the Nitzanim area, etc.). Of these, 470 families are living in the caravan site of Nitzan and approximately 200 in the Yad Binyamin caravan site.
1466 families out of the approximately 1750 former Gush Katif families decided to remain together with their original communities. The community framework offers support and mutual assistance. In several communities, new executive committees were elected. The executive committee members and community coordinators are in direct contact with the Gush Katif Committee and are working together as an umbrella organization to attempt to find solutions for temporary and permanent housing, employment, youth, education, and social communal activities.
An additional housing-related storage problem has arisen. As a result of the extended period in storage containers, much of people's belongings were damaged, destroyed, or even stolen. Families who moved from spacious homes to small caravans found that their furniture didn't fit into their new quarters. Almost every family needed to replace some major items and to purchase storage sheds or containers (at a cost of about 8,000 NIS per family) to store items that don't fit into the caravans. In addition, families had to invest in their temporary quarters in order to install Shabbat clocks, laundry facilities, kitchen cabinets, closets, and shelves.
Most of the families expelled from Gush Katif have not yet received their full compensation payments as provided by law. Despite a Supreme Court decision that instructs the SELA Authority to pay 50,000 NIS within a week of receiving a request, 50% of the expellees have not yet received their down payments. Also, business owners and farmers have not yet received any payment ( as of December, only 3% have received compensation.)
Most young people, however, have received the compensation to which they are legally entitled on the basis of the number of years of residency in Gush Katif. (4.800 NIS per year).
Approximately 50% of the families of Gush Katif evacuees received a 50,000 NIS down payment. Of these, 20% received compensation of up to 75% of the value of their homes and only 10% have received full compensation.
Exaggerated bureaucracy on the part of the "Sela" Disengagement Authority has caused untold hardship to the evacuees. For example, many old documents must be produced (e.g. telephone bills from 17 years ago, children's report cards from 1st grade). If the families kept such documents, they are buried in boxes in the inaccessible storage containers. These "requirements" are being made despite the fact that, before the disengagement, the government had very detailed data about the number of residents, their exact addresses, their occupations, the number of children in each family, and more -- data that could be available today at the push of a button in any of the government ministries. The unnecessary thoughtless treatment of the expellees together with the repeated requirements for more and more supportive documentation has turned the procedure for receiving compensation into a long and degrading nightmare.
Non eligible families are families that for some diverse reasons are not recognized by the SELA Authority although they lived in Gush Katif, some of them for as long as eight years. Some of the non-eligible families were allocated caravans, however, 35 to 40 families still do not know what decision will be taken, and are waiting. On the one hand the SELA Authority is determined not to give them either compensation or temporary housing in a caravan (aside from preferential areas such as Halutzit and Lakish), on the other hand the communities are determined to maintain their community structure.
Unemployment was almost unknown in Gush Katif. The great majority of residents were employed in agriculture, industry, education, and local services and they were significant contributors to the Israeli economy.
2100 people lost their jobs as a result of the disengagement: 1800 Gush Katif residents, 150 residents of North Shomron, and 150 Negev residents who worked in Gush Katif. The staff of the Gush Katif Committee has, so far, gathered information on 1250 available jobs. To date, 120 people have been matched with jobs with the help of the Gush Katif Committee and another 100 have found new jobs on their own or through the government employment service. 50 businesses have re-opened in various locations. Several businessmen want to re-open in Nitzan but cannot because there is no possibility of establishing a building for light industry because of the refusal of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council.
The Gush Katif Committee works in complete coordination with the voluntary association JobKatif in order to help the unemployed find work and to help businesspeople re-establish themselves. The Internet site www.jobkatif.org.il lists employment opportunities with priority given to Gush Katif expellees. Since the beginning of January, 2 former Gush Katif residents are helping unemployed people who do not have internet access. The organization has helped 10 small businesses to establish themselves in Nitzan, Yad Binyamin, and other locations. The staff is continuing to work with people who want to set up businesses.
