Blows to Expellees

Another Blow to Gush Katif Expellees
By Hillel FendelSome 60 families - still in Jerusalem hotels after their eviction from Gush Katif 7 months ago - are to be thrown out in three weeks, even though their future living arrangements are not guaranteed. "We were all set to receive the keys to our new caravillas in Ein Tzurim," said David Banjo, formerly of N'vei Dekalim, "when all of a sudden, we saw that the contracts they placed before us were different than the ones we had seen a week before. In addition to all the uncertainty and instability we have been living with for seven months, now we have to face deception by a government body. It is simply too much."The main issue is that the families are to be moved to a pre-fab housing site in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, with the intention that they will be able to build a new community in Lachish and live there upon its completion. However, there is no guarantee that the new community, currently known as Givat Egoz, will be ready or even approved by the government by any specific date. Despite this, the contracts presented to the families for signing specify that the families must leave Ein Tzurim within four years. "And if the community is not ready? Where do we go then - back to the street once again?" asked Banjo rhetorically. "We demand the same conditions as the other expellees - which are that the four-year term can be extended if necessary. But here, the government refuses to do that, because of an agreement it has with Ein Tzurim."The four-year clause is an improvement on the version of the contract they were presented with two days ago - which called for them to leave after only 18 months. However, the government agreed to increase the terms to four years after a long meeting with the residents' volunteer lawyers yesterday and last night. The residents have reason to believe that their plans to build a new community will not be approved in a timely fashion - or at all. The area in question is located in the northern Negev, and the government approved it for new communities several years ago. However, since then, environmental groups have caused it to be termed a "national priority biosphere," which, though somewhat less restricted than a nature preserve, is not readily available for construction. In short, its status is unclear."Here we are," said Banjo, the volunteer 'mayor' of the Egoz group, "thrown out of our homes, living out of boxes, filled with uncertainty, and yet willing to be pioneers and build up a new area - which is adjacent to the Green Line fence! And yet the government is placing all sorts of obstacles. It's hard to believe, and very hard to go through."To make matters worse, the Disengagement Administration has dropped off packing boxes off at the hotels, a form of "threat" to the families that they must be out within three weeks. "The psychological pressure is terrible," said another displaced citizen, Merav Zohar, "and some people are on the verge of collapse. It's simply unbearable. We are a bunch of large families, on the eve of Pesach [the Passover holiday], and we have no idea where we will be for the holiday. It's not like we are young couple who can just decide to spend it with their parents.""We need a solution right now," Banjo said. "Not in a few days, but immediately. In order to be ready for Pesach, we still have to pack up, move all our stuff into a new house, get our belongings from the containers that are in Kastina or elsewhere that we haven't been able to get to, figure out which of our belongings will fit - if they are not broken, as many are - into our new, smaller houses, and buy whatever needs to be replaced. This is all in addition to all the other problems we face, such as lack of work, school, family issues, and the like."So far, some 120 families have signed up for the Givat Egoz project. These include 50 families living in Jerusalem hotels, 10 in Ashkelon hotels, and another 60 who are living in what they call the "Diaspora" - individual apartments in various cities in the south.

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