US Jews back Gaza evacuees in Ariel

Orthodox synagogues helping expelled families build playground in new home.

katif girl orange 88 (photo credit: )
katif girl orange 88
(photo credit: )
Orthodox synagogues in North America are helping families who were expelled from Netzarim in the Gaza Strip build a playground where they live in Samaria. With donations from Young Israel synagogues across the US, the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) recently contributed $10,000 toward the construction of the playground in Ariel. A matching sum was provided by similar synagogues in Toronto. The gift was given to the Yachdav Foundation, which funds the construction of housing, schools and synagogues for the transplanted families. Following the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, the College of Ariel offered families from Netzarim refuge in empty dormitories. Now those families are building permanent housing in Ariel, calling their new neighborhood Netzer-Ariel. Sponsorship of the playground was only the latest effort by Young Israel to help families who were evacuated during disengagement, NCYI executive director Rabbi Pesach Lerner said Wednesday. "This is our small way of saying we care," he said, speaking from the Golan Heights. "These people are still hurting, and their belief and faith is unbelievable, despite the fact that life is difficult for them... We supported them during the pre-expulsion, and have been involved in helping them post-expulsion." He said the organization bought Purim costumes in 2006 for children who had been evacuated. Lerner said he was not concerned Ariel would be evacuated. "Jerusalem could be evacuated too," he said. "If we lived based on the possibility of what communities would be evacuated, we wouldn't live anywhere." "It's time we stop thinking about evacuation," Lerner said. "This is our land, we are here, and we earned it." Ariel is not a new settlement, he said, adding, "If I want to build on my backyard, I can build." Meanwhile, the Zionist Organization of America has strongly criticized the Israeli government for forcibly expelling Jewish families from their homes in Hebron on Tuesday. A letter signed by ZOA president Morton Klein and others said the government made a mistake. "To use resources of 3,000 forces to remove two families, when bombs are falling every day on Sderot - is this where Israel's resources should be used," Klein told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. He said the incident was "particularly invidious" because originally the Defense Ministry had told Jews in Hebron that if they left peacefully, they would be permitted to return legally in the near future. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz later withdrew that offer, saying the Defense Ministry had no authority to make it. It "pains [the ZOA] any time we take a position against the Israeli government," Klein said, "but we feel that in certain instances we have to speak out." He said the removal from Hebron sent two mistaken messages: that resources are being "misused," and that Jews don't have a right to be in Hebron. "I see the Israeli government making one mistake after another," Klein said. "Their track record since Oslo doesn't warrant confidence."