The Expulsion From Gush Katif

Gush Katif Resource to educate and enlighten

Little Shelter from the Storm

Posted by emmalazarus on January 8, 2009

by Michele Chabin
Israel Correspondent for the Jewish Week

Nitzan, Israel – It’s not easy to maintain a sense of humor during a Hamas rocket attack, but for the residents of this “caravilla” park, home to 450 families uprooted from their Gaza settlements in August 2005, it’s either laugh or cry. Often, they find themselves doing both. “We’re sitting in totally unprotected cardboard houses with no bomb shelters, no reinforced safe rooms,” says Rachel Saperstein, at the kitchen table of her simple pre-fab house in Nitzan, located smack dab between the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, both popular Hamas targets. 

Late last week, the Defense Ministry delivered dozens of huge concrete sewage pipes to the community, dubbed them shelters, and placed them in every cul-de-sac. Someone spray-painted “The Home Front Command is always  thinking of you.” That elicited a laugh. So did the term “cylindrical shelters” coined by the ministry. During a brief tour of the “shelters” – one, that serves fervently Orthodox families, has separate entrances for men and women – Saperstein notes that the pipes “won’t withstand a direct hit.” When some reserve soldiers came to see how she and her husband, Moshe, a disabled veteran and terror victim, were coping with the stress of war, “I started laughing through the tears. This is what we’ve been reduced to: a bunch of sewage pipes.”

While all residents of southern Israel have been deeply affected by the war raging between Israel and Hamas, the event has been particularly difficult for Gaza settlers who were forcibly evicted from their homes by the Israeli government. The Israel Trauma Coalition has identified more than 300 families in Nitzan that are in need of psycho-trauma services, according to ITC’s director, Talia Levanon. Established by the UJA-Federation of New York in 2002, ITC is an umbrella organization encompassing 65 organizations, hospitals and government offices. Many of these families, Levanon says, were already receiving ITC counseling before the war started two weeks ago. None of the residents have moved into permanent homes, leading to a sense of displacement and insecurity. Many are unemployed. 
Hagit Yaron, a member of Nitzan’s emergency committee and an ITC team member, says that “overall Nitzan residents are coping pretty well but it’s a very individual thing. There were some people who needed assistance in Gush Katif and they need help now, too.”

This is an extract of an article that appeared in The Jewish Week. To view the full article, click here


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