The owners of 20 businesses in a southern Israeli community of former residents of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip were ordered last week to close up shop and vacate the premises within 90 days.
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The order, which came in the form of letters issued on behalf of the Finance Ministry by a law firm, accused the business owners of unauthorized trespassing on state land.
The businesses, which include various kiosks, a pizzeria and a hardware store, do not have operating permits. They are run by former residents of Gush Katif who, after being evacuated in Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, moved to Nitzan, a small community adjacent to Israel’s border with Gaza.
Aviel Eliaz, who represents former residents of the Nisanit settlement now living in Nitzan, says the businesses serve a therapeutic as well as a practical purpose; that, in addition to the goods and services they provide, “they give the people who run them with a reason to get up in the morning.”
In a written response to the treasury, the residents slammed what they termed its total lack of sensitivity. “Eight years after the disengagement and a commercial center has still not been built. All that’s needed is goodwill, to talk with the business owners and offer alternate locations for businesses,” their letter said in part.
“They want to put us down,” says Ayala Bargil, 61, who has been living in Nitzan for eight years, since she and her family were evacuated from Ganim, a settlement in northern Samaria, in the West Bank. She insists that she will not close her kiosk and food stall in Nitzan, and notes that she pays municipal tax on the spaces.
“The business owners are upset, because the Finance Ministry isn’t offering an alternative for the businesses, only a unilateral eviction,” says Eliaz, adding, “closing these businesses constitutes a fatal blow in the families’ rehabilitation.
Many of them are in rough financial shape, and without these businesses they will be a burden on society and on the welfare services.”