Still homeless after all these yearsno end in sight.
Sitting in her tiny caravan and looking up at the water stains and cracks in the ceiling from the winter rain, Gush Katif expellee and current Nitzan resident Rachel Saperstein has had enough.
Referring to her community as a “refugee camp” Saperstein tells me with obvious frustration in her voice during a recent interview that “it’s time to leave.”
The 72-year-old mother and grandmother, a New York native, along with her husband Moshe – who lost an arm while serving in the IDF during the Yom Kippur War, and was then severely wounded again in a terror attack near their Neve Dekalim home in 2002 – are among the over 60 percent of former Gush Katif residents who, seven-and-a-halfyears after the expulsion, are still not living in permanent homes.
This normally bubbly, always cheerful, laughing and optimistic Gush Katif pioneer is not smiling anymore.
“I’m angry, I’m depressed, I’m frustrated, I want to get going and build my house, but I can’t do it. I keep hearing from them [the Tenufa Authority, formerly known as the Sela Authority, which is responsible for assisting Gush Katif families with resettlement] – ‘next month, next month,’ but nothing is moving.”
According to Saperstein, she and her husband have already acquired a parcel of land in the Lachish area, home to many other former Gush Katif families, have architectural plans and have picked a builder.
The only thing holding them back is the lack of a permit for their new home.
“We’re not the only ones,” she says. “Many of our neighbors are also still waiting for permits.”
Saperstein says she has no explanation as to why her building permit has been delayed.
“I think the Tenufa are well-intentioned people, but they are at the bottom of the bureaucratic government pyramid, so nothing seems to be moving.
But worse,” she says, “many of the people here can’t even move [into permanent housing] because they don’t have the money to build. We all received a small amount of money from the government [in 2005], which amounts to about half of what it would cost to build a house. But you have people here who took huge loans and are still paying off mortgages on the houses which were destroyed in Gush Katif.”
She adds that “the government money was used for living expenses. People didn’t have jobs – they lost their jobs as a result of the expulsion, so they had to use those funds from the government just to feed their children, for education, and just to get by.”
In total, according to Saperstein, “about 50 families in Nitzan do not have the financial resources necessary to allow them to move. They are desperate, and they have even come to me for help.”
Adding to the tension were press reports in Ma’ariv last month indicating that eviction orders were issued to 165 unsettled Nitzan families who were unable or refused to pay a newly issued rent fee on their caravans.Read the whole thing.
What has happened to the former Jewish residents of Gaza is disgusting and despicable, and our government ought to be ashamed of itself for expelling these fine, upstanding people from their homes and for the way it has treated them since.
Moshe Saperstein's description of the 2002 terror attack is here.