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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



The Virag Family Formerly Of Rafiah Yam; Now Of Nitzan

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The family: Yossi (38), Yamit (33) and daughters Tohar (4.5), Romi (2) and a new baby girl.

Background: Yamit is the daughter of Ezra and Malka Mordechai, the first couple in Gush Katif. Ezra arrived in Gush Katif as a bachelor in 1974 and was one of three community founders. Yamit was raised in Netzer Hazani, the first established Gush Katif community.

In 2004 Yossi and Yamit married and moved to the community of Rafiah Yam. They passed the acceptance exams and were accepted as full members. There they founded a computer repair business.

Day of uprooting: When the government put the Evacuation/Compensation Law into effect, they did not set criteria that would grant compensation to young couples. That meant that Yossi and Yamit were left without a roof over their heads, without employment and with no compensation that would enable them to continue their lives in a respectable manner.

At the same time Yamit began to suffer from severe back and leg pains necessitating a month’s hospitalization. The diagnosis was chronic arthritis, which apparently worsened as a result of the emotional stress and trauma of the Disengagement. After a prolonged struggle with the SELA Disengagement Authority (now Tenufa), and after they were informed of Yamit’s health status, the Virags were granted a caravilla in Nitzan.

Continuing the struggle: As soon as she was released from hospital, Yamit started a forum for young former residents of Gush Katif to ensure that their rights would be recognized by law. Yamit went to the Knesset, dealt with the various relevant committees and even filed a petition with the Supreme Court. One result: the recognition of the rights of the expellees who were eighteen years of age or older at the time of the Disengagement to purchase land in a Gush Katif continuation community, without being required to be part of the tender announced by the community in which they were living at the time of the Disengagement.

What we left behind: “We left behind a house on a half-dunam lot and a thriving business.” Most importantly Yamit was forced to leave behind her entire childhood. She lost not only her own home, but her parents’ home in which she’d been raised.

Feelings toward the State: “Despite all the difficulties and the injustice we continue to love our State with all our hearts and we remain completely loyal to it. I continue to be called up for reserve duty every single year. And that’s the education our children receive, because we have only one Jewish state and despite everything we’ll never leave it.”

The biggest difficulty: “Out of all of the difficulties that have been piled up, the financial situation in which we are caught continues to hound us and weigh us down on a daily basis. Our dream of continuing to live with our community is fading because we are unable to purchase a plot. Unfortunately we haven’t succeeded in getting out of the cycle of debt into which we were forced.”

Approximately one year ago Yamit’s father, Ezra, invested all of his family’s money in the purchase of a food production factory with the aspiration of returning to the work force and employing other expellees. To the family’s misfortune, approximately one month after the purchase, the neighboring factory burnt down, causing smoke and soot to penetrate the factory and contaminate it. The Ministry of Health ordered Ezra’s factory closed due to the contamination and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. The Ministry of Health ordered Ezra’s factory closed due to the contamination and he was forced to declare bankruptcy.

In approximately one month’s time the last payment on the Virag’s land purchase, the rights for which Yamit fought for seven years, will be due. If they do not pay 480,000 NIS their rights to a land purchase will be annulled and they will be again forced to leave their community.

Have you built a house? “As we said, not only have we not built a house, but we are in a financial situation that does not allow us to even purchase a plot of land.”

What happened to your community? “Our community continues to be united and soon most of the families will move to their own new permanent houses.”

Something good that’s happened since: “One of the amazing things that’s happened since is the birth of our wonderful daughters who strengthen us and give us a reason to continue fighting. Also, as absurd as this sounds, after living for seven years in a caravan we have learned to appreciate what seems to be the most basic thing for everyone, and that is a house constructed out of cinder blocks that doesn’t crumble.”

What do you wish yourselves? “First and foremost we wish Yamit’s father success in returning to standing on his own two feet and that he ends this most difficult period of bankruptcy.

“We wish ourselves success in purchasing a vacant lot on which we will be able to construct a house together with our community and that our children will be able to continue their lives with their friends and that we won’t have to separate them from everyone.”

Family’s Appeal for help: The family is in dire financial straits and appeals for financial contributions.

Donations can be made to: Yossi and Yamit Virag, Bank Mizrahi Tifachot #20 Branch #491, Account #408288

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