Wednesday, August 2

The newest Israeli refugees: north & south come together

Israeli rescue workers at Haifa train depot after Katyusha rocket fired
by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon killed 8 Israelis, July 16, 2006.
(Photo: MaanImages)

There are refugees at the Nitzanim Park Beach between Ashdod and Ashkelon. Thousands of families have fled their homes in the north of Israel and are now living in cramped communal tents pitched on the beach close to our Nitzan `caravilla' camp. The beach is closely guarded. Outsiders are permitted in by invitation only. But stories of their lives are filtering through.

Portable toilets, showers and food dispensing stations have been erected to accommodate the refugees as they sit and wait on the hot sands along the Mediterranean. The refugees have been given this all-expenses-paid respite from the bombardments not by the Government
of Israel but reportedly by one wealthy Russian immigrant. One man ready to do the right thing for his people.

Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky, Chief Rabbi of Gush Katif/Nitzan, visited their makeshift synagogue and spoke to the people, bringing words of Torah and of hope. Rabbi Meir Muller, another resident of our caravilla refugee camp, brought his wisdom and comfort to these
traumatized refugees.

Today it is estimated that over one million citizens of Israel have fled their homes to live in temporary quarters. Hotels are filled, school dormitories are packed, every form of housing has been snatched up. The lines to the tent city swell with each day's bombardment.
Those left behind are without funds and scarcely any food.

Prime Minister Olmert made a brief stopover in our refugee camp after visiting the tent city. He asserted that as soon as the war is over he will execute his "convergence plan", the dismantling of most Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and bring the guns and missiles of our enemies closer to the Israeli heartland. His plan will create a homeless class of 100,000 Jews. He warned us not to complain that we have not been compensated for our homes, businesses and farms.

"After all, soldiers are dying and you are still alive" he sneered.

We hear the government announcements that the people from the north, out of work and out of house, will be duly compensated. We know better. The trauma of this war and the vicious attacks on our civilian population is heartrending. We see the elderly, trapped in apartment
buildings, unable to make it down to the shelter. We watch those crammed into public shelters begging people from the interior to take them and their children into their homes. We also see the simple people holding on and refusing to budge.

Visitors from abroad have come to show solidarity with our beleaguered people. Rabbi Avi Weiss from Riverdale, New York visited wounded soldiers, families of the abducted soldiers and spent Shabbat in Safed bringing Shabbat cheer and love. Our young people of Gush Katif are in
Nahariya going from shelter to shelter bringing food to residents. We hear of overwhelming grief as one after another tell our youth "We didn't come to help you when you were bombed. We didn't come to help you when soldiers pulled you out of your homes. We didn't come to help
you when you were living in tents and hotels. How sorry we are and how ashamed we are. Today we understand you. Thank you for coming to help us."

As you read this, hundreds of thousands of Jews have become homeless refugees in our own land. Many have no funds to depend upon. We of Gush Katif, more than any other people, understand the anguish of our brothers and sisters.

To those of you who have been helping the people of Gush Katif, and those who are now helping the people of our northern cities, thank you! May the Almighty reward you for your kindness.

From: Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan: e-mail,

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