Despite the government announcement before the expulsion that 20,000 dunams had been prepared for former Gush Katif farmers to continue with their livelihood, 95% of the farmers -- 5 months after the expulsion -- have not received any assistance from the SELA Authority. Of the 220 Gush Katif farmers, only 11 have received the promised alternate land through the SELA authority and 25 have found land on their own. It's obvious that this situation contributes greatly to the economic hardship and to the high percentage of unemployment among the evacuees. The Gush Katif Committee is trying to intervene with government ministries in an attempt to help the farmers obtain land.
There are 3500 schoolchildren from Gush Katif and North Shomron (3400 of these from Gush Katif). The Education Ministry has, compared with other government ministries, made adequate preparations for the placement of almost all of the children. The following issues still need to be addressed:
There are 1000 former Gush Katif 9th-12th-graders who are studying in 94 different schools throughout the country. 20 have dropped out and about 50-100 are "silent drop-outs" (registered at schools but not attending). Many youth have great difficulty in concentrating on their studies. There is no budget for ongoing youth activities. Whatever activities are taking place; they are funded solely by private contributions.
The budget for youth counselors and youth workers was curtailed and the workers were told to prepare "farewell" programs. Social workers who worked with youth in Gush Katif are not being hired by the Welfare Services and the youth are not responding to regular welfare workers that neither know them nor understand what they went through and are still going through. The issue has been passed from one government committee to another with no solution in sight. With the assistance of private donations some of the youth and social workers are still been employed.
Problems of drugs and alcohol (which were unknown in Gush Katif) are now arising. More and more expressions of despair and feelings of 'no way out' are being registered. There have been several suicide attempts and a feeling of hopelessness is widespread.
Parental authority has been severely undermined and family life has been endangered -- with many cases of divorce -- all of which creates additional destructive elements.
The youth have undergone severe ideological crises in their attitudes toward the country and the army and are experiencing a lack of faith in all types of leadership: religious, communal, and national. There is no longer pride in the army uniform -- in this group, which had always been among the first to volunteer for service with enthusiasm and pride.
Individuals and families with personal problems often do not receive appropriate responses and a great many such people do not even approach welfare representatives because they are not accustomed to asking for help. Many are still deep in the crisis of the disengagement and need help and support.
Today, Gush Katif Committee employs 10 social workers and a coordinator. Most of the workers formerly worked in the Gush Katif Welfare Department. Since they know the people and understand the problems, the evacuees hold them in great respect and realize the importance of their roles. They work in the field and are paid by the Gush Katif Committee from donations or even work on a volunteer basis. The Government Welfare Ministry has, so far, increased by one the job slots in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council. The Ministry recognizes the fact that social workers from Gush Katif are best suited to treat the problems of the evacuees but this recognition has not been translated into funding.
The government is responsible for a program called Maanim (Answers), which provides telephone guidance by professionals for all sorts of personal problems and which also offers a few free counseling sessions. Aside from this government program, all social workers that help evacuees are funded by contributions to the Gush Katif Committee. There are also many social workers in various parts of the country who volunteer their services.
Volunteers and staff of the Gush Katif Committee are also currently involved in a project to document the experiences of dozens of families in the course of the disengagement and its aftermath. This project is not only vital from a historical point of view, but provides an excellent platform for therapy and the interviewers are all trained therapists who will use the filming experience as a way to encourage the families to talk about their experiences which is expected to have therapeutic benefit.
Government funding has been promised (but not delivered) for a project to rehabilitate and strengthen the community structure and functioning of the various communities. In many locations, there are dozens of support groups and workshops conducted by volunteer professionals with no government assistance.
As a result of the expulsion, hundreds of families are in severe economic straits because of the loss of income of one or more former breadwinners and because of additional costs involved in storage, moving, and replacing needed furniture and appliances. All this, together with the delays in compensation payments and ineligibility for unemployment insurance (self-employed businesspeople and farmers are not eligible) led to the complete economic breakdown of many families who never needed any help in the past.
