Evacuees prepare for Hanukka in J'lem hotels

"It was weird to come home to a hotel after giving birth.... It's just not like home."

evacuee in hotel 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
evacuee in hotel 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
With Hanukka coming up on Sunday night, Neveh Dekalim evacuee Miriami Naumburg has the perfect joke to tell visitors who come to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jerusalem. "When we arrived here this past August, our friend joked that he could start putting up his succa because he could sense we were going to be here for awhile. I laughingly said that I can put up my hanukkia, and look, sadly, we're still here," Naumberg said. Miriami, 51, her husband Shabtai Naumberg, 53, and most of their eight children aged 9 to 25, are former Neveh Dekalim residents who have been living in the hotel since August 18. "We thought we would only be here for 10 days," Miriami said, "but that has turned into four months." The Naumburgs would like to move to as-yet unready temporary housing, but are not keen on leaving the Hyatt for another Jerusalem hotel. "Six weeks ago we received a letter stating that the agreement with the Disengagement Authority had ended, and there would no longer be food or cleaning services for us. If we wanted to stay, we would have had to pay a lot of money," Naumburg said. "That night, my 9-year-old son Shiloh came to me in the middle of the night and asked whether soldiers were going to come to the hotel and evacuate him again. The thought of being forced to switch hotels is extremely traumatic for children and also for adults. We have grown accustomed to this place after being kicked out of our homes." A Disengagement Authority representative said that issue had been resolved and at that there are no plans to move the evacuees from the Hyatt to less expensive hotels in Jerusalem - for now. Beginning this week, the majority of Gush Katif evacuees will leave the hotels and move into transitory caravans in Nitzan, near Ashdod. The Naumburg family are among the 60-odd Gush Katif families planning to move to temporary housing near Kibbutz Ein Tzurim until their permanent homes are built in the Lachish region. Her husband Shabtai ran a rehabilitative facility in Gush Katif that employed adults with special needs. He volunteered with them for three months in Jerusalem until they were relocated to Nitzan recently, and is currently unemployed. "We were told at the beginning of September that the temporary housing near Ein Tzurim would be ready in two months. Four months later, the site is still not ready and won't be for at least another two months. At the end of the day, temporary housing will not have been available to us for at least six months following the evacuation," Shabtai said. A Disengagement Authority representative responded that the Ein Tzurim site should be ready for the Gush Katif families by the end of January. It is difficult to conduct a normal family life while living for four months in a hotel, according to Miriami. "I feel like I have no control. I can't see when my child is going to the bathroom or drinking a glass of water, and I never know where my kids are - there are eight floors in the hotel." Miriami has returned to her job as a math teacher in a religious girls' high school near Netivot, formerly a half-hour commute from her Neve Dekalim home. Now she works three days a week and sleeps over in Kfar Maimon one night a week to offset the six hour round-trip commute from Jerusalem. "Because of this, basically for three days a week I don't get to see my children. I love my job and I don't want to leave it, but I thought this whole arrangement would only last a month. It's also difficult because my husband is not working," she said. Miriami's 22-year-old daughter Tamar Sokolovsky and her husband Yakir lived in a small house near the Naumburgs in Neve Dekalim. Tamar was in the last trimester of pregnancy during the disengagement, and gave birth to her first child, Avraham, a week and a half later. "My baby was born a month early, and I believe that all the stress, trauma and anxiety over the expulsion led to a premature birth," Sokolovsky said. "It was very confusing for me. A week and a half after this awful experience I gave birth to him." The Hyatt Regency is the only home that 4-monthold Avraham Sokolovsky has ever known, and his mother's being first childbearing experience, was a very strange one. "It was weird to come home to a hotel after giving birth. There's nothing to do about it; it's just not like home. I don't feel as comfortable. We couldn't bring the crib and other supplies that we bought before the expulsion to the hotel. "The feeling that you are cut off and have no emotional connection to the hotel is just terrible, and you have to make your home for your baby here," she said. When asked what measures the Disengagement Authority could have taken to improve her experience, Sokolovsky said, "I would have wanted to get a caravan or house faster together with the community." "Our community is like a family and being together gives us strength after this destruction," added Naumburg The Naumburg family is content that at some point, they will be able to live together with part of their Neve Dekalim community. However, Sokolovsky feels angry that when she walks on the street, the people she passes by are blissfully unaware that Gush Katif evacuees are still without homes. "There is a sense, perpetrated by TV news broadcasts, that the evacuation was an event that passed by successfully and it's possible to check it off in a notebook and forget about it. We feel like we are dust. Nobody remembers us," she said.