Monday, December 28, 2009

New Town Near Sderot for Gush Katif Expellees

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

Another milestone has been reached in the seemingly never-ending resettlement process for the Gush Katif expellees: The government has approved a new town for former residents of Kfar Darom. To be named Shavei Darom (Returnees of the South), it will be located southeast of Sderot.The decision comes nearly 4.5 years after the original expulsion from Gush Katif, and a full three months after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz gave his approval to the plan. New Disengagement Authority Director Bentzy Lieberman was credited by residents with helping the decision along.

The government's decision comes as a welcome windfall for some 20 families who have been living in a 19-story apartment building in Ashkelon since shortly after the expulsion. They were supposed to move to the building immediately after the expulsion, and remain there for two years – but in the event, they were forced to live in a hotel for four months while legal problems were sorted out, and their "two years" in the high-rise building, waiting for their permanent community to be built, have already turned into four years.

Another group of some 20 Kfar Darom families who lived in the building moved, in the summer of 2008, to Shomeriya, a failed left-wing kibbutz, together with some expellees from Atzmona. Their new community of Mirsham, in the northern Negev region, is not yet ready, and there is no word as to when it will be.

Shavei Darom, which was approved by the Cabinet, is located next to Nir Akiva, southeast of Sderot, though no direct road currently exists between Sderot and Nir Akiva. Residents hope that within four or five months, their pre-fab "caravilla" homes will be placed on the site. Construction of permanent homes will follow after that, at a date to be named later.

Kfar Darom was originally established in Gaza in 1946. The name is taken from the Talmud, which quotes Tannaitic sage Rabbi Elazar of Kfar Darom. It was destroyed by the Egyptians in the 1948 War of Independence, and was rebuilt by Israel after Gaza was liberated during the Six Day War - first as an IDF Nachal outpost, and later, in 1990, as a community that eventually numbered close to 100 families. It was destroyed, together with the other 20 towns of Gush Katif and four of northern Shomron, in the Disengagement of 2005.

Famous Kfar Darom members include Chana Bart, the Cohen family, and Rabbi Asher Mivtzari. Chana Bart was paralyzed in the lower half of her body in a terrorist shooting attack in 2002, and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. Two years later - a day after Sharon's bombshell announcement of his plan to throw the 8,000 Jews of Gaza out of their homes - Chana and her husband Eliezer, head of the Nir Akiva core group, celebrated the brit [ritual circumcisio of their week-old son, naming him Amichai [My Nation Live Yisrael. The scene of Chana carrying her baby to the brit in a wheelchair marked a poignant moment in Gush Kaif history, and was immortalized in films prior to the expulsion.

Three children of the family of Rabbi Ophir and Nogah Cohen were seriously wounded in the famous Kfar Darom bus bombing of November 2000; two adults were killed, and the three siblings each lost their legs, or parts of their legs.

Rabbi Asher Mivtzari has been a leader in the struggle for Jonathan Pollard’s release and in the campaign to keep the issue in public consciousness.

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