Gush Katif Evacuees Move into their New Homes in Halutziot
At the conclusion of the Succoth holiday the Uzan and Moyal families of Bnei Netzarim emerged from their temporary succa and returned to their permanent home, just like many other families all over Israel. For these two families, however, the move was especially symbolic: less than a month ago they vacated their prefabricated homes in Yevul, where they had resided temporarily since the disengagement from Gush Katif five years ago, and moved into their new houses in Bnei Netzarim, the new community established in Halutza in southern Israel. In the coming months about another thirty families are due to move in, once their houses have been completed.
Bnei Netzarim is one of three Halutziot communities whose construction is currently underway on the sand dunes of Halutza, south of the Gaza Strip and to the east of Israel’s border with Egypt. These communities are intended for both Gush Katif evacuees and other new residents from all over Israel. Apart from Bnei Netzarim, the communities of Naveh and Shlomit are also in the process of being established. In Naveh building is forging ahead, and people are expected to start moving in within the next few weeks. In Shlomit the founding nucleus has already been formed and the ground has been prepared for temporary housing. In the future two additional communities are planned for an area several kilometers further south.
KKL-JNF is one of the organizations in the forefront of the operation to help the evacuees to settle this new region. It has assumed responsibility for preparing the land for agricultural use and also for the construction of buildings, roads, public institutions and temporary residential neighborhoods. Once the communities have been built, KKL-JNF will begin to landscape the area and establish parks and children’s playgrounds. All these activities have been made possible thanks to the donations of Friends of KKL-JNF in Italy, England, the US, Canada and Latin America.
On the eve of Simhat Torah, Eliyahu Uzan
was told that he had been chosen as Hatan Breshith
, i.e., he was called up to read the first portion of the Torah after the previous reading had been completed. As secretary of Bnei Netzarim, Uzan is a leading participant in this new beginning for the evacuees, who were obliged to close the Gush Katif chapter of their lives and are now starting a fresh chapter in Halutza. The joyous occasion of Simhat Torah possessed, therefore, a special symbolic significance for Uzan, and provided an additional reason for rejoicing.
“This whole past month has been like a beautiful dream that has come true,” says Uzan. “We’ve been working for a long time now on the important project of establishing a whole region. We’ve taken this task upon ourselves, and we’re seeing it through. There can be no greater satisfaction than this. Our objective is to convey a message to the whole country and the entire nation – that we have to keep building the Land of Israel.”
Apart from the houses into which the two initial families have already moved, another 30 permanent homes are under construction in Bnei Netzarim, and will be occupied in the course of the coming year. In the meantime, eleven families are living in temporary homes in the community, while another 70 families are currently in temporary housing in the neighboring community of Yevul. In the coming months all the temporary homes are due to be moved from Yevul to Bnei Netzarim, where the eventual goal is the establishment of a community of 350 families.
The initial settlement nucleus (gar`in)
comprises 95 families, 32 of which were evacuated from Netzarim, while the remainder come from all over Israel, from the Golan to Eilat. A strong community, high-quality education, the possibility to engage in farming and the chance to be a pioneer in a new region of the country – these are what make the place so attractive. There is already a long waiting list of other families wanting to move in.
Apart from his official position as Secretary of the community, Eliyahu Uzan is also a farmer, who has 40 dunam (approx 10 acres) of peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and dill. Most of the produce is intended for export, with the emphasis on organic crops. Farming is one of the main ideals underpinning the establishment of the community, and local farmers can certainly be proud of their ability to harvest large quantities of high-quality produce from the sand dunes.
Eliyahu’s wife Rivka
says she hasn’t yet had time to take in the fact that they’ve moved into their new house. “On every day of the holiday we had lots of guests in our succa
, and we had barely a moment to draw breath,” she explains. “We’re delighted to be living in a home of our own – though, when you come down to it, it’s family and community that really make a place thrive.”
Sixteen-year-old David Uzan
is definitely following in his parents’ footsteps as far as his beliefs and vision are concerned. “The new house is the realization of an ideal,” he says. “When we were evacuated from Gush Katif it was a national issue, not just our own personal problem. And now, too, as we build a new community, this is not just a private celebration for a single family.”Raya
, who is eight years old, is happy about the move, but she is now impatiently waiting for all her friends, who in the meantime have been left behind in Yevul, to come and join her in the new community. As for three-year-old Hannah
, she has a special reason for enjoying the new house: lots of sand to play in. That’s how it is when an entire community is being built around you.
Just across the road are the neighbors, the Moyals
, the second family to have moved into a permanent home. Uzal and Livneh Moyal
have eight children, and the Uzans have ten, which means that the two first families to move in have 18 children between them. One can only imagine the joy and turmoil that will ensue when the whole place is populated.
“We waited a very long time for a home of our own, and we’re tremendously excited,” says Uzal. “The community in Yevul was great, but we had a constant sense of impermanence. Now we’re in our own place.”
Apart from his work with an accountancy firm, Uzal is also Administrator of the new school that opened this year in Bnei Netzarim. Some of the kindergartens have also started the new school year in the new community, while others will be opening later on. Uzal regards the new settlement as an opportunity for all sectors of the community – religious and secular, Gush Katif evacuees and local kibbutz members alike – to build the country together.
“Within the community itself the older generation and the youngsters have integrated wonderfully,” he says. “In this hi-tech era one can’t necessarily expect still to find people in their twenties who want to settle the land and be farmers. We are proud to be part of a group that unites people from different backgrounds who are working together to change Israeli society.”
His wife Livneh
takes a positive view of the prolonged and difficult
wait for their new home, ever since their evacuation from Gush Katif.
“Today we all seem to be really ready for our permanent home, where we
will be starting afresh,” she says. “After a number of years in
prefabricated housing, we’re excited that we’ve got a real home of our
own once more.”
Their daughter, sixteen-year-old Efrat, is studying in Gedera. Recently
all her friends from school came to Bnei Netzarim for a week, to try
out the experience of working in agriculture. “My friends said that I
live in the back of beyond, but I love this place. I feel like a
pioneer settling the Negev,” she concluded.
All residents of Halutza are full of admiration and gratitude for what
KKL-JNF and its Friends throughout the world have accomplished. Without
them this vision of a new community would have remained no more than a
distant dream, and the glorious plans would never have been transformed
into tangible reality. “We can’t say that we’ve attained a state of
peace and security,” says Eliyahu Uzan, the first person to settle in
Bnei Netzarim. “This is only another step on the way to a great
settlement project. The main thing is that we’ve begun to make the
dream come true.”
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