Tuesday, July 12, 2005

For anyone interested in Israel

Gush Katif Population Swelling

By Hillel Fendel

Tent cities are going up in at least five locations in Gush Katif, to absorb the hoped-for thousands who are expected to arrive to help stop the expulsion.

The Kela Authority - Klitah L'Chevel Aza (Absorption to the Gaza Region) - is behind the establishment of five such areas throughout Gush Katif. Kela itself was established over the past several months to counter the government's Sela Authority - Siyua L'Mfunei Aza (Aid for the Gaza Evacuees) -headed by Yonatan Bassi.

The fastest-growing tent-site is in Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea), where over 20 tents are in various stages of construction. Aryeh Yitzchaki, who heads the Kela Authority, was there today, and explained, "The plan is to bring dozens of families, and hundreds and thousands if possible."

Arutz-7: "The talk is that the army will close up Gush Katif within the coming days, maybe even tonight or tomorrow."

Yitzchaki: "No one knows; it could also be next week. But for this reason, people have to start coming now - and they already have. Several families came here [to Shirat HaYam] from the Hevron area on Sunday, and more are coming all the time. The soldiers at the checkpoint are checking to make sure that families do not arrive with lots of baggage; but to come with tents and the like - what's wrong with that? What, is it against the law to go camping?"

The families are being set up in the 20 tent-sites currently being built. Volunteers are hard at work laying concrete squares - 3.6 meters by 3.3 meters (130 square feet) each - in the sand. Another team then arrives to build wooden frames around them, on which is then placed light canvas covering - and the "houses" are ready. Several of the concrete slabs that are not yet "built up" are occupied by tents.

SImilar tent-sites are being built in Kfar Darom, Netzer Hazani, Kerem Atzmona and Moshav Katif. Aviel Tucker, responsible for the construction in Netzer Hazani, said, "We've just finished laying 20 concrete platforms, and families have already requested to arrive. If we can fill these today and tomorrow, we'll think about building more... In any event, if we are thrown out of our homes, we'll take our tents and camp out in Ariel Sharon's farm."

Two young girls arrived at the site in Shirat HaYam today, asking what they could do to help and how they could join up. Yitzchaki was not anxious to have them help out in the construction work, but said that the plan was to have a girls' encampment on one side of the families. Another one for boys is planned for the other side, towards the site of the former Palm Beach Hotel. The army and police recently forcibly evacuated the hotel of its Jewish residents, and turned it into an army base.

Kela is planning a sixth temporary housing site in an as-yet unknown location, for dozens of Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidim who are arriving this week from the United States.

Many of those arriving in the Gush Katif area don't need to rough it in tents, however. The Bnei Tzvi Yeshiva High School of Beit El, for instance, arrived in N'vei Dekalim this week, and will remain there until further notice. They are continuing their Torah studies in the local elementary school, Neot Katif, where they are sleeping as well. Some of their afternoon hours are devoted to "work" - in agriculture, building tent sites, and the like. Guest lecturers arrive each night to address the students.

Youths from the Binyamin region, north of Jerusalem, are expected to arrive in Gush Katif in the coming days. The organizers are not yet sure if they will live in the tent-sites, or in alternative locations.

Not everyone in Gush Katif is in agreement that bringing in more and more expulsion opponents to the area is the correct approach - but the disputes are very low-key. "I believe that our job is to live our lives normally," said one resident today. "The time to come here was a year ago - or maybe 20 years ago." He refused to say anything negative about the planned tent sites, however.

Two families from Kiryat Arba arrived late last night in N'vei Dekalim. "We're here to check out possibilities of moving in," the father of one family said. "We might have an option of moving in to an empty house - apparently the last one left - in Gan-Or." Gan-Or is located just two kilometers to the south of N'vei Dekalim.

Three busloads of visitors from the Shomron arrived yesterday in Gush Katif for a visit of several hours. The soldiers at the checkpoint checked the bus to make sure that all who arrived also planned to leave. As far as can be ascertained, none of the visitors remained in the area after the visit ended.

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