Morag families move to Judea

15 families evacuated from Gaza move to Judean settlement of Tene Omarim.

morag evacuation 298 AJ (photo credit: ariel jerozolimski)
morag evacuation 298 AJ
(photo credit: ariel jerozolimski)
Bad luck didn't prevent Gaza evacuee Yitzhak Amitai from continuing his pattern of risky choices. On Sunday he drove his packed car up to his new home in the small settlement of Tene Omarim, which is south of Har Hebron, beyond the pre-1967 border. The Amitais are one of 15 families from the Gaza community of Morag that is moving there this month, even as 80 of the 130 Tene Omarim families are petitioning the government for compensation funds to leave. Those families fear that their settlement is doomed because it will soon be on the wrong side of the security fence. But Amitai told The Jerusalem Post that this was exactly the reason Tene Omarim was the right home for his family of seven children, three of whom live at home. "If we move here, hopefully, there won't be another disengagement," he said, adding that he had looked for a place to live in Judea and Samaria. Most of the 1,700 families evacuated from Gaza and four northern Samaria settlements this summer appear unlikely to make a similar choice. Many are eyeing either the Negev or the coastal area around Ashkelon and Nitzanim. But Amitai said his group of Morag families believed it was important to support the settlement movement in the territories. "With God's blessings we are starting again," said the 49-year old teacher. After living for the last month in the dormitory of a school in Ofra, Amitai said his new four-room home felt like a castle. A native of Tel Aviv, Amitai has a history of mixing ideology and real estate. In 1982 he was evacuated from the Sinai settlement of Atzmona. Now he's hoping that three's a lucky number. Initially, Amitai said, the Morag families would rent their homes, but it was likely that they would choose to make this community into their permanent abode, unless, he added, they return either to Gush Katif or to Atzmona. One of Amitai's new neighbors, Itai Noach who has lived in Tene Omarim for 16 years and who is itching to leave said he was surprised to see the government accommodate the former Gaza settlers in a town that he believed will one day be evacuated. The move also upset two left-wing MKs, Collette Avital (Labor) and Avshalom Vilan (Meretz-Yahad), who both belong to the "One House" movement that is helping residents of 38 settlements on the wrong side of the fence who want to evacuate. In a protest letter they wrote Sunday to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Avital and Vilan called the relocation of the Morag families over the pre-1967 border "a public outrage" that can only harm Israel's interests in the international arena. They added that those who move there were likely to have to undergo another evacuation. The MKs asked the government not to support the move and to find other accommodations for the settlers instead. But a spokesman for the Disengagement Authority said that while it helped the Morag evacuees, the actual choice of where to live was up to those families. There were no contingencies attached to the compensation funds that were owed the evacuees for the property they lost, said a spokeswoman for the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Ilan Cohen. The spokeswoman said that while technically Tene Omarim is over the pre-1967 border, it is considered part of Israel, much like Ma'aleh Adumim, and there was nothing to prohibit the settlers from moving there. Noach said he never considered himself to be living in a settlement until he found himself outside the fence. "This is not occupied land," he said. Now, however, he questions the settlement's status. Already he said his home had dropped in value. "It's beautiful here with a view of the mountains," Noach said, adding that nevertheless he would rather go willingly now than wait and watch the settlement die a slow death. But Haim Cohen of Morag, who is moving to Tene Omarim on Tuesday with his family of six, said he believed that no one in Israel was safe from the threat of evacuation. "If they could evacuate us from Gush Katif, they could evacuate us from Jerusalem," he said. The evacuation "didn't break our sprit. The objective of a Jew in Israel is to move to a place that needs our support."