More than a decade after they had been expelled from their homes as part of the “disengagement” program, half of the sample of 248 Gush Katif evacuees responding to a survey conducted by the Raffi Smith Research and polling Institute said they believe they’d be returning home to Gush Katif some day. Of those, 92% said they would return when invited to. Among those who did not believe in the possibility of a return, fewer than half said they would take advantage of such an offer.
A full 30% of respondents say they still define themselves as Gush Katif residents and only a quarter see themselves as belonging to their new communities. Two thirds said living in a community has helped their adjustment process.
The survey found that religious evacuees have done better than their secular brethren. 90% of the religious respondents said they were satisfied with their new residence, compared with only 56% of the secular. More than 70% of the religious said their lives have returned to normal, compared with only 52% of the secular and 51% of those who described themselves as traditional.
There were a few specific differences between former residents of Nisanit, the largest settlement in the northern tip of the Gaza Strip, and the evacuees of the Gush Katif bloc in the southern part of the strip. Nisanit, which numbered about 300 families (some 900 people), was a ‘mixed’ settlement, with religious and secular Jews living together. Only half of the Nisanit residents surveyed said they had been able to return to a normal life, compared with two-thirds of the southern dwellers. Only a third of the northerners found a proper solution in new communities, compared with 70% of the people from the south.
As many as 80% of respondents said they were holding on to some object—from a sand bottle to a garden rock—from their demolished homes. 30% of them still reside in temporary housing. 14% are unemployed, in an Israeli job market with only 4.8% unemployment.
The survey was ordered by the Gush Katif Residents Committee, on the occasion of the publishing of the new book Makom (Place) by Ofra Lax. Committee chairwoman Hagit Yaronsaid in a statement, “Eleven years after the uprooting, the great Gush Katif family continues to miss its home. The residents are longing for the place, the friends and communities that have been dispersed across the country. There’s no doubt that our transfer as whole communities has enabled us to return to life and rebuild our settlements. Many among us still believe that some day the nation of Israel will return to Gush Katif, to grow and be grown in its sands.”