Cities of Refuge(es) - A Closer Look - In Pictures
I spent this past Monday distributing Succot to the refugees of Gush Katif - sponsored by World Mizrachi. Over the course of the day I vested Nitzan, Ir Emunah (City of Faith), Yated and Ariel. In each of these places one sees different types of people, hears different stories, and sees first hand the different challenges that these Jews are facing.
To see pictures of the various cities of refuge(es), click here.
In Nitzan, where there are currently hundreds of refugee families, things seem to be the most settled. Families with less than 5 children are living in 60-meter "caravilot", and those with 5 children or more are living in 90-meter homes. There is construction all around, and one can see that a sense of community is beginning to take shape. These Jews are looking to move forward with their lives to the best of their ability, in spite of the government betraying and then abandoning them.
This is where a large percentage of the refugees currently can be found, and where more seem to be arriving everyday.
On the other hand, the Jews I spoke with here feel let down. Not just over being expelled from their homes, but from being abandoned by the government. Most people here are out of work, and they do not see that changing any time soon, and they believe that the government could care less, and is totally corrupted.
At Ir Emunah, one sees a different story. The refugees here are living in much more difficult conditions. Those that are lucky have small trailers to live in, and others are living in make shift tents and shacks. Ir Emunah is located within a giant (open) greenhouse type structure. Within this complex are communal bathrooms, showers and laundry machines. One can see piles upon piles of their belongings scattered throughout the complex, as they just have nowhere to put anything.
The Jews here, primarily from Atzmona, want to stay together as a community, and represent the ideological hardcore of the Gush Katif refugees. There is a lot of anger towards the government and the State. What the long term holds for these Jews is a mystery.
Yated, a stone throw away from the Egyptian border, as well as Gaza, is made up of a small group (26 families) of refugees from Atzmona who decided that Ir Emunah wasn't for them, and that they wanted to begin settling the Negev. Yated is to be a community based on agriculture, and they have hopes of establishing a pre-army academy, as well as an institution of higher Jewish learning for women. At Yated, one gets the sense that you are literally in the middle of nowhere. Lots of open land all around, and not many Jewish comunities in the immediate vicinity - which is why, I believe that these Jews are here. There's lots of open land for farming, and lots of open land that needs ot be filled with Jews.
We were told that these Jews from Atzmona who are now in Yated are the 1st Jews in quite some time to start a new agricultural community in the Negev. These are Jews who still have that pioneering spirit in them, and a love for the Land and People of Israel, an while they may be discouraged by what happened, they are moving forward.
As an aside, one of the refugees from Yated (orginally Atzmona) was telling us that he doesn't understand how there could be religious Zionists in America. He said, "If they're Zionists, they would be in Israel, and if they were religious they would be in Israel".
Different Jews. Different Places. Different Challenges. One Nation.
I think all of these Jews are looking to find a place they can call home once again, and to rebuild their lives. I don’t know if they will ever be able to trust the government and the State after what has happened to them. I hope that they will all be able to find what they are looking for, and that they will all be sealed for a year full of blessings from on High - they certainly could use some divine intervention, and are more than deserving of it.