Monday, October 03, 2005

Arutz-7 News: Monday, October 3, 2005

Update on Gush Katif, Present and Future
At least four new-old Gush Katif communities will be built in the Lachish area, roughly between Kiryat Gat and southern Judea. So decided hundreds of former Katif residents this week.

 1. Update on Gush Katif, Present and Future
 2. 5765 Posts Rise in Aliyah from N. America and France
 3. Stabilizing His Coalition, Sharon Hopes to Serve Another Year
 4. Hotel Tells Expellee Guests to Leave
 5. Israel Goes on High Alert As Holiday Approaches
 6. Anita Tucker, Netzer Hazani Still Ticking
 7. Transfer: Jews Moving to Into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria

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1. Update on Gush Katif, Present and Future
By Hillel Fendel

At least four new-old Gush Katif communities will be built in the Lachish area, roughly between Kiryat Gat and southern Judea. So decided hundreds of former Katif residents this week.

The four communities that made this decision are Moshav Katif, Tel Katifa, some 100 families of N'vei Dekalim, and a large part of Atzmonah. Other communities, such as Kfar Darom and Netzer Hazani, are considering this option.

The 60 families of Moshav Katif are still living in the girls' high school in Kfar Pines, near Hadera. They had hoped to move to a students' village near Sderot, but this option has now been finally closed off to them for what the residents feel are purely political reasons.

"On the one hand," resident Ezra Haidu said, "at least we know where we won't be moving to; there is some relief in the resolving of doubts. So for the next few weeks, we will remain here, with all the difficulties entailed in living in a high school dormitory. But on the other hand, we convened this week and decided that for our permanent solution, we will build a new community in the Lachish region... The only problem is what to do for the next two years, including specifically for the next few weeks immediately after the holidays, while we build the new community. It's all up in the air, though some possibilities include Yad Binyamin and Chafetz Chaim." Haidu said that they have not yet been able to access their containers, where all their belongings are stored.

Another large group of families from Gush Katif is close to a final decision on the construction of a new community in Nitzanim, north of Ashkelon. Yoram, former head of the secretariat of the former Gush Katif town of Bdolach, told Arutz-7 today,
"We are 38 families from Bdolach here in the Nitzan caravan site, living in close proximity to one another. We're beginning to think of our permanent community for two years from now. One plan being seriously considered is a joint community in Nitzanim of some 400 families made up of ourselves and others from Gan-Or, Gadid, Nisanit, Elei Sinai, Rafiach Yam and some from N'vei Dekalim and Netzer Hazani."

The atmosphere among the families of Kfar Darom, currently living in the Paradise Hotel in Be'er Sheva, can be described as optimistic. Only a final signing ceremony stands between the entry of the town's first families into the new high-rise building acquired for them in Ashkelon. Gershon Yonah, head of Kfar Darom's secretariat, feels that the first families will move in as early as this Friday or Sunday.

Kfar Darom has remained almost totally intact, with only a few families leaving, and 58 families remaining together in the new building. Yonah admitted that there are difficulties in general, but that things are beginning to fall into place: "Everyone is working with lawyers and getting forms together in order to get their advance payments on their homes, and I believe that some have received these [partial] payments already."

Yonah said that the containers with their belongings are stored in a military site in Kastina, near Kiryat Malachi, and that the residents have not been allowed access to them since the day of the expulsion. "However," he said, "starting this Sunday, it appears that the containers will be moved to our new building in Ashkelon, and I believe that their contents will fit into the storerooms of each apartment. Whoever has a problem, we'll help him."

Asher Mivtzari of Kfar Darom, speaking to Arutz-7 this morning, wished to emphasize the Jonathan Pollard connection:
"Make no mistake: even though we're in a hotel, it's very hard to remain without a house. But the more we remain under these conditions, the more we realize that this is not our personal problem, but rather a real ethical deficiency of our leadership. It is so reminiscent of the way the State has abandoned Jonathan Pollard - and I hear many people from Gush Katif saying the same thing. We're in hotels, but he has been in prison for 20 years, and all because of what he did to save us. Some rabbis have said that we should leave an empty chair for Pollard this holiday. It's a real ethical fault on the part of the leadership - in stark contrast with the loving embrace we have received from the people of Israel."

Netzer Hazani:
Though some families have basically left the community and are living in Nitzan, the vast majority of Netzer Hazani remains intact - though in two different places. Some 35 families remain in the southern Golan Heights community Hispin, in the Midreshet HaGolan guest house, while another 23 are living in Ein Tzurim, on the highway to Ashkelon.

