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38 more families to leave Gaza (JERUSALEM POST) By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND JPOST STAFF 02/01/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107228085190 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
As a mother of four girls, Mali Gross does not see herself as a warrior. So she is one of 38 families — half from Elei Sinai and half from Nisanit — who on Tuesday came to an agreement with the government to move to Bat Hadar outside of Ashkelon.

It´s the largest such agreement to date.

"I never wanted to leave, it´s a beautiful place," said Gross, who moved to the seaside community of 349 people in 1995. When she first heard of the government plan to evacuate the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the Shomron she didn´t believe it.

"I always said I didn´t want to leave," said Gross. "I was sure the initiative would fail, that the government would not let it pass." But now that it has survived a cabinet and Knesset vote, she decided that she had a responsibility to her children to come up with an alternative home.

Their agreement with the government is good only if the compensation bill passes the Knesset next week, and there are still many details to be worked out.

"We have not left. We are waiting for the law to pass," said Gross, who moved to the community in 1995 from Rishon LeZion. Should disengagement legally fail, she would of course stay.

But she added when it comes to planning, "I didn´t want to wait for the last minute."

Unlike some of her neighbors who have vowed to never voluntarily leave, Gross said, "I´m part of a democratic nation. We are a family that follows the law." Her motto is, "pray for best, but prepare for the worst,"

She is glad that her daughters ages 6, 9, 10 and 16 won´t be around to see the town they love destroyed. "They will remember it as they knew it," she said.

Those leaving will be given half a dunam of empty land and reimbursement for the value of their home as described as will be decided in the compensation bill. It´s possible that the bill could also provide them with compensation for living expenses as they wait for their homes to be built, or that it could give them the $30,000 reserved for those who move to development areas. Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit, who is in charge of the government´s compensation legislation for the 8,000 people whom the government wants to move out of Gush Katif by next fall, said that the option for group resettlement is to the Negev or Galilee.

Sheetrit said that people who want to move to settlements in the West Bank as individuals may, but not as a group.

The government expects that many of the settlers will not want to move to the West Bank, since some that area will probably be evacuated in the long run as well, the official said.

Tuesday´s agreement is the second such deal made by the Disengagement Authority with Gaza Strip settlers. In December, the 25 families of Pe´at Sadeh also agreed to relocate to Moshav Mavki´im near Ashkelon. According to the Authority it is in negotiations with other communities. It is the Authority´s preference to relocate communities or large groups as a unit, rather than to scatter the 8,000 Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip throughout the country.

Gush Katif spokesman Iran Sternberg said he saw the deal as a sign of the government´s failure to sway the 8,000 Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip to leave. The decision of only 62 families to leave proves that the "residents of Gush Katif are standing as firm as a stone wall against the attempts of the government to bribe them."

Avi Farhan, one of the Elei Sinai founders, downplayed the announcement. He believes only 8 or 11 families from his community are leaving, and they are those want to go anyway.

He accused the Disengagement Authority of recycling the same people to give the impression that the residents of Gush Katif are ready to go. It´s no coincidence that an announcement like this comes only days after a large rally against disengagement or a week before a critical Knesset vote, said Farhan.

It´s upsetting, he said, to think that some of his neighbors, do want to leave. "An announcement like this is like a knife in our backs," said Farhan.

Unlike Gross, he is among those, who believe that the democratic process has been aborted rather than adhered to when it comes to disengagement. Like the 130,000 anti-disengagement protesters who attended the Jerusalem rally on Sunday, he wants the government to hold a national referendum on the issue.

If a referendum were held, he would abide by it. "If it says that Avi Farhan has to leave, I will pack my things in great pain and go." Otherwise, said Farhan, he plans to remain. This is his second experience with evacuation. In 1982, he was forcibly evacuated from Yamit in Sinai. At the end of that year, he and a number of other families from Yamit founded Elei Sinai.

A pragmatist like Gross, Moshe Adasha was not among those who came to an agreement with the Disengagement Authority. He called it "hasty and premature." Yet, he said, he understood that they felt "an immediate need to move."

Adasha himself spearheaded an Elei Sinai-based initiative of a mass exodus of settlers to a "replica," community elsewhere in Israel proper. So far, 56 of 85 families living in Alei Sinai have signed a petition agreeing to leave should the Knesset pass the Evacuation Compensation Bill, Adasha said.

Adasha along with several others has lobbied Sela to induce the government to accept the Nitzanim beach between Ashdod and Ashkelon as a suitable location to "replicate" their community. Their efforts have been met with stiff resistance by an overburdened Disengagement Authority and other government ministries. Nitzanim is currently, and paradoxically, both a nature preserve and an IDF firing range. Settlement sources said added that a large number of families from the settlements of the Bedolah, Gan Or, Rafiah Yam and Gadid are lobbying to for their communities to be replicated along the Nitzanim Beach. Matthew Gutman contributed to this report (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/01/05)

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