After the Disengagement:
Update on Gush Katif Expellees

One Year Later: July 2006

Gush Katif


Published by Arutz Sheva on IsraelNationalNews.com,July 5th, 2006
Published by Arutz Sheva on IsraelNationalNews.com, July 5th, 2006

Arutz Sheva - IsraelNationalNews.com

July 5th, 2006

Gush Katif Expellees Drop from Headlines; Problems Remain

16:26 Jul 05, '06 / 9 Tammuz 5766

by Hillel Fendel


A Knesset committee has learned the gravity of the plight of the expelled families, via a report detailing their psychological, emotional and family problems.

The report, prepared by the Land of Israel Legal Forum, was submitted on Tuesday to a Knesset committee that deals with the expelled families of Gush Katif and northern Shomron. It talks of sociological and emotional problems, the most extreme of which are: youths who cut their hands and veins, youths who required hospitalization in psychiatric wards, dozens of divorce proceedings, and a high percentage of cardiac incidents and other serious diseases.

The legal forum, which has been accompanying the expellees free-of-charge for over a year and a half, included its own recommendations for speedy and efficient handling of the issues.

One of the participants at the Knesset session was Rachel Yechieli, a volunteer social worker with the youth of Gush Katif. Born in Gush Katif herself, she lived in Moshav Katif when she was thrown out in the framework of the Disengagement. She told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine, "Everyone sees and agrees that the emotional situation is very grave, and the bottom line is that no one was prepared in advance - not SELA nor anyone else. I meet with the youth and hear their problems - such as drugs which we never had before but which have now increased many times over, very difficult psychological problems of my friends and acquaintances, and more and more."

Asked if it is truly important to go into such detail of the problems, Rachel said, "Of course it's important! This is the best proof that the government was not prepared in advance, and didn't know how to treat these problems. If the treatment would have been offered right away, and if they would have listened to us in advance, I believe that most of the problems would not have happened."

Rachel said that "lots of data were presented at the committee session, but no clear answers. Some groups are trying to help, including some municipal councils - but they have to lay out money and take a chance that they will receive budgetary allocations some time in the future. This is not the way things should be run in a normal country."

Excerpts and summations of the report, as presented to the Knesset committee:

Children - Problems of attention deficit disorders have worsened, or developed, in a significant number of children. Scholastic achievements of many children have dropped. Many of the schools were not prepared to deal with the children's problems, especially since the arrival of the new students was not at a uniform rate, but was dependent on when the families moved from their hotels to their new locations. Post-trauma disorders have been observed, including lack of recognition of parental authority, anxiety attacks, increased violence, hair loss, etc.

Youth - Problems of acceptance of parental and rabbinic authority have increased, together with a deterioration in religious observance. Early marriages at ages 17 and 18, against parents' wishes, have occurred. Some 30% of youth do not attend school regularly, and a drop in scholastic achievements - especially in matriculation exams - is evident.

Twelve suicide attempts have been registered among youth. Youths are having difficulty in finding their place and in developing ties, as they feel that everything is transient. Drug and alcohol use is on the increase, ten eating disorders have been diagnosed, and nine youths have been hospitalized in psychiatric wards.

Adults - Some 50 divorce proceedings have been opened in the nearly 11 months since the expulsion, on the backdrop of difficult tensions and economic difficulties. Some 51% of the population is unemployed. In Nitzan alone, where live nearly 500 families - the largest concentration of displaced families - some 300 people are unemployed. Unemployment payments are ending at this time, and people are beginning to rely on the compensation money - which in many cases has not yet been paid, but in all cases is meant for building a new home and not for day-to-day expenses.

New furnishings and appliances to replace those that were destroyed or lost as a result of the expulsion, psychological treatment, and other expenses have brought many families to the verge of poverty. This results in low self-image and problematic relations between parents and children and between spouses.

Psychological problems among adults include depression, anger, introversion, mal- functioning, and deep sadness. Medicine usage is up, and there has been increased incidence of cardiac diseases, cancer and even death. Family relations were seriously impaired as a result of the lack of privacy in the hotels and even in the relatively small pre-fabs in which they now reside.

Community - The report states that the communal frameworks in Gush Katif were a central pillar of strength, mutual support, communication and help during times of crisis. Most of the communities have since broken up into several sub-communities, living at distances that do not enable the maintenance of ties as before. An important resource of strength has thus been largely neutralized.

