The cost of living up gaza
NETZER HAZANI, Israel — It’s been 10 years since the Israeli government gave up the Gaza Strip hoping for a peace that has yet to happen. Thousands of successful, prosperous Israelis found themselves and their families uprooted and forced to start over.
CBN News took a look at the human cost and what happened to some of those faithful pioneers.
For decades, Anita Tucker successfully farmed in her community of Netzer Hazani. She helped build the Jewish enclave of Gush Katif from the sand dunes of Gaza.
Tucker met with CBN’s Scott Ross recently and told him about life in Gush Katif, the disengagement, and how life is today.
‘A Bad Movie’
“This is the main town of Gush Katif, Neve Dekelim, and the buildings that you see here are still standing from what we know last,” Tucker explained. “And at the beginning they were a university for women Palestinian terrorists.”
“What a story,” Ross said. “Like a bad movie.”
Tucker relayed a story of one of her first encounters there, which some might find hard to believe.
“And one day we see it, like out of no place comes, like out from under the sand dunes comes this Arab, with his keffiyeh (headscarf) and his long galabia, his long Arab robe, and this other Arab — a little bit intimidating,” Tucker recalled. “And all of a sudden we see they have bread and salt in their hands and the Muslim tradition, baruch habaim, welcome, they said to us. We’re so glad you’re here.”
They were so happy we were there because they hoped there would be work for their people, she said.
The communities in the Gush Katif bloc began to thrive. During the next 30 years, agriculture grew to a $60 million per year industry, making up 15 percent of Israeli vegetable exports.
Tucker said their Arab neighbors were happy with their success because it provided work for them as well.
“We taught them modern agriculture,” she said, but things began to break down “when the world started talking about peace.”
Tearing Us to Pieces
“I always said they misspelled it. Instead of writing p-e-a-c-e, somebody by mistake wrote p-i-e-c-e, and they started tearing us to pieces and tearing the Arabs living in Gaza to pieces,” Tucker said. “I think the real trouble started when they brought Yasser Arafat to the Gaza Strip.”
As time went by and talk of the so-called disengagement grew, Tucker — then known as the ‘celery lady’ — talked with CBN News in 2005 about the prospect of being forced from her home.
“It can’t be that people who are living peacefully in a place that turned into a flourishing beautiful area should have to leave their home,” Tucker told CBN News. “And around us are people who are trying to murder us, throwing rockets at us, trying to kill us.”
Most of the 9,000-plus residents of Gush Katif decided not to leave voluntarily. They felt they had settled the land promised to their forefathers — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — with the blessings of the Israeli government.
After more than 30 years of successful building and farming on the sand dunes of Gaza, it took just a week to obliterate Jewish life there.
Gush Katif Visitor’s Center
Laurence Beziz and her husband were also farmers. Now she works in the visitor center in Nitzan that tells the history of Gush Katif.
“This is a caravilla,” Beziz explained, pointing out the trailers still lining the road. “There were 250 caravilla (trailers) for originally 1,800 families who were in Gush Katif.”
The community is about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the Gaza border.
“First of all, you have to understand this is a temporary site,” Beziz explained. “Everything is cardboard paper. Nothing is like really like (a) protected area.”
“The only protected areas that we have are these sewer pipes,” she continued, pointing out the large concrete cylinders that are open at both ends. “But it means that when the siren goes off, all the families have to run outside even if it’s in the middle of the night.”
These families don’t have bomb shelters, but they choose to stay because most of them don’t have the finances to build new homes so they’re stuck until the government helps them with some kind of solution.
Beziz said the visitors’ center is intended to do more than tell the sad story of the expulsion.
“Aside from dealing with the hardships of the people and the rebuilding of the communities, we felt that we have a story to tell,” Beziz said. “It’s a whole huge story of pioneering the land of Israel. Although there are a lot of hardships, there are also communities that are flourishing.”
Community Stays Together
Tucker’s community of Netzer Hazani is one that stuck together. Some 100 families built a new community, kept the old name and moved in three years ago.
“But all the time from the day, the minute that we left (10 years ago), we switched mode and said, ‘We’re building again. We’re staying together as a community,'” Tucker explained.
Tucker said they knew soldiers who visited the town they left, which is now “back to being sand dunes.”
Ross asked Tucker if she had any desire to go back to Gaza.
“I’ll be the first in line as soon as it’s safe to go there and the government says ‘come back,'” she said without hesitating. “I’ll be the first in line.”