The Israeli government is expected to allocate 24 million shekels ($6.2 million) to erect public buildings in communities established in southern Israel for Gush Katif evacuees.
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Some 8,000 Jewish settlers from that part of the Gaza Strip were evacuated as part of the disengagement plan by the government, under Ariel Sharon, in 2005.
The funds will come from the finance, housing and agriculture ministries. Most of the money will go to the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, which is said to have absorbed about half of the evacuees.
Yair Farjun, head of the council, announced this week that the finance minister approved the request for funds. Council officials say the money is earmarked mostly for Be’er Ganim and Nitzan, two locales that have relatively few public buildings at present. A treasury spokesman confirmed the report.
The chairman of the Be’er Ganim residents association, Avi Burstein, said that the number of residents has risen dramatically from 80 families to 250 families in the community in past two years. The population is expected to grow further once new housing is completed.
According to Burstein, although some of the buildings are under construction, a lack of resources and conflicts with contractors have been holding up completion of the projects.
“We are not pleased with the progress of the past two years, but it is more than what there was,” he said. “Three synagogues have been built. They started building another two, but they got stuck.”
Burstein added that construction of a planned community center has yet to commence, so temporary structures are serving as the local clubhouse.
Nissim Haviv, chairman of the Neve Dekalim evacuees' association in Nitzan, also stresses the serious lack of infrastructure there. Some 500 families live in that locale, which has four synagogues: Three are housed in structures designated for demolition and the other is a temporary structure, Haviv explained.
The infrastructure shortage has caused tension between the Hof Ashkelon council and the Gush Katif evacuees. Two weeks ago, the council cut off electricity to Nitzan’s temporary structures because of a 30,000-shekel debt.
An association called the Gush Katif residents' council, an organization whose members were never elected but sees itself as representing the evacuees' interests, harshly criticized the Hof Ashkelon body.
“The council is acting heavy-handedly and aggressively,” the association wrote. “It does not lift a finger to promote rehabilitation and rebuilding.”
Hof Ashkelon spokesperson Diti Arad commented: “The Hof Ashkelon Regional Council will continue to assist, build, accompany and rehabilitate Gush Katif evacuees. In general, members of private associations are hurting the majority of their evacuated colleagues in pretending to represent all of them.”