The concept of "organizational advisors" accompanying the various communities, as arranged by the SELA Disengagement Administration, is considered to be a correct idea. The report says that the communities must continue to be helped in this way up until their final housing arrangements are finalized - even if takes, as it appears it might in many cases, years. At present, communal affairs are run in a complex and confused manner, adding to the sense of chaos in which the residents find themselves.

Some 250 families are living without any communal framework, in different locations across the country. Many of them need special support, yet are not receiving it.

The report spares no criticism of the government for its faulty mishandling of the entire affair, beginning with the very idea of moving nearly 10,000 people to the unknown. Those dealing with youth problems - the Education Ministry, Community Centers, the Welfare Ministry, youth movements - are working independently and without coordination, thus adding to the confusion. Salaries are set to be suspended at the end of the summer, and lack of sufficient quantities of youth in each location makes it hard to have activities. Only three out of 18 temporary locations have youth clubs.

The lack of qualified social workers is complex and acute. Many of the municipal councils housing the new residents have not hired new social workers, while some hired them only several months ago. Among those who have been hired are many who are not suitably trained for work with traumatized expellees. In Ashkelon, expellees who requested social work aid were turned away. The community of Elei Sinai, most of whose families are living at the Yad Mordechai tent site, has not had any professional social help from the municipality.

A private group called Maanim offers 12 sessions per family, for the purpose of dealing with loss and trauma. With the realization that this number was not sufficient, and that individual family members required different types of treatment, the number has been increased to 24 - leaving families the problem of deciding how to divide them up amongst themselves.

Among the many recommendations in the report is the following: If the same attention and planning that was invested in the expulsion had been invested in the people's treatment after the expulsion, things would have been very different... Nearly a year after the expulsion, it is time that all the injustices be put right. A central body should be established that will coordinate all the needs - emotional, psychological, familial and communal - of the expellees. This body must coordinate the work in a professional manner, with maximum attention to what is best for the uprooted residents."


Published by The Jerusalem Post on israel.jpost.com, July 6th 2006
Published by The Jerusalem Post on israel.jpost.com, July 6th 2006

JPost.com Israel Article

July 6th, 2006

Jul. 6, 2006 13:34 | Updated Jul. 6, 2006 17:45

'I feel a burning pain in my chest'

By JAMES GOLDSTEIN


Almost a year since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, former inhabitants of the northern Gaza settlements of Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit awoke Thursday to news that the IDF had reentered their former communities as part of a major incursion aimed at halting the firing of Kassams rockets at the western Negev.

"Today the only thing I can say is that I feel embarrassed, the government promised that the Gaza withdrawal would provide security but it was all a bluff," were the words of the usually unemotional Avi Farhan to The Jerusalem Post this morning.

"We were one of the first families that settled in northern Gaza, having arrived in 1982 after we were evacuated from Yamit in Sinai. We want to go home. This mistake must be fixed," he said.

"People have to understand that these settlements of northern Gaza were never Arab territory and until 1967 were under the control of the United Nations. Dugit and Elei Sinai are situated on a high hilltop ridge which is like a buffer zone for the Ashkelon region, whereas the Nisanit ridge controls the Beit Hanon region and defends the western Negev and Sderot."

According to Farhan, "Yesterday I sent a letter to the prime minister in which I wrote that it was time to fix the mistake and retake control of the buffer zone that was abandoned. The Palestinians need to understand that they have things that they could lose."

"The only way to reestablish our deterrence," Farhan added, "Is to show that there are concessions which can be reversed. In the northern Gaza settlements, all the infrastructure still exists and all we would have to do is rebuild are homes."

Ganit, who now lives near Ashkelon, upon hearing the news could not help saying, "I told you so. We all knew it would happen one day but this soon? It's like a bad dream. We now live temporarily at Kibbutz Miflasim and still the kassams fall."

When asked whether she still hoped to return she replied, "In the end we left because we knew we would one day return. We just asked the government not to raze the houses so that one day we could return."

According to Ganit, "Ninety percent of the evacuees still don't have houses. We would be willing to return even though the houses are not there any more."

When asked if she blamed the government for its decision she said, "The government is elected by the people, it is the people I blame. I do not feel Israelis are my people any more. They are not the people I used to know that would fight. Sderot is hit every day by kassams but yet the people living in Tel Aviv don't care. My love of the people has changed."

