By Shmuel Katz
Imagine that you have been evicted from your home. You have also lost your job, as has your wife. You and your children are living in a public housing project, in a space a fraction the size of your former home. Your belongings, mostly in boxes, are either stacked all over your home or are in storage. At least the shelter is rent-free, because of your status.
You’ve gotten financial assistance from the government, money that was earmarked for buying or building a new house for your family. However, because of the many delays involved, the house has not been built. Without a job and income, you have been forced to use the rebuilding funds to cover your living costs. You are broke and unemployed and barely managing to keep your family intact.
You check your mail one day and find an envelope that you don’t recognize. It seems to be a bill, but not one you have ever gotten before. You open it and find that it is indeed a new bill, from the owners of the public housing project in which you have been forced to live. Your housing allowance benefits have expired, and now, with no assets, no income, and no prospects, you need to either pay up or leave.
Now imagine that these circumstances were totally not your fault. The decisions that forced you from your home were based upon politics. Not the economy. Not the closing of your business because it failed. Your business was shut and you were forced to leave your home because “they” decided that you were in the way of their current plans. Plans which failed.
The people of Gush Katif are living these circumstances today. Former residents of Gush Katif living in “caravilla” (read “trailer park”) housing are now being told that the government will no longer fund their rent and they have to either make arrangements to pay or leave.
The story is not the same all around. There were those families who were able to either keep their jobs or find new ones quickly. Many of those were awarded building plots and permits to rebuild their communities as a group, and there are hundreds of families (16% of Gush Katif families) that successfully relocated to new homes, new cities, and new lives. The stories of perseverance and success are inspirational.
A minority of others simply moved to new circumstances, away from their former friends and neighbors. They too are living their new lives and have either moved on or are in the process. Yet the majority of them have not been so lucky.
Of the around 9,000 people who lived in Gush Katif, 85% worked in Gush Katif (70% of them in agriculture). Only 28% of those who worked in agriculture have returned to their field (pun not intended). There are over 1,000 people who remain unemployed today, seven years later. Another 500–600 are underemployed, unable to find sufficient income to adequately cover their families’ needs.
It is seven years later. They were forced from their homes and their livelihoods and many of them are still living in trailer parks. Some of those who were able to make ends meet have rebuilt homes with their government rebuilding funds and are in them. Some are in the middle of building. Others have the money saved, waiting to get the authorization to build.
Yet there are many who had no income and no assets and used their rebuilding funds to cover their basic expenses. These people have no hope to rebuild; they only hope to find some way out of their situation.
And no matter what their personal situation, whether they have money set aside for building or have spent those funds, anyone living in the trailer parks has been told that the government housing allowances, set to last for seven years, have come to an end. After all, who would have thought that these people would still be in such a situation seven years later?
Yet the bill has now come due. “Pay your rent,” they are being told—but many of them simply cannot. They have no jobs, and as the days grind on, less and less hope.
“What can we do?” you ask. We have given (or perhaps not) to support the Gush Katif people and we have given again (or perhaps not). We need to fund their exit strategy, not just their basic needs. Show us how to help them get out of their situation and find hope for them and we will be right there.
Well, there is an organization that can and does help improve the future for many. Jobkatif was founded by HaRav Yosef Zvi Rimon to help the Gush Katif expellees find jobs and thus the income that will help them reestablish their lives. Jobkatif was recognized by the Prime Minister of Israel’s office as being the only entity successfully placing the displaced job-seekers back into the Israeli workforce.
They have had many successes, yet there are more than 1,000 people still looking for employment, still looking to find their way. Jobkatif needs funds in order to make that happen. The costs of the Jobkatif program are understandably high. They immerse themselves in the process, providing much more than simple employment counseling. And they have some good news to share with you, a way for you to quadruple your mitzvah.
The Netanyahu government (which inherited this issue) has decided to fund a solution rather than simply treat the symptoms. In a bid to encourage support for Jobkatif, from now through 2013, the government will match all private donations at a ratio of 3-to-1. $18 becomes $72 and $1,800 becomes $7,200. No matter how large or small the donation, the effect is quadrupled, which is simply amazing.
There is an expiration to this benefit. Once the program ends, the extra funding ends as well. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, Jobkatif has launched a special Aseret Yemei Teshuvah campaign. They need us to step up, hopefully for the last time, and help them realize the potential of the massive funding being dangled in front of them. This funding will afford them a critical push toward getting those last 1,000