Thursday, February 23, 2006

A way to help

As you know if you've been reading my blog very carefully, even though the world media, even Israel's media, has pretty much dropped the subject of the disengagement from Gaza and the aftermath for the settlers who were evacuated, it is something I still think about a lot. I've been very interested in two aspects of the post-disengagement reality: 1. How are the evacuees doing? To what extent, and how, have they rebuilt their lives? and 2. After such a huge blow to the movement, where does Religious Zionism go from here?

(I have tons of material on both topics and would be happy to write a feature article about either one . . . if any editors of major media outlets are reading this . . . )

My regular readers will recall that personally I supported the idea of evacuating the settlements from Gaza. However, I said the whole time that the evacuees should be treated well, that extensive preparations should be made in advance to make the transition for them as smooth as possible. I remember writing that six months (from the time the Cabinet approved the withdrawal) does not seem to be nearly enough time to move 9,000 people who do not wish to be moved and work out what will happen to them afterward. I remember writing in the comments of someone's blog (Lord, I wish I could remember which blog it was), after that blogger said nasty things about the idea of giving the settlers beach-front property near Ashkelon, that they should "get whatever they want."

Whether or not you believe that the settlement enterprise in Gaza was a nice idea or a mistake of nightmarish proportions, the Israelis who moved there did so at the encouragement of the Israeli government. They certainly are not criminals and do not deserve to be treated as such. They are (or, were) loyal citizens of Israel, hugely patriotic, who moved to Gaza at the wish of the government, built beautiful communities, and then were made to leave by that same government.

It's true that many of them denied that the disengagement would happen, and that this hurt the efforts to help them. But it is also true, and just about anyone "in the know" is saying this (at the many panels, seminars, etc that I've attended), be they on the Right or the Left, that the government not only missed the boat in planning in advance, they are even now screwing over the Gaza evacuees. A lot of these people (perhaps most or all- I'd have to look up the statistics) have not seen a single penny of the compensation that was promised to them. Even the ones who agreed right away to leave and cooperated fully with the government are living largely in sub-par housing, are unemployed, and don't know where they will go from here. They are suffering from rampant post-traumatic stress and depression, the divorce rate has increased, and especially for those who are still in hotels, the fabric of their family structure has been ripped apart. In many cases their desire for employment is hampered by still not knowing whether their communities will be rebuilt together, or whether they are on their own and should start looking into moving wherever in the country they think they could make it.

As someone who supported the disengagement, I've felt for a while that I want to help these people. I wanted them out of Gaza, but that doesn't mean I wanted them to be living in hotels for over half a year. It doesn't mean I wanted the country to talk about them as if they were lowlifes who deserve what they get. It doesn't mean I wanted 80 percent of them to still be unemployed six months after the evacuation.

The other day I found out about an organization called Job Katif, which is helping evacuees from Gaza to find employment. I have been meaning to do research to find out how successful they've been, how much of the money donated to them actually goes to help find Gush Katif evacuees the jobs they need so badly. But I haven't had time, and I know I won't have time for a while. So, I'm referring all of you good people to this site, and asking that if any of you know anything about this organization, to please let the rest of us know. And if indeed they are doing good work, please support them.

I'll try to follow up with an independent inquiry -- I do not usually like to ask my readers to support causes that I have not researched fully -- but in my heart I am so upset about the post-disengagement aftermath for the Gush Katif residents that I just had to post this ASAP.

If you know of other ways to help Katifians to get back a livelihood and some dignity, please comment about it. The disengagement was right, but the way it was done is wrong, and continues to be wrong as long as these people are not given the money they were promised and ways to build a stable future.

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