"However, " says Yehuda Bashari, the former head of the secretariat, "we are not divided, and we hope to all be together in Ein Tzurim soon - if the government ever finishes the caravan site it is building for us there. As of now, the project seems to be stuck, and there's no end in sight."

Those who are living in Ein Tzurim were compelled to do so largely for educational reasons - so that their children could study in the Atzmonah school in which they learned in previous years. Others returned to their jobs in the south. Many others, however, are still "in-between" and do not have work.

"We miss the daily routine, and we miss being at home," Bashari says. "It gets to the point where we begged the hotel to let us clean the dishes off the table ourselves, so that we could feel at least a little at home."

The permanent families of Hispin try to help out, with each one "adopting" a Netzer Hazani family - visiting them, inviting them over, and helping with day-to-day problems.

As far as the far-off future goes, Bashari is confident that the families of Netzer Hazani will remain together and build a new community - possibly in the Lachish area, together with other Gush Katif groups.

Many families of N'vei Dekalim are still in Jerusalem hotels, waiting for another section of the Nitzan caravan site to be ready. Other N'vei Dekalim families have moved to a second caravan site in Shafir, near Ein Tzurim; it is not clear whether or not this portends a permanent split, but the sheer numbers involved - N'vei Dekalim was Gush Katif's largest community, with roughly 500 families - make it likely that they will not all live in the same place in the future.

For the coming Rosh HaShanah holiday prayer services, many of the families from the different hotels will be gathering together. Hundreds of former residents, including Gush Katif's Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, as well as "guests," are expected to attend the services, which will be held in the Heichaeli HaSimcha wedding hall in the Romema neighborhood.

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2. 5765 Posts Rise in Aliyah from N. America and France
By Scott Shiloh

Aliyah (immigration) to Israel reached a six-year high in 5765, as more Jews from France and North America decided to end their exile and live in the land of Israel

The Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency (a semi-official body dedicated to settling Jews in Israel) have reported that 23,124 Jews settled in Israel in 5765, as compared to 21,604 in 5764.

Nearly 3,000 Jews (2,928) from North America made their home in the Jewish State in 5765, up from 2,269 last year. Slightly more Jews, 2,975, came from France, which has witnessed an upsurge of anti-Semitism in recent years. That number was significantly higher than last year’s total of 2,389 Jews.

Rises in aliyah were also reported from more unusual locales such as Thailand, Pakistan, Brunei, the Philippines, China, Japan, and Zimbabwe.

As in the previous decade, most new immigrants, 9768, came from states that comprised the former Soviet Union, but that number was down significantly from last year when 11,174 persons arrived from that region.

Ze’ev Bielski, who heads the Jewish Agency, attributes the rise in aliyah to three major factors: an improving economic and security situation, new methods of “marketing” Israel among Jewish communities abroad, and natural trends affecting Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Bielski explained that successful aliyah occurs in three stages. First, prospective individual immigrants are introduced to Israel on brief pilot trips. Afterwards, they return and become more acquainted with potential employment and housing opportunities, leading to permanent residence on Jewish soil.

Once settled in, their families follow, and the future of more Jews are preserved for centuries to come.

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3. Stabilizing His Coalition, Sharon Hopes to Serve Another Year
By Scott Shiloh

With an election just more than a year away, Sharon and Olmert, his finance minister and chief ally in the cabinet, are finding election economics a sure way to shore up their fragile coalition.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his chief ally in the cabinet, MK Ehud Olmert (Likud), who serves as Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister, are planning dramatic changes in economic policy in order to stabilize the governing coalition.

Sharon and Olmert are planning on adopting Labor party demands to add NIS 4 billion to the state budget to fight poverty and close economic gaps in peripheral areas, primarily in the Negev and Galilee.

Meeting with Labor party leader MK Shimon Peres on Sunday, Olmert promised to explore ways of incorporating Peres’ proposals into the state budget.

Both Sharon and Olmert have recently emphasized the importance of using the state budget as a means of fighting poverty.

With the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria behind them, Labor MK’s have threatened to pull the party out of the ruling coalition, if the state budget is not significantly amended to allocate more money for social causes.

Olmert and Peres apparently have agreed to iron out Labor’s demands among themselves without involving other MK’s or party officials.

