Originally reported by Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times
NITZAN, Israel—Residents of a small, depressed community called Nitzan in southern Israel may not appear remarkable, but their story as evacuees from the Gaza Strip and subsequent turbulent relocation and recovery is.
Five years ago on Aug. 17, they were among more than 9,000 Israelis who were removed from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria by the Israeli military.
Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon campaigned vigorously for the pullout.
“Disengagement has two main purposes: enhancing Israel’s security by reducing terrorism, and boosting Israel’s economy by improving the quality of life,” said Sharon in a December 2003 speech.
Although warned in advance by the government that Israel would unilaterally withdraw its citizens from an area in Gaza called Gush Katif, many people hoped for a miracle up until the last minute.
“We were so naïve,” said Debi Rozen, a tour guide at the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem and former media spokesperson for Gush Katif.
“We didn’t prepare because we didn’t want to prepare,” she said while walking among memorabilia in the museum of grass-roots protest efforts in 2005 to stop the evacuation. Rozen, recalling the day the evacuation started said, “You couldn’t imagine so many soldiers.”
The Rozen family was among many Gush Katif residents who refused to leave their homes and communities voluntarily. Thousands of Israeli soldiers and police were forced to literally carry people out of their homes and synagogues.
Families that had been recruited by the government three decades earlier to settle and farm the desert of Gush Katif found themselves starting over. Some were already nearing retirement age. Despite some compensation and assistance from the government, some evacuees have faced one difficulty after another in restoring their stability and quality of life.
In Nitzan, where 500 families settled, only 40 families have moved from transitional housing to permanent housing, according to Lior Kalafa, general secretary of Nitzan.