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â€œMy question is â€˜Why?â€™â€ asks Ella Hoffman, â€œWhy are we still going through the disengagement every day? Why are we still stuck here?â€
None of the six families being followed by The Jerusalem Post since their evacuation from Neveh Dekalim in August have yet received any financial compensation. Even Ella and David Hoffman, whose application for their NIS 50,000 advance was officially granted on September 25 after enquiries by the Post, received a call from the Disengagement Authority on Sunday, October 9, saying they first have to contact an office in Sderot to sign some additional papers before they can receive any payment.
â€œFrom the very start, we have done everything through our lawyer,â€ says Ella, â€œSo we told Sela to call him, and have heard nothing since. It's just another excuse to make life harder for us.â€
Five of the six families are still housed in hotels. Only the Bienenfelds have chosen to move out of their hotel and into a private rental apartment; the others are still waiting for government housing solutions, and almost all have faced the threat of eviction from their various hotels at some point since arriving.
Before Rosh Hashana, the Cohen family, who are temporarily housed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, were told to vacate the premises. Their group protested that they have no alternative homes, managing to overturn the decision and they were allowed to stay, but the Cohens heard from other evacuees Wednesday that the hotel manager told them they will have to vacate their rooms immediately after Succot. The Hyatt management declined to comment.
Haim Altman, Sela spokesperson, warns evacuees that their time is running out, â€œThe government has only authorized payment of hotels until the end of October, and all the evacuees have to make preparations to leave.â€
When asked what homes the government has prepared for families to move to, Altman repeatedly refers to the 130 caravillas being constructed for Neveh Dekalim residents in Nitzan and says Sela is working on plans for the hundreds of other families who have nowhere to move. But Altman is unable to state tangible solutions, sufficing with the comment that â€œthe evacuees should move to private, temporary rental homes for the time it will take to assemble modular homes on an agreed-upon site, in which they will live for the two to three years it will take to construct permanent homes.â€
Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft, who sharply condemned Sela in his last interview with the Post, dismisses the idea of yet another temporary move as impractical and another attempt to divide his community.
â€œEvery couple of days we find notes on our doors warning us that we have to leave the hotel,â€ says Kirshenzaft. â€œSela doesn't talk with us, they leave us notices. But they know their threats are a waste of time, for they haven't given us a solutionâ€¦they know that they will be throwing families into the street with nowhere to go.â€
â€œThe government has been trying to break us up into individual apartments ever since they expelled us,â€ says Chana Cohen. â€œThis is the one demand we will not give up on. Our unity provides our strength, and even in the hotels we have managed to retain this. We will not be split up.â€
Kirshenzaft notes that he is only prepared to move out within a community structure, where he can continue to work on behalf of his community, but says his request to move his family of fourteen to a 120-meter caravilla in Nitzan has been denied. â€œNow I have no idea where we will move.â€
For the past four weeks, the Hoffmans had expected to move to Shafir, near Ein Tzurim, along with 85 families from Neveh Dekalim and 50 from Netzer Hazani. But by Sunday, when work had still not begun, they received word that the plan had been cancelled.
Motti Shomron, the Shafir group's representative in talks with the disengagement authority, reported that the cancelled plan was resurrected at a meeting on Monday, but that he no longer believes â€œany statement made by Sela.â€
â€œI'll only believe we are moving to Shafir when I see homes there to move into,â€ he said. Sela spokesmen were unable to be reached for comment about Shafir. â€œFor weeks we have been waiting, but they haven't even brought in the tractors yet to start the groundwork,â€ said Shomron.
He adds, â€œDon't ask what the plans are, don't listen to empty words ask what the government has actually done. In my hotel [the Jerusalem Gold] 75% of the people are now unemployed and we haven't received a shekel of compensation yet. The compensation payments are not a free gift from the government, they are payment for my destroyed home, my farmâ€¦the very least I am entitled to and I have not even received that. People have begun to take out loans to survive.â€