Evacuees upbeat about transition to temporary homes

'After 8 months of inaction, it's great to be building and active,' say Gush Katif evacuees.

evacuees in hotel 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy [file])
evacuees in hotel 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
Before Pessah, the last three Neveh Dekalim evacuee families being followed by The Jerusalem Post moved out of their hotel rooms in Jerusalem and Ashkelon and into caravilla temporary homes in the Lachish area, where they will be staying for the next two to three years until they can build permanent residences. For Ella and David Hoffman, the most emotional part of the move was their reunion with their huge dog, Puppo. "It is just wonderful to have him back, I really missed him. He is so happy to be with us, he sticks to us like glue!" enthused Ella. "Before the disengagement, we checked out kennels but we weren't happy with the facilities, so friends in the Shomron offered to take care of him for us - of course they didn't imagine they would be responsible for him for eight months! Despite many Gush Katif residents' intentions to remain until the last possible moment, evacuee Chana Cohen said, they would have cooperated in removing the animals before the evacuation. "We did not make any preparations to leave our home and continued life as normal until the very end, except for two things that I gave my brother the week before: our pet canaries and the photograph albums. "The children are so happy to have their pets back," she added. "We were also concerned about a stray cat and her kittens that we had semi-adopted and who were living in our garden. I tried so hard to find someone who would take them but no one agreed and it was impractical to take them with us on the buses to the hotels," continued Cohen. Although they have reclaimed Puppo, the Hoffmans will only be able to move to their new home at the end of the week, which Ella Hoffman emphasized was their decision. Unhappy with the location and the poky layout of the 60 sq.m.-caravilla they had been allocated, the Hoffmans elected to move to an older caravan of the same size at the edge of the new community, initially intended to serve the community as a temporary kindergarten. But the caravan's water boiler fell through the bathroom ceiling, leaving a gaping hole and shattering the sink and toilet. While repairs are underway, the Hoffmans and Puppo have been staying with friends in Jerusalem. Despite the setback, Ella Hoffman is optimistic about her new living arrangements. "The caravillas are government property - cramped and poorly designed, and we can't really make changes to them. "We are much happier with a simple caravan in a beautiful spot in the woods" "David plans to build a deck around [the caravan]. This has given us some control back over our lives. After eight months of inaction in the hotel, it is great to be building and active." Like the Hoffmans, the Akermans have also been staying with friends in Jerusalem during the transition. They have been trying to maneuver their furniture into a home one third the size of the one they lost. "Until we set up a storage container and an extension is built for us, hopefully within a month, we won't really be able to settle in properly, but we'll try to move in by the end of the week," Rina Akerman said. Before Pessah, Chana and Shai Cohen moved with nine of their children into a 120 m.-caravilla in Ein Tzurim. Althought it was difficult to accommodate their two eldest children along with their families for the Seder, the Cohens were happy to be able to celebrate together in privacy - an amenity they lacked during the eight months they spent living in hotels. "We could sit together as a family... talk, sing and eat when we want to. It's wonderful to be together," said Chana Cohen. According to Chana Cohen, 15 of the 65 Neveh Dekalim families moving to Ein Tzurim are still in hotels since their homes have not yet been completed. And an additional 50 families from Netzer Hazani have watched the construction of their homes come to a halt, due to protests and blockades by Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, which claims the government has not fulfilled its financial promises. "Before, we had a large home that could sleep even 30 guests at a time. But now it is difficult to host even my own child," said Chana Cohen. "My 19-year-old son is sharing a bedroom with his seven- and eight-year-old sisters... it is inappropriate but there is no choice. "We have applied for an extension to the caravilla, I hope it is granted," she added. "I am determined to make our new home as pretty and comfortable as possible," Chana Cohen continued, "even though outside it resembles a maabara [transit camp]... the site isn't complete, there are deep holes and mud, tractors driving about and everyone has containers, boxes and bags full of possessions outside their homes that don't fit inside. "But before we left Ashkelon, we gathered lots of sea shells and set them in the tar walkway leading up to our entrance, to remind us of life in Neveh Dekalim and beautify our home," she said. "Moving into a new home has made our loss much more tangible," Chana Cohen said. "The other day I opened a box of shoes... suddenly sand trickled out of the shoes and I burst out crying. I so much wanted to be back in Neveh Dekalim, where the sand came from."