TEL AVIV – Explaining they have nowhere to go until the Israeli government organizes their living situation, former residents of a large farming community in Jewish Gaza moved into tents yesterday just off the main highway in Tel Aviv.
Tent city just off Tel Aviv highway. Photo: WND
Expelled residents of Nezer Hazani, a former community in Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish towns, pitched a tent camp in a public park alongside a major Tel Aviv exit on Israel’s main Ayalon Highway. Most residents of Hazani arrived at the camp in an effort to protest what they say is Israel’s failure to organize suitable living accommodations for them after they were forced from their homes in Gaza last week.
“We have nowhere else to go,” Hazani spokeswoman and tent camp resident Anita Tucker told WND. “The government is so disorganized. We keep hearing things are being worked out – then nothing happens. We call and they put us off. If they gave me the money, I could have everything worked out for all the former residents very quickly, so I don’t see why these so-called professionals are doing things so poorly.”
Hazani residents, along with the entire Jewish population of the Gaza Strip, last week were evacuated from their homes and placed on buses that brought many to hotels in Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Eilat and near the Dead Sea. The Israeli government is currently negotiating compensation and relocation deals with settlement leaders with the aim of keeping former communities in tact and transferring them to neighborhoods in the Negev.
Many had thought their hotel stays were being paid for by the government, but they were informed this week the bills will be deducted from any compensation they are set to receive.
Former Gaza residents dining in tent city. Photo: WND
For many Hazani residents, hotel rooms were not even available. They were transferred to yeshiva dormitories in Jerusalem and the Negev. They decided instead to set up the Tel Aviv tent city in hopes of pressuring the government to find them living quarters quickly.
“School starts in one week, and we don’t know where our kids will go yet because the government is still working things out,” said Tucker.
Hazani residents, like the vast majority of Gush Katif, did not apply for government compensation deals before the evacuation took place. The average evacuated family was offered about $200,000 in compensation – the exact amount depending on house size, the number of children and length of residence in the area. Some also were offered two years free rent if they move to certain communities set up in the Negev.
Many in Gush Katif owned property worth far more than the compensation offered. A consortium of American organizations recently announced they will put up $14 million to pay Katif farmers for their greenhouses. But the hothouses of Katif and the produce they generate are worth an estimated $1-2 billion.
“We didn’t apply for compensation because we couldn’t give in,” explained Tucker. “We knew Gaza was first to be given up, then it will be Judea and Samaria, then Jerusalem. We didn’t want to allow this horrible government plan to go through.”
The government is now re-offering compensation packages. Many say it’s in Israel’s best interests to compensate the former Katif residents quickly so they can’t use their refugee status against the government.
Officials expect most refugees ultimately to move for up to two years to 800 flats and 110 houses rented by the government in coastal towns such as Ashkelon and on kibbutzim near Gaza.
A leader of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel charged yesterday that only 100 of the 1,700 families evacuated from Gaza have found permanent housing solutions so far, and that only 700 families have found temporary options. The other 1,000 have no solutions at all, he said.
Last night, former Gush Katif leaders held several rallies at the tent city, and several Jewish singers came to perform. Residents dined together on large folding tables, eating food brought to them by the local population. Port-o-potties and a water tank were brought into the park.
Earlier, the Tel Aviv municipality had asked the Hazani residents to leave, claiming they did not coordinate their protest with the city or obtain the necessary permits. But the city relented after Knesset members interceded, giving them until Friday to stay in the area.
Tent city occupants told WND they were surprised by the city’s interference.
“They are the ones who came here yesterday and brought us the water and portable toilets. Now all of the sudden they’re claiming they didn’t know we were here?” stated David Jaacobs, who is living in the Tel Aviv park along with his wife and two children.
Continued Jaacobs: “They kicked us out of our homes, affected a lot of lives. And now it is becoming clear to everyone that the Israeli government couldn’t care less about us.”