On our last day we visited with our Gush Katif refugee friends. Dror Vanunu, our long-time guide, friend, and former head of the Gush Katif Committee, met us in Amatzia with his new assistant, Shifra Shomron. Sixty-seven families now live there, but they are hoping to grow. Sadly, eight and a half years after the expulsion, there are still no buildings, only lots.
In B’nei Dekalim, the new community in Lachish which is scheduled to house 500 families, only fifteen families are currently settled, Eliezer Ohrbach explained.
And even here, in what is supposed to be uncontested Israel, we see the Arab town surrounding the area overlooking the southern Hebron hills. There is no escape.
We then went on to visit Shommeriya in the eastern Negev, formerly Atzmona, where Dudi Reich spoke to us. His story of displacement from Yamit in 1982, his move into Gush Katif in 1987, and then the 2005 deportation, followed by 200 days in the Emunah Industrial Park, is a heart-breaker. Dudi tells us that although Shommeriya is located in the middle of Israel proper, there are 100,000 Bedouins living near them between Kiryat Gat and Be’er Sheva.
Lunch was in Ashkelon so that we could participate in a demonstration at the Ofer prison, outside Jerusalem, protesting the release of the second group of 26 terrorist prisoners. Before lunch, members of the group bought oak tag, markers, and paint to make signs for the demonstration. The message was that freeing terrorists invites more terror – not only in Israel but worldwide. When there are no consequences for criminal activity, there are no restraints.
The hour was growing late and we still had to visit Gush Katif heroine, Anita Tucker at the new Netzer Hazani in Yesodot. What a joy it was to see the beautiful synagogue, so artistically designed with the furniture from Kibbutz Lavi. Anita proudly showed us the social hall and then the recreation hall built in memory of Yochanon Hilberg who was killed in Lebanon with eleven others. We drove away from Anita reluctantly, aware of the great miracles she and her colleagues had made happen in building their new community. As Anita stood in the doorway of the beautiful synagogue, she told us this was only temporary until they could return to Gush Katif.
The next AFSI Chizuk mission scheduled for May 4-13, 2014. Call the AFSI office, 212-828-2424 or e-mail email@example.com, for further information.Helen Freedman
About the Author: Helen Freedman is executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel/AFSI. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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