The Day After / Housing - First Families Move to Nitzan Homes; Others Opt for Tents

The first families of Gaza settlers entered their new temporary homes near Nitzan yesterday, and others have moved, or will soon, into temporary housing at other sites. Yet despite the Housing Ministry's best efforts - it says it set a record by building 32 units in Kibbutz Miflasim in two months - hundreds of evacuated settlers will apparently have to spend weeks in hotels in Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva until their new housing is ready. Others may opt instead to set up tent cities.

The Housing Ministry blames the settlers for this situation, saying they refused to cooperate by telling the ministry what they wanted. Yet even those who did cooperate will hardly enjoy luxury conditions: The best they can hope for is a caravilla - a 90-square-meter prefab unit. For families used to living in 200-square-meter houses with a large garden to boot, that constitutes a drastic drop in their standard of living. And others will have to make do with 60-square-meter caravans, in which they will live for years until their permanent housing is ready.

Moreover, contrary to both the settlers' wishes and experts' recommendations, the government has not managed to plan the evacuation in such a way that communities will be able to stay together. Most of the settlements will be broken up, their residents scattered, which will greatly exacerbate both the shock of the move and the difficulties of absorption in their new homes.

That is precisely why some Gush Katif residents plan to build tent cities rather than accept the state's offer of hotel rooms: Tent cities will enable them to stay together. This is currently the preferred solution for many residents of Neveh Dekalim and Elei Sinai, among others.

One problem is that the disengagement law did not make the Housing Ministry responsible for housing the evacuated settlers. The idea was that residents would receive their compensation and choose the housing solution that suits them best. But it turns out that many settlers preferred to throw this responsibility back on the state - particularly with regard to pressuring it to find solutions that would allow entire communities to relocate intact.

Nevertheless, by the time the pullout begins, there will be 350 caravillas stationed in Nitzan, 23 in Mavki'im, 56 in Kibbutz Carmiya and 22 in Or Haner. In addition, 32 houses have been built in Miflasim; 120 caravans will be stationed in Yad Binyamin and 30 in Yad Hannah. Also the Housing Ministry has prepared a database of 830 available rental apartments throughout the country. In total, this provides 1,563 temporary housing solutions. The ministry has also rented hundreds of hotel rooms in Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva.

Meanwhile, construction has begun on the permanent houses: 442 in Nitzan, 442 in Ashkelon, 200 in Yad Binyamin, 49 in Bat Hadar, up to 1,000 in Nitzanim.

"You can complain about everything, but it's impossible not to be awed by how the state, in three months, has located unprecedented solutions," declared Housing Ministry director general Shmuel Abuav.