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"We are as close as an army combat unit," says Naama Zarbiv, council secretary of Moshav Katif, explaining the special relationship that the families of her cooperative-communal settlement forged through years of mortar attacks and this past, tumultuous summer.
"We survived the disengagement together, remaining a united community," she adds. "We arrived at Kfar Pines [a girls dormitory school near Pardess Hanna], 65 out of 70 families with our spirit intact, ready to rebuild and contribute to society."
When the Kfar Pines students returned at the start of the school year, the girls slept in tents to allow the families to remain in their rooms. As winter approached, the evacuees desperately sought somewhere for their community to move to, aware that the students needed to move indoors.
By Thursday, with no solution in sight, this small, tight-knit community finally broke up into different groups. Thirty families, including Zarbiv's, moved to Ashkelon's King Saul Hotel and others to the Ashkelon Holiday Village, another group moved to the City of Faith and others signed on for caravans in Yad Binyamin, some of whom are now temporarily in the Hafetz Haim guest house.
Zarbiv breaks down in the middle of her interview with The Jerusalem Post, sobbing: "What are we asking of the state? Why are they destroying our community? Everything else has been taken from us, our homes, jobs, schools - couldn't we at least be left with one another?
"Now more than ever we need the strength of our unity to rebuild our lives. We are doing everything in our power to stay together, but for two months we have been consistently refused viable community housing solutions. How is it that the State of Israel in the year 2005 cannot find enough space in the South for the remaining 50 families to live together?"
Apologizing for her tears, Zarbiv says, "You caught me at a bad time... We are all near breaking point and people come to me every day saying they can't take the uncertainty... their families are cracking under the strain and they will have to move out alone. We mourn their leaving us and many of them said they would love to rejoin us if we knew where we would be going. But we have no answers.
"Last week a family with 11 children, who lived with us in Katif for 18 years, signed a two-year lease on a caravilla at Yad Binyamin. They have already called to tell us how alone they feel - but saw no alternative. Why didn't the government wait until it had solutions for us? Why the big lie of 'A Solution for every Settler?' "
Disengagement Authority spokesperson Haim Altman accepts that the Gush Katif communities are breaking apart, but denies that the government is responsible for the situation.
"We have been actively trying to keep communities together," he says.
"Forget good solutions," Zarbiv says. "We aren't even being offered bad temporary solutions anymore - which we would accept for lack of an alternative."
Dvir Cohen, a non-evacuee assisting the Katif community in government negotiations, describes a less-than-ideal solution.
"We are interested in an apartment block - Kav Rakia - next to the block in which Kfar Darom will be moving," he says. "High-rise living is a far cry from their former homes, but at least it will keep the families together.
"The contractor made a very reasonable proposal that the Disengagement Authority found acceptable, but the Prime Minister's Office refuses to even negotiate. This is repeated every time the community finds a solution."
Zarbiv is currently trying to fulfill her official duties while caring for the needs of her six children.
"Before we left the moshav, our community arranged a van to transport all the children's bikes together to the campus - so that despite the difficulties and the basic conditions, at least the children had an outlet," she says. "Now the children are cramped into a hotel and don't even have this.
"I was up at 4:30 a.m. last night trying to decide which of our possessions I should leave outside our rooms... eight of us are in two rooms and there is not enough space for everything. Even if I had my children's winter clothes, I would have nowhere to store them.
The stress of confinement is not Zarbiv's only concern for her children. "My four-year-old son told me he saw bulldozers knocking down the buildings of Kfar Pines when we drove away," she says. "He thinks that every community we leave will be destroyed by the army."
Send us your comments >>
Reuven Ben-Daniel, Kfar Mordecai-Gederot
: Is this not the situation that the left-wing secularists - sorry, the left-wing sadists - were hoping for?
Barry Koziba Jr., New York:
Kenneth Levine in his book "The Oslo Syndrome" repeats again and again, that is was the tight knit Jewish communities that were always best able to withstand the psychological onslaught of anti-Semitic attacks. It is clear that the Prime Ministers office is actively seeking to destroy these communities and eradicate them from Jewish memory.
Adina Kutnicki, NJ, US:
Not one horrid and nauseating piece of information in this article is surprising. In fact, it would be a surprise if the government wasn't being an obstacle to all the viable proposals from the "settler" leaders.
There were a myriad of factors pushing this expulsion, but one thing is very clear - the destruction of the Jewish communities was meant to be complete. Not only was it to include physical destruction of property, but more importantly, the government wants the psychological ramifications to include utter surrender of the national movement.
This is why NO solutions were ready for the "settlers" prior to expulsion, and why NOTHING is "suitable" to help them stay together. After all, if breaking them apart was an objective, why would they help them stay together now? The proof is as they say "in the pudding".
Aaron Nafthali, Denver, Galut:
It's just heartbreaking. The suffering and the shame, coming not from our usual enemies, but from the "Jewish" state itself. Thus we step further from redemption. May we all be strong and righteous to face the evildoers. My heart and prayers are with these fine families - may they find peace and build again, may it be soon!