June 29, 2007
by Hillel Fendel
The United Jewish Communities (UJC) umbrella organization has given final approval to a $2.6 million grant - originally decided upon five months ago - for special programs for the Disengagement expellees, mostly from Gush Katif.
Most of the money, some 6.5 million shekels, will be administered by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for 22 different programs in job placement, therapy for children, family therapy and more. Another 4.4 million shekels will be given to the Israel Trauma Coalition, a group of national organizations that provide trauma-related services.
Dror Vanunu of the Gush Katif Committee was very pleased with the decision. In addition to the funding, he told Arutz-7, "we are very happy that we were able to reach an understanding that the programs will be run by people who are not 'from the outside,' but people who we know and who are familiar with the Gush Katif 'head' and way of life. This will make the programs more powerful and meaningful."
The aid will be used for scholarships for students, educational programs to help bridge the education gaps that have formed over the past two years, community advisors, leisure activities for older evacuees, three different employment programs, and much more. "For instance, the government runs retraining courses," Vanunu said, "but many times the courses are offered only in Haifa, or only in certain fields, or whatever. The new programs will provide many more opportunities."
The Jewish Agency announced that special emphasis "will be placed on educational programs for children of evacuees, such as scholarships for higher education and summer camps, setting up a community youth club in Nitzan [where hundreds of Gush Katif families reside], and purchasing educational enrichment equipment for schools in the new communities. Furthermore, a special donation from the Chicago community will make possible a child therapy program to help children deal with the trauma of terror attacks and relocation."
"Sometimes people don't understand the enormity of the problems we face," Vanunu said. "Even people who supported us in the past sometimes can't understand how, after nearly two years, we still face such difficulties. 'Forget about the government!' they yell, 'just build!' They don't understand how much it costs to build the infrastructures for a new community, and they don't understand how important it is for people to remain in their communal frameworks. They simply can't grasp that the bureacracy is such that only 12 families, out of 1,600, have begun to build their new homes in almost two years... True, some families have succeeded, but for the most part, it is critical that they remain together; we have studies that show this."
"There is one very sad case," Vanunu related, "of five families that moved together to the south, and used all their money to pay a builder to build them homes. The contractor went bankrupt. Now the children are in terribly difficult straits, but even worse is that one man, just 35 years old, has lost all his teeth because of the tremendous stress he is undergoing. Every tooth fell out! And now he can't go out to even look for a job because he has no teeth! We found a dentist, a righteous man, who is willing to replace his teeth with implants for half the price - 60,000 shekels! Where are we to find such a sum?!"