One of the most eye opening parts of the seminar I recently attended was the visit to Nitzan which hosts several sites being used to provide temporary housing for the Jewish families forced to leave Gaza.
Altogether about 1750 families have vacated Gaza and they need housing, employment, farmland, and community structures. 750 families are living in tiny hotel rooms. Nitzan will eventually provide temporary housing for 1000 families. I didn’t find out where the other 750 families are supposed to be housed.
As of today 500 families are living in Nitzan. Many of the other families from Gaza are living in tents - but that is largely their own decision as a protest against the disengagement from Gaza. Eventually Nitzan will be able to provide temporary housing for 1000 of the 1750 families.
After 2-3 years the families will be able to move to their new permanent residences in Nitzan 2. Nitzan 1 will then be used for housing for new immigrants. It's remarkable that only 3 months ago all of this land in Nitzan was just desert - SA could definitely learn from Israel about providing quick and affordable housing for homeless people. (In fact SA is learning a lot from Israel - on my second day in Jerusalem I bumped into a public official from SA who is on a programme in Israel to learn from the outstanding agricultural achievements that Israel has made. More on this later if the guy responds to an email interview I sent.)
Okay, back to Nitzan...the main problem for these people is getting new farmland and employment. Money is scarce. Though they received compensation for the loss of their hothouses, that compensation was only 60% of the total value. I can't emphasise enough just how difficult this has all been for these families. These people are used to being self sustaining. They are not used to being in a position where they have to receive and be needy. They want to be able to do something...to be productive. People there are sad and disillusioned but there is an overwhelming sense of hope that eventually these pioneers will be able to rebuild their lives and start again.
Families with 4 or fewer members are getting 60 square meters. Families with more than 4 people are getting 90 square meters. Large families (and most of the families are large) will find it difficult to adjust to these new conditions. In Gaza most of these families had large beautiful homes filled with furniture that cannot now fit into the new homes. The families need to find storage areas for all their old furniture that they can no longer use.
At the moment there are no general community structures besides for synagogues. There is no public hall where people can gather and have meetings. Plans are however being made to deal with these problems.
Despite all this, the person giving us the tour of Nitzan did emphasise that most people realise that the government is not heartless...they are trying. He also made mention of the thousands of volunteers, young and old that have given up their time to help build the community in Nitzan, asking for nothing in return.