As Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of the not–so–democratic State of Israel, addressed the politicians in Washington, B’Ahavat Yisrael representatives were busy unloading supplies for the Shavuot holiday for some of our brothers and sisters who are temporarily residing in a very secluded community called Shekef. These residents of Shekef were living in various communities in Gaza / Gush Katif until the end of August 2005. This particular group is composed of families formerly of Tel Katifa, Neve Dekalim, Atzmona, and Netzer Hazani. I remember stopping along the way at a store and noticing the hullabaloo on the television that the Israeli media was making about the Olmert trip to the United States. Ehud Olmert wowed them by convincing President Bush how the latest expulsion plan now known as ‘convergence’ will be a great boon for the Middle East. Later, as I helped unload the truck, I could not help but stop and feel the incredible irony.
On the same day that the Prime Minister of Israel was begging the United States to endorse his suicidal retreat from huge parts of the Holy Land and with it to expel tens of thousands of Jewish residents, there we were struggling to subsidize some of those from the last group of expellees. Our objectives are completely at odds with our government! Some have been convinced that it’s over and it’s not so bad. After all, the government — it is assumed — has compensated these people. Really? Well, we conducted an interview in Shekef with Ms. Orit Odes, spokeswoman for the group, and we uncovered a number of facts about this particular group and what appears to be the case with the majority of the expellees from Gush Katif.
The majority of the group has been moved three (3) times in nine (9) months. First, they were cramped into over–crowded hotel rooms. Then they were told to go to a small community called Even Shmuel. At Even Shmuel, the local girls school, known as the Ulpana, assisted the families by giving up their caravans in order to give these poor families a modicum of space. The caravans averaged 60 square meters or about 650 square feet. They were in Even Shmuel with no assistance for five (5) months. They were then transferred once again to their current location in Shekef where they have been for the last three (3) months. At Shekef the dwellings — made from very low quality material — range from 60 to 110 square meters. The government representatives have informed them that they should expect to stay in these shabby dwellings for about two years. The expellees believe that this stay will probably be for much longer. How much have they received towards moving expenses? Zero (0) — nothing.
Ms. Odes and her friends explained to me other factors worthy of consideration. Each time they move, they need different types of furnishings or storage for temporary use. The Odes family, for example, purchased a small closet for storage in Even Shmuel. This small closet now had to be replaced by a larger closet–type dresser in Shekef. The larger dresser that they have purchased had to replace the one they had before their expulsion because the government’s movers destroyed it in transport. Moreover, all of these dwellings come with little land and none of the land has been cultivated in any way. There is no grass. There are no patios. If the residents want to hang laundry outside, they have to construct their own patios at their own expense. This is especially absurd in light of the fact that they will be forced to leave the premises in a few years.
Half of the group had houses in Gush Katif with mortgages from Israeli banks. The houses are no more, but the mortgages continue. The banks have not been paid by the government; so they want their money. In the meantime, the former home owners are paying mortgages for houses that do not exist! To add insult to injury, the residents are compelled to pay rent for these temporary dwellings.
Most of the residents in Shekef have found some sort of employment. Some have not. Those who have found employment usually have to travel great distances since Shekef is approximately forty (40) minutes by car from the nearest substantial population centers and many commutes are much further. During the interview we were told that the situation in Nitzan (a large new community that the government has established for many of the expellees) is even worse. Approximately 60% of the expellees there are unemployed.
The so–called Disengagement Authority, purportedly set up by the government to help the expellees, is doing everything possible not to help them. The expellees explained that they were promised compensation in proportion to the amount of time they lived in Gaza / Gush Katif. The only problem is that the government wants ‘proof’. In the case of Ms. Odes, her family lived in Tel Katifa for ten years. The authorities want ten years of past electric bills. The problem is that the electric company only keeps the last two (2) years of charges. This is the same with the history of property tax payments and so forth. Anybody with any common sense knows very well that the government through the tax authority and car registrations etc., knows exactly how long each of the expellees resided in his / her community.
Can a government led by Jews be so insensitive to some of its most loyal citizens? With deep regret, the answer appears to be in the affirmative. The question that begs for an answer is why?
It appears that those in power who orchestrate the expulsion of Jews do not want any opposition to this disastrous plan. By scattering them to out of the way locations, we have a situation of “out of sight, out of mind”. And tiresome bureaucratic contrivances along with their desperate need to rebuild their lives leave these unfortunate expellees too weary to protest and awaken public awareness.
Countless times, ordinary people here in Israel mention about the plight of poor people in their respective cities and towns and they want to know what makes these “settlers” so special? Why do these settlers deserve more than the poor of their own towns? It would not be right to advise someone not to give to the poor of their community. They definitely should give to the poor of their towns. Nevertheless, the majority of Jews do not seem to give the requisite ten percent of their income to tzedaka. If they would, there probably would not be too many of their brothers and sisters in desperate need of assistance in so many places. As Jews, we have a responsibility for all of our brethren. These Jews have suffered greatly from terrorists, and instead of the terrorists being punished and banished from the Land of Israel the government has rewarded the terrorists by expelling Jews. Most of these people were self–sufficient before the expulsion. Only one family from the group in Shekef has received some land to farm some forty five (45) minutes from Shekef. No one else has received anything else.
If one believes in authentic Judaism, one cannot evict a Jew from his / her home and destroy it, especially in the Land of Israel. Even if one feels that some other humanistic or so–called realistic values should take precedence over Jewish law and therefore there is no choice, you can not do so without compassion and you must take care of these people. This situation is a crisis that is essentially being ignored and played down not only by the mainstream media internationally and in Israel as well, but from most Jewish publications. Demand that the Israeli government stop rewarding terror. Feel the pain of your brothers and sisters. Hold off on those State of Israel bonds for a moment and think. Unfortunately much of Jewish donations are going to causes that in effect are hurting Jews instead of helping Jews. Now is not the time for indifference. Now is the time for individuals to stand up and do something. Take a stand and show you care. Why? Because you are Jew!