‘Gush Katif’ is the Hebrew name for the block of 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. In 2005, nearly 10,000 residents of Gush Katif were forced to evacuate their homes, as these areas were turned over to the Palestinians as part of the “Disengagement”. Unfortunately, this did not bring peace to Israel, instead it brought more terror and rocket attacks.
Ms. Laurence Beziz is the Project Coordinator of the Katif Center, commonly referred to as the “Gush Katif Museum”, in Nitzan, Israel. In July, United with Israel was privileged to deliver two kindergarten bomb shelters to the community and was able to visit this very special place.
The United with Israel staff was honored to have received a presentation about the Katif Center by Ms. Beziz.
Ms. Beziz explains the purpose of the Katif Center. “Our goal is to tell the story of 35 years of pioneering the land of Israel in Gush Katif and to allow an insight as to what life was in Gush Katif.”
“We focus on the aspect of dedication to the Land of Israel, of engaging in agriculture in a desert barren area, on the aspect of a very strong community life that existed in Gush Katif, a life of Torah and emunah.” [Emunah can loosely be translated at Faith in The Almighty].
History of Gush Katif
She describes the history of the Jewish presence in the Gush Katif. “In the 70′s the government of Israel decided upon the establishment of Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip who would develop agriculture in this area but also would be a buffer zone between Egypt and the rest of Israel.”
The communities played a significant role in defending Israel against hostile enemies “The presence along the coastline would reinforce the security of the State of Israel. The first community to be established was Netzer Hazani in 1977 and throughout the years more agricultural communities were established.”
Ms. Beziz explains that there was vibrant Jewish life in the region. “There were 3 major parameters to life in Gush Katif: the agricultural aspect of working the land of Israel, the community aspect of strong and communities based on mutual help, the life of emunah where everything was based on a torah way of life. People had a strong sense of belonging to a strong community and of building a meaningful life in the Land of Israel.”
“The communities throughout the years of existence got stronger, economically and emotionally. Despite years of terror in Gush Katif, over 5000 rocket attacks on the communities, the difficulties of life in an isolated area, the great majority of the families didn’t think of leaving Gush Katif, but always thought of strengthening more and more the communities. This is because of the faith that we were doing the right thing in the eyes of G-d.”
Aftermath of the Disengagement
Ms. Beziz has a message for the world. “We want the communities over the world to know that Gush Katif is not merely a bunch of people who decided to establish their homes in this region but part of a governmental plan, that despite the hardships encountered, the people of Gush Katif never gave up hope and faith. Maybe the most important thing is that now 7 years after the uprooting from their communities, the people of Gush Katif are gathering strength and building again beautiful communities throughout the Land of Israel despite the difficulties and the foot dragging governmental procedures in order to start again.”
She notes “Right at the aftermath of the disengagement when the leadership of Gush Katif realized that not much had been put in to place by the government to care for the 10,000 residents from Gush Katif and North Shomron, the Gush Katif Committee was established primarily to care for the families: temporary living conditions, educational structures, rebuilding of community settings such as synagogues, community centers, youthcenters etc. To care for the needy families, to provide compensation for the farmers and the business owners and many more.”
Spirit of Gush Katif
Ms. Beziz adds that the Spirit of Gush Katif never failed. “Aside from the humanitarian needs it was evident that there was another story had to be told: the spirit of Gush Katif that never failed and when most of the people tended to remember only the year 2005, to remind that Gush Katif was a beautiful token of love and faith for the Land of Israel during 35 years. The center in NItzan which you visited was a private initiative of the Gush Katif Committee until 2008 when it received recognition by the state of Israel and is now a governmental venue.”
Ms. Beziz concludes “Technically the center depends of the Prime Minister’s Office and there was a request at the time of the recognition by law of the center to also include the heritage of the 4 communities of North Shomron that were included in the disengagement plan and uprooted together with the 21 communities of Gush Katif.”
by Joseph Sherman
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