"I was sitting down with my husband and six kids just today and I asked them: would you like to go back? The kids all jumped and said we are going back. Ten months after and there is still a burning pain in my chest, we cannot find a home or employment solutions and all for what?" she said.

Pnina used to live in Elei Sinai. "In a way you're happy that you're not there when so much is going on. However it also brings back so many memories," she said. "It's like an invasion of your privacy seeing someone in your home, and you think why did we leave? It's creates such a pain in my chest."

"It's still my home. Today just brings back all those feelings all over again."


Published by Arutz Sheva on IsraelNationalNews.com,July 6th, 2006
Published by Arutz Sheva on IsraelNationalNews.com, July 6th, 2006

Arutz Sheva - IsraelNationalNews.com

July 6th, 2006

Former Chief of Staff: Sharon's Disengagement a Disaster

18:40 Jul 06, '06 / 10 Tammuz 5766

by Ezra HaLevi


Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, IDF Chief of Staff until the implementation of the Gaza withdrawal, says that the entire Disengagement was conceived to save PM Sharon from legal troubles.

"The Disengagement was not the result of thorough strategic analysis, but the result of [then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's political distress," Yaalon said in an interview to be published in full in Haaretz this weekend. "It was a disengagement from reality and a disengagement from the truth."

Though such a claim has been made in the past, including by two prominent journalists Ofer Shelah and Raviv Drucker in their book Boomerang, this is the first time an official who was privy to the Sharon regime from the inside has cited such motives.

"The process created an illusionary hope," Yaalon said, "which was not planned strategically and practically. The Disengagement was mainly a media spin. Those who initiated it and lead it lacked the strategic, security, political and historical background. They were image counselors and spin doctors. These people put Israel into a virtual spin, disconnected from reality, using a media spin campaign which is imploding before our eyes.

"There is no doubt that the Disengagement failed," Yaalon said. The entire withdrawal and expulsion of 10,000 Jewish residents from Gaza and northern Samaria "was an internal Israeli game that ignored what's going on outside Israel."

The former Chief of Staff does not accept the argument that because polls have shown a broad section of the Israeli public wanted to leave Gaza, it was the right thing to do. "The Israeli public backed the Disengagement because it was blinded and drugged and because it really wanted to free itself from the burden of the conflict and divide the land. But we have to understand that although we are trying to shake the Palestinians off our backs, they refuse to get off our backs and stab us instead. We shouldn't fool ourselves. We live in the Middle East. We cannot barricade ourselves behind walls and fences. There is no such thing as unilateralism. Even when we refuse to talk with our neighbors there is interaction with them."

Strategic Mistake of the First Order
Yaalon has harsh criticism for those in the IDF and defense establishment that bought into the withdrawal as a viable strategic move. "The Disengagement was a strategic mistake of the first order," Yaalon said. "It brought about the Hamas victory. It emboldened terror groups. It has fueled the Palestinian struggle for years. It created a feeling among the Iranians, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda that Israel can be beaten, that Israel is a society of spider webs as Nasrallah said or a rotten tree as Ahmadinejad said. And therefore the Disengagement not only harmed us badly, but also harmed America's strategic war on terror in the region. It created a feeling among Muslim extremists that as it defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, it defeated us in Gaza and it will defeat us in Tel Aviv. As such, as they destabilized a super power, they will destabilize the west by defeating Israel."

"The intellectual failure of the Disengagement is this," Yaalon said. "The fact that there is no one to speak to on the other side doesn't mean that we can ignore the other side and the effects of our actions upon them. The fact that even the Fatah leadership is not ready to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, while it says it is committed to the Road Map peace plan, doesn't mean we can ignore the fact that pulling out under fire is perceived as surrender and encourages terror."

The former Chief of Staff says that Gaza has been allowed to become a staging ground for the worst of the terror groups taking part in the Global Jihad. "At the moment, our situation in Gaza is similar to southern Lebanon," he said. "Plenty of arms have been smuggled into Gaza: explosives, Katyusha rockets, anti-aircraft rockets, anti-tank rockets, Grad rockets. As a result of the manner in which the pullout was carried out, there are Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Iranian elements in the Gaza Strip."

"When the steps are withdrawal after withdrawal after withdrawal, we convey weakness," Yaalon concludes. "And he who conveys weakness in the Middle East is like a weak animal in nature: he comes under attack."



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