Don't Forget the Gush Katif Expulsion!

8,500 people lived and worked in Gush Katif, mainly in agriculture, with hundreds of acres of hothouses that provided a large portion of the country's crops and flowers. Every single resident were forced out, with their homes and communities destroyed during the withdrawal.

Many former residents are still in dire need of help, both material and emotional, but with the passage of time, their plight has faded from public awareness. Yet a large number of them remain even today, 10 years later, without permanent homes or steady income.

Yehudah Gross, who lived in Gush Katif for 23 years before the expulsion, explained that it was "the center of our lives." He and his wife raised their five children there. "Everything was there - our schools, our businesses, shops, banks, employment."

Their belongings packed up and shipped away, often to locked containers where they remained inaccessible for months or even years, displaced families were put onto buses and sent out to hotels, tent cities and other temporary housing all over the country.

They were "uprooted and tossed to the wind," said Segal. "Most people had no idea where they were going. They were dispersed all over the place."

Many of the residents were relocated to flimsily-built caravans."They were thrown up, ignoring building codes," said Segal. "People lived in these boxes for years and years, and people still live there." Today, 10 years later, approximately 20 percent of evacuees remain in these caravans as they wait for permanent housing.

"Someone aged 50 or 60 who had farmed a certain crop on a certain piece of land for 30 years cannot start a new farm at their age," said Segal. "And who will hire them?"

Yulis said that the poverty experienced by many evacuees due to the loss of their livelihoods prevented them from rebuilding their lives. "There were people who took out mortgages and loans because they couldn't feed their children," he said. With more pressing needs, they were never able to put money aside to build a permanent home.

There also remain a number of evacuees who were not able to cope with the emotional trauma of the disengagement. Several of the residents spoke about friends and neighbors whose spirits simply never recovered. Sinking into depression, some succumbed to illness and early death.

"These were hard working people who had their own businesses," Karmey Chesed founder and director Aryeh Weingarten told Breaking Israel News. "Many were farmers who proudly worked and produced in their own fields. They would help others in need and now things have turned around and they now, still, need help. Many of them do not have homes. Most people from Gush Katif built their own homes, which were destroyed when they were kicked out by the government."

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