bassi walking 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
In bidding farewell to the head of the Disengagement Authority Yonathan Bassi, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that there was still a lot of work to do when it came to permanently resettling the 1,750 families evacuated last summer from Gaza and four communities in northern Samaria.
"We really wanted Yonathan to stay," said Olmert, adding that "there was still a long road ahead" in which the authority would have benefited from Bassi's experience.
In a tearful ceremony in his Jerusalem office, Olmert and other officials thanked Bassi for his work during the first phase of the resettlement process, in which temporary homes and sites for permanent ones were found for most of the families.
Bassi who opted to leave after two years on the job has been replaced by Tzvia Shimon, who as the deputy general director of the Prime Minister's Office worked with the Disengagement Authority.
Olmert said that Bassi accepted the post out of "his love and sense of responsibility to this nation. There are few people like him in our society."
Ilan Cohen, the former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, said he recalled the trepidation he felt in recruiting Bassi, given his sense that it could be a dangerous mission.
In a veiled reference to the personal attacks against Bassi, Olmert said that his internal strength in the face of this hardship was an example of "exemplary courage."
"He went out every morning in spite of those who were pointing fingers at him out of a deep sense that he was doing the right thing for Israeli society," said Olmert.
"There are not many people like him in this country," said the prime minister.
He added that he had not been given permission to retell some of the stories Bassi related to him about those days, but Olmert said that when he heard it, "it tore his heart."
As the prime minister spoke, a few members of Bassi's family who stood with him wiped their eyes. But they smiled and stood straight in pride as Olmert said that Bassi was "brave and strong and loved this country more than anyone else that preached against him."
In a show of warmth for Bassi, with whom Olmert said he had worked together through many days and nights, Olmert placed his arm around Bassi's shoulder. He also handed him a present wrapped in silver paper.
"I will pray that your lives will be easier from here on in," Olmert said. Raising his glass in a toast to Bassi and Shimon, he said, "These are not simple days for this country."
Of Shimon, Olmert said that based on her experience in his office he knew that she was up to the challenge of taking over the Disengagement Authority.
Cohen said of Shimon that she took the evacuation very personally. She would go and visit the families when they were confused and tried to help them solve their problems, said Cohen.
Shimon said that Bassi did everything to help the evacuees and said that she would do everything possible to continue in his footsteps.
"I learned a lot from you," said Shimon. Turning to Bassi and his wife, she said, "Mrs. Bassi, your husband is a giant of a man. Yonathan I love you."