Neve Dekalim while under Jewish control
JERUSALEM – In what expelled Jewish residents of the area are calling a “complete turning of the tables,” a university closely affiliated with Hamas has announced construction of a massive new campus on the grounds of the former Jewish capital of the Gaza Strip in part utilizing evacuated Jewish buildings.
Gaza’s Al Aqsa University already began construction at the new site in Neve Dekalim, the capital of Gush Katif, Gaza’s former slate of Jewish communities evacuated by Israel last August.
The campus is set to encompass 45 acres of facilities, including classrooms, chemistry labs, faculty offices and a mosque. Several Jewish buildings still standing in Neve Dekalim’s town center will be used by the university for administrative offices, according to the Palestinian media.
Al Aqsa University, currently headquartered in Gaza City, is influenced by Hamas ideology and espouses Islamic fundamentalist attitudes, Reuven Erlich, director of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies, told WND.
Palestinian security officials said Al Aqsa’s student council is dominated by Hamas members and employs faculty members close to the terror group. Many Hamas leaders are graduates of the university and take part in its operations, the officials said.
Prior to Israel’s Gaza evacuation, Neve Dekalim was the largest town in Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities. The neighborhood was usually bustling with Jewish residents dining, shopping and going to work. It contained Katif’s industrial zone, government buildings and some of the largest synagogues and stores in the area. Housing was tight, with a total of 467 units in the neighborhood filled by Jewish families who moved in from throughout Israel and around the world.
Israel bulldozed most of the city after its withdrawal but left intact several municipal and public facilities and area greenhouses in a deal brokered by the international community and private American citizens.
Dror Venunu, a former Dekalim resident and director of housing for the area, told WND, “I am stunned. This is where my house was. Where my children were raised. Grounds that I consider sacred are now being used to teach and bread evil to a new generation of college students.”
Venunu said he took particular offense because his office was located in the main Dekalim municipal building, the foundation of which is reportedly being used to construct the university.
Anita Tucker, a pioneer Gush Katif farmer, said “I am not at all surprised. When you reward terror by withdrawing and giving Hamas land, why wouldn’t they use the land to build on? This was entirely predictable.”
Construction of Al Aqsa University is the first in a series of Hamas-related moves in Neve Dekalim.
WND broke the story in November that Hamas turned areas of the city into a “martyrs training camp” and has used the territory, along with other Palestinian groups, to fire rockets into Israel. Hamas officials reportedly placed barbed wire around city sections and posted signs in Arabic calling the neighborhood a “closed military zone.”
Said Tucker: “My children went to school in the area. Now Hamas kids will be schooled there. Although it was expected, it is to me the ultimate insult.”