Living on a prayer: Three months after evacuation

Of burglaries, breakdowns and blogs.

katif family in hotel298 (photo credit: )
katif family in hotel298
(photo credit: )
Three months after their evacuation from Neveh Dekalim, Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft, his wife and twelve children are still in the Caesar Hotel, hoping to move to a caravan in Nitzan in another two months. On Yom Kippur eve, Kirshenzaft received a call from a soldier who had evacuated them from their home asking for forgiveness. According to Kirshenzaft, the soldier wept on the phone that he regretted his actions and couldn't sleep at night. Recalls Kirshenzaft, "I told him that according to Maimonides, it is not enough to regret actions…one must commit never to do that same action again. I asked if he would follow such orders again and he swore he would not. So I forgave him. But other security officers involved in the expulsion, including one whom I have been friendly with for 25 years, called to ask if we were still friends …they are full of excuses …the brainwashing that it is good for democracy, for the State of Israel. Them I cannot forgive because they have not repented, but I feel sorry for them …they are more unfortunate than us. Despite what the higher-ups say, the soldiers have been traumatized for life. I heard that one kippa-wearing soldier who accompanied our family on the bus was admitted to a psychiatric hospital soon afterwards." Two weeks ago, during Shabbat, Rabbi Kirshenzaft's laptop was stolen from his hotel room along with other valuables. He blames the hotel for not having had a security guard on duty at the time, though he admits that the door to his room was open and unattended. Says Ronit Dayan, Manager of the Caesar, "The children forget that they are not in Neveh Dekalim where they could leave the doors to their homes open without worrying. This is a hotel and they should understand that doors need to be locked, we even provide a safe in each hotel room for extra security." In the Shalom Hotel, Rina Ackerman describes a new initiative launched by hi-tech professional Yitzchak Bar Geva that is helping this mother of eleven to become a blogger. Last Thursday, Bar Geva brought a team of computer-savvy volunteers with their laptops to the hotel to help the evacuees set up blogs, creating a virtual community for them on Some of the blogs have already received hundreds of visitors. "I named my blog 'Mishpacha Al Hayareyach,' Family on the Moon," says Ackerman, "Because since losing my home I feel like an astronaut, not connected to any piece of ground. But unlike a lone space walker who can float along, I still need to look around and check up on all my family. I plan to use my blog to write about the day-to-day difficulties of caring for my children in the hotel. I just need more access to a computer so that I can write, but I'll work it out." Ackerman, who participated in the Gush Katif "Face-to-Face" campaign before the disengagement, hopes her blog will reach Israelis all over the country. "Our story is not being told in the Israeli media - most of Israel has forgotten us. My blog will give me an opportunity to reconnect to them and continue my face-to-face meetings through the computer … they will hear what is happening to us." The Ackermans finally received their compensation advance last Thursday after the Supreme Court ordered the Disengagement Authority to immediately compensate all the families who have applied. The Kirshenzafts have not applied for their compensation on principle, as Rabbi Kirshenzaft contends, "They [The Disengagement Authority] know all of our details…they know that we are entitled to compensation …let them come to me". Ackerman comments, "I admire Rabbi Kirshenzaft's principles, he is morally correct, but I think we need to be practical." Ella Hoffman, who also only received her compensation after the Supreme Court decision, says "The fight to get our advance has shown it could be years before we see any real money - that's the reason we're stuck. No matter how you look at it the government has us subdued - they have our money, they tell us where to live, where to build ...." Hoffman hopes to move to Amatzia, near Ein Tzurim, with families from Neveh Dekalim and Moshav Katif, but worries the plan will fall through. "I just found out from my friends from Atzmonah, who thought they were moving to Kibbutz Shomriya, that their plans are on hold because the dozen kibbutz families who still live there turned down a government offer of $300,000 each to relocate, although the Atzmonah families didn't ask them to move and are happy to live with them. We won't even get a third of that and we were part of a thriving, growing, productive community not a defunct kibbutz."