Labor’s continued participation in the Likud-led coalition is especially important to Sharon and Olmert as they attempt to head-off an effort by former Finance Minister, MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) to topple the government, or shorten its life-span.

Netanyahu has been hoping to replace Sharon as head of the Likud party in party primary elections, a move that could potentially drive Sharon out of the party, weaken the Likud’s hold on power, and force early national elections.

Netanyahu, however, failed in his recent bid to have the party’s Central Committee advance the date of Likud primary elections. Netanyahu believes that he will fare better when those elections actually take place, albeit at a later date, because he believes he has the upper hand among party members, all of whom are entitled to vote in the primaries.

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4. Hotel Tells Expellee Guests to Leave
By Hillel Fendel

Some 50 families from assorted Gush Katif communities had a narrow brush with a fourth expulsion on Sunday.

Aharon Farjun - formerly of Bdolach in Gush Katif, currently of the Shirat HaYam Hotel in Ashkelon - said that he and his neighbors received notice Sunday morning that they must evacuate the hotel within three hours. The reason: financial misunderstandings with the government.

Families from Morag, N'vei Dekalim, Nisanit, Elei Sinai and Bdolach were to be affected. In the end, however, an agreement was reached, and the families are still there - at least until mid-October.

Before the happy ending, Farjun said, "There is no way that we will leave, unless they bring in Yassam police to take us out. We have been shuffled around from hotel to hotel, and we simply won't agree to continue to be treated this way. We're willing to go to [the temporary caravan site in] Nitzan, as we arranged with the government even before the expulsion, but the caravans aren't ready yet. If the government simply works faster, as when Ariel Sharon came to visit and banged his fist on the hood of the car, that will solve the problem."

Farjun said that he was among those who did not wait until the last minute, but rather talked with the government about future plans even before the expulsion became reality. "But now I realize that we should have been tougher," he said. "The fact is that we are all in the exact same boat; many of us who contacted the government earlier have no place to go, just like those who didn't begin discussions until later... The government originally promised us that we would go straight from our homes in Gush Katif to the new caravillas - but it's now seven weeks later, and we're still in this hotel."

Farjun said that in "my former life in Gush Katif, I was a happy farmer who raised spices. As of now, nothing appears to be ready for us to continue that life. The only lands they offered us were not fitting for what we grew. We're not in the position where we can test out lands and see what grows well; we already did that several years ago in Gush Katif, and went through hard times on that account, and we are not in a position to go through that process all over again."

Ephraim Goldstein, formerly of N'vei Dekalim and now living in a Jerusalem hotel, told Arutz-7, "I'm not bitter, because I'm too busy. I don't forgive those who were involved in this expulsion, but that's not the point right now. We're busy planning out our future. We won't allow them to land another blow on us by remaining bitter and frustrated." Goldstein and his wife Ayalah were also among those who were expelled from the original Atzmona in Sinai in 1982 to make way for the peace agreement with Egypt.

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5. Israel Goes on High Alert As Holiday Approaches
By Scott Shiloh

The police department has raised the country’s alert level as Israel gets ready to celebrate the two-day Rosh Hashana holiday, marking the start of the new year 5766.

Large concentrations of police and paramilitary border police will be positioned starting Monday in city centers, markets, synagogues, and other highly trafficked areas in order to secure the public from the threat of terrorist attacks.

Also beginning tomorrow, police blockades will be set up in areas bordering Arab populated areas, particularly around Jerusalem. Security will be beefed up on buses, bus stops, and bus stations following fears that terrorist organizations will attempt to carry out attacks over the holiday period.

IDF troops will also be working to enhance security at various locations around the country.

Police Chief, Moshe Karadi, said on Sunday that the holidays occurring in the month of Tishrei (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succot) have always required that the go on alert.

“Like every year, police will be out in maximum force, along with IDF troops in city centers” and especially places that border Arab populated areas, particularly Jerusalem, he said.

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6. Anita Tucker, Netzer Hazani Still Ticking
By David A. Miller

Anita Tucker is not one to let grass grow under her feet. The former spokesperson for Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif gives an update on the latest news of her plight, and the plight of her community.

Click here to listen to her interview on Arutz-7's Stutz and Fleisher show.

Made literally a refugee by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan, Tucker - a celery farmer in, and founder of, Netzer Hazani - says things are still not going their way. "The government hasn't given us a cent yet from the compensation law. They're giving us a hard time. We're supposed to have received 50,000 NIS (approx $11,000), but now they tell us we have to prove that we lived there for 29 years," says Tucker.

