Living on a Prayer: Veteran evacuee confronts Sela

Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft is engaged in a battle of wills with the Disengagement Authority.

Kirshenzaft evacuee 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kirshenzaft evacuee 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft is engaged in a battle of wills with the Disengagement Authority. Kirshenzaft, a former resident of Neveh Dekalim, was a vociferous opponent of the disengagement plan and his response to his forced evacuation has been a determined refusal to submit to the lengthy and bureaucratic compensation application process. On November 20, Kirshenzaft found an official letter in his cubbyhole at the Caesar Hotel in Jerusalem, where he has lived with his wife and 12 children since their eva cuation, curtly informing him that he had been declared "not eligible" for compensation and as such had to leave the hotel by the end of the month. Rather than packing, Kirshenzaft fired back an angry response two days later, demanding an apology from th e Disengagement Authority (Sela), since his family was the very first in Neveh Dekalim and had lived there for 23 years, three family members were terror victims and he himself was still recovering from being wounded in a terrorist shooting and mortar att ack when he was thrown out of his home in August. Kirshenzaft said his name was on a list, submitted by the Neveh Dekalim Community Council and approved by the government, requesting 120-meter caravillas in Nitzan for large families, but they had been s uffering in the hotel for three months since then, waiting for the caravillas to be built. "Sela is playing psychological games with me... trying to scare me into filling out the compensation forms," Kirshenzaft told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. "Bu t this is a matter of principle and I will not be cowed. They already know all the information they are asking for on the forms, they have access to all the documentation, it is totally unnecessary for me to have to provide proof dating back decades. "I did not choose to leave my home, I was thrown out against my will... the government should reimburse me without making me run around like crazy to prove facts they already know." Disengagement Authority spokesperson Haim Altman said a letter sent to Kirshenzaft the following week had apologized for the mistake and clarified that Kirshenzaft's status was actually in the category of "not submitted a claim," but Kirshenzaft insisted he never received a letter of apology. According to Altman, Kirshenzaft was still at risk of eviction. "The Disengagement Law did not include hotel accommodation... that was an addition made for the benefit of those who are in negotiation with us or waiting for their caravillas to be built," he said. "According to Clause 85 of the Disengagement Law, if he does not provide proof of his entitlement by submitting a compensation claim, then he cannot claim to be part of the community and cannot stay in the hotel... and even if he is allotted a home in Nitzan, until he signs a compensation claim he will be unable to move in." Attorney Yossi Fuchs, a founder of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, challenged this premise, saying the Disengagement Law allowed evacuees 30 months in which to apply for compensation so they were perfectly entitled to refrain from applying now. "Since they are allowed three years to apply, is it ethical to throw them out onto the street until they do so?" he asked. "Isn't there a responsibility to provide a roof over their heads in the interim period? "While I have not studied Rabbi Kirshenzaft's specific case, I would argue that Clause 85 is open to interpretation. Rabbi Kirshenzaft's inclusion on the official request filed by the Neveh Dekalim Council, and governmentally approved, could also be seen as proof of his community membership, without his own personal application," Fuchs said. According to current Disengagement Authority figures, 1,749 families have applied for some form of compensation, of whom 1,416 have received some form of payment, while 150 families have not yet applied. Kirshenzaft said he knew of evacuees from Kfar Darom and Netzarim who refused to participate in what they felt was a demeaning and unnecessarily tortuous process. On Monday, a Sela representative called Kirshenzaft and offered to bring the forms for him to sign. "I asked him if he would help me to avoid having to run around producing ancient nursery school certificates and telephone bills from Beersheba, otherwise I was not interested in meeting him," Kirshenzaft said. "I suggested Sela obtain all the documents by e-mail from the relevant offices. But he laughed off my request and said it was impossible to avoid the paperwork, and threatened that if I didn't sign we would have to leave the hotel." "I answered that if we are thrown out, then all 14 of us will have no choice but to move down the street to live in the lobby of the Prime Minister's Office," Kirshenzaft said, laughing. "He backed off immediately." ˇ