Gaza evacuee Torah scroll 248.88.
(photo credit: Josiah Daniel Ryan )
The final letters of a Torah scroll that will rest in a Negev shul advertised as the "the first permanent synagogue for Gush Katif evacuees" were carefully inked on Monday by a scribe who is a former resident of Gush Katif.
Sharon Yitzhak Cohen, who lived in Netzarim before the disengagement, completed the scroll in a giant succa at the capital's Ramada Renaissance Hotel. It was then taken to Halutza, near the Egyptian border.
"It was important to us that it was one of the evacuees that would write the scroll," said Solly Sacks, the director-general of World Mizrachi, the organization that funded much of the synagogue's construction and the writing of the scroll for the synagogue in Halutza. "That is our small contribution in assisting another evacuee in finding a job."
While bitterness about the government's handling of evacuees after the 2005 disengagement from Gaza remained a major theme of comments made to The Jerusalem Post by those involved in the funding of the synagogue's construction, Sacks said obstacles created by the state bureaucracy make the expected completion of the synagogue in Halutza an even greater historic step for the entire nation.
"This is a historically significant moment for the Jewish people," said Sacks. "It is the first of the 21 synagogues destroyed in Gush Katif that we are rebuilding. It's shocking and miraculous how structures in Halutza are literally rising out of sand dunes."
About 15 families who formerly lived in Gush Katif now live in Halutza. More are expected to arrive within the year.
Sacks said his organization, which has been assisting expelled Gush Katif residents since the disengagement, realized it had to step in when it saw the government was not helping, but rather hindering their efforts to reestablish themselves elsewhere in the nation.
The Torah scroll, which was completed on Monday after a year of intensive labor, was taken to the new synagogue, which is still under construction. On Tuesday, members of the community plan to dance the scroll over to the caravan that currently serves as the spiritual center of the community, where it will rest until construction is complete.
Kurt Rothschild, from Canada, who said he paid about $25,000 to commission the scroll, and who is a major fund-raiser and donor to World Mizrachi, said that he also committed to helping the evacuees rebuild their community once he realized the only part of the disengagement that was well planned by the government was the expulsion of the settlers.
"I saw the government was mistreating the people who were the modern pioneers of Israel," said Rothschild. "They could have set back and felt sorry for themselves. Instead they worked hard to build a new industry in the desert and they deserve great appreciation."
Meanwhile, Cohen, who now grows peppers and cherries in Halutza, said that while he too is frustrated with the way the government handled the evacuees, bureaucratic obstacles have not been the only challenges that delayed the building of the synagogue.
"Halutza is a desert and there is nothing," said Cohen. "There was no electricity, there were no phones, there was not even reception for cellphones. We built this synagogue, which will be the center of our community, from the sand."
Elan Miller contributed to this report.