The Gush Katif Committee has distributed more than 3,000,000 NIS in donations to needy families in the various temporary locations. Yoni Cohen, the administrator of the Gush Katif Zedakah fund has handled this matter with great respect and discretion. At first, the assistance was for the most immediate needs. Lately, the assistance is supplementary to the family's own efforts to rehabilitate themselves and is based on contributions by organizations and individuals in Israel and abroad.
As mentioned above, most of the Gush Katif families chose to continue living within their former communities. However, it is very complicated to maintain the community life without a minimal organizational municipal structure. Moreover the communities, which have experienced a great shock, are in greater need of assistance for the administration of their needs than they were in the past.
In the framework of the Gush Katif Committee, each community is given the tools that will allow for the full rehabilitation of the community and autonomous working structure as they had in the past.
We have thus established a network of Community Coordinators for each and every community. The coordinators hold bi-weekly meetings and learn together how to cope with the intricate problems they are facing within their communities, by exploiting the unique human resources of each community. The coordinators are in charge of overseeing the work of the various committees, to enhance supportive network within the members of the community in different domains: employment, education, welfare and other. These issues can be attended only within the community structure. The coordinators are investing numerous hours in order to maintain the cohesiveness of the communities and promote the communities needs.
For this reason, we are suggesting to "twin" communities abroad to temporarily fund these functions (which may be filled by the local rabbi, youth coordinator, committee chairman, etc.).
The Gush Katif Committee wishes to thank the many organizations that extended their precious support during the past months. Special thanks to the OU, Young Israel, Emunah, One Israel Fund, CFOIC and all the wonderful people who were always ready to assist our communities.
For further details and information please contact us:
Dror Vanunu: 972-54-7775662. firstname.lastname@example.orgAddendum from Hillel Fendel, "Gush Katif Youth at Risk", January 11, 2006, Arutz-Sheva
Laurence Beziz: 972-54-7775654. email@example.com
David Glaser: 972-54-7775308. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hagit Yaron, of the N'vei Dekalim secretariat, told Arutz-7's Moshe Priel: "Our goal is to stabilize the communities, and for this we need physical places to have activities on all levels -- for adults, youth and children. We have turned to all the government offices, and everyone tells us how important it is, etc., but the bottom line is that we receive nothing. As an example, take Nitzan, where there are seven different communities, yet we have received only two clubhouses -- and one of them was already taken for something else, and one is apparently going to be used for youth at risk, such that there is nothing for normative youth. And what about younger children at risk?
There is no informal framework for them. When they come home from school, there is nowhere for them to go, except for 1.5 playgrounds for little children, and nothing else; for older children -- nothing."
The report further states that youth workers and counselors have been told to prepare farewell activities. This is in light of a letter from the Education Ministry Youth and Society Administration informing us of a halt to all activities as of this month, because of the lack of budget.
"The State is ignoring the true needs of the expellees in terms of social aid," the report states. "The youths have difficulty communicating with outside social workers who did not work in Gush Katif before the evacuation. It is hard to receive advice and treatment from unfamiliar people, and the problem of lack of trust is more acute for youth. The State does not recognize the need to budget social workers who are familiar to the youth from their Gush Katif days."
Hearings are held on these matters in the Knesset, but they are moving very slowly, and the "long bureaucratic process prevents the necessary help from arriving immediately."
"Following the ideological crisis regarding the State and the army that they underwent," the report continues, "the youth display lack of trust in all types of leadership -- religious, military, communal, and governmental." The report emphasizes that many youths continue to enlist in the IDF and even to volunteer for elite combat units.
Dror Vanunu was a spokesman for Gush Katif. He now serves as an international coordinato of the Gush Katif Committeer. This article appeared January 26, 2006 in Katif Net
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