It's widely known that the Knesset passed several funding laws with regard to Gush Katif, but now that the expulsion has taken place, the story has lost its appeal in most of the major world media. This has clearly given the government what they see as a free pass to ignore their responsibilities under the law, Tucker feels. "It’s obvious that they're trying to hurt those of us who are trying to stay together...they're being impossible."

With the High Holidays upon us, even the most basic needs of these people are being ignored. "We can't even get out prayer books for the High Holidays. They're locked away in a container, and they won't let us near them. We have to pay NIS 7,000 ($1,500) just to look inside a container,” says Tucker. The reason: a spiff between Zim Lines and the government.

Nonetheless, the community spirit that made them so great in the first place is intact, and is getting them through these difficult times. "We left our red tile roofs behind, but we did take out with us our spirit, our values and our community, and we're not going to let anyone destroy that," adds Tucker. Through the generosity of others, these Israeli heroes are not being left in the dust just yet. "The people of Israel are behind us...when we came to the Kotel [Western Wall] that first night, there were tens of thousands of people there to greet us," says Tucker.

Others in the same situation might just give up. They would split the communities, fend for themselves, and make their own way, right? No way! Not these people. These are people of faith, and the circumstances in which they now find themselves just deepen that faith. You may say that it's the people of Israel that keep them strong, but the actual State itself has spat upon them, discarded them, and abandoned them, right? The response may surprise you. "There's a certain basic faith in the State of Israel that we haven't lost, and we hope that the law is implemented," says Tucker.

However, along with the faith in Israel comes fair warning to others who may find themselves in the front lines of a battle with the government. "If it happens with one issue, then every citizen of this country should be worried. It could happen tomorrow with the teachers, and it can happen with every issue in the country. Every law can be trampled. I mean, this is a law that was passed by the Knesset," says Tucker.

In spite of all the hardships that the residents of Netzer Hazani have been through, life goes on. In fact, Tucker's grandson just got married recently. "When there's a simcha, you realize that G-d is good, and you realize that there is still good in the world. But, we can't ignore the evil. There's a lot of evil, a lot of wickedness going on in the government," says Tucker.

At present, Netzer Hazani is split into two locations, with about 35 families living in Hispin in the Golan Heights, and another 25 at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, just an hour's drive from their former homes in Gush Katif.

Tucker expects that one day soon, they will all be together again, rebuilding their homes and continuing on with their lives, but until then, it’s still a constant battle with everything from where to send the kids to school, to healthcare issues.

To hear the interview with Anita Tucker, click here.

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7. Transfer: Jews Moving to Into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria
By Scott Shiloh

Despite the disengagement that saw 10,000 Jews uprooted from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria, the flow of Jews into Judea and Samaria has accelerated to record levels in recent months.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), new home purchases in Judea and Samaria have surged by 38% from January to June 2005, as compared to the same period last year. The rate was even higher in Jerusalem, an area that was battered by terrorist attacks since the start of the Oslo war in September 2000, with sales of new homes rising by 52.5%.

Israel’s real estate sector was hard hit by the Oslo war which sent the economy into a tailspin. But unlike the general economy, the real estate market has only recently begun to recover from the impact of that war.

Ironically, the areas hardest hit by terrorism from the Oslo War, Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, are reporting the biggest boon in real estate activity. Sales of new homes in Judea and Samaria have reached an all time high in 2005, making up 5.3% of all new home purchases nationwide.

The figures for Judea and Samaria contrast sharply with the rest of the country which witnessed an 8% overall rise in new home purchases in the period from March to July 2005.

Interestingly, locations formerly considered highly desirable by new home buyers, in Tel Aviv and the center of the country, have been beleaguered by falling home sales. Purchases of new homes in Tel Aviv have dropped by 19% so far this year, followed by an 18% decline in the center of the country.

Home purchases in the North, a more peripheral area, also fell by 17%.

Twently-nine percent of all unsold new homes are located in Tel Aviv, with only 5.6% in Jerusalem, despite Jerusalem’s larger population. The supply of unsold homes in Judea and Samaria stands at only 1.5% of the national total, down from 2.5% last year.

The lack of new housing starts has kept the supply of unsold new homes at low levels nationally. The CBS estimates that Israel has only 11,969 unsold apartments, barely a year’s supply. That quantity is eroding rapidly in Jerusalem which has only a seven month supply of new apartments. In relative terms, the Negev has the largest supply, enough to last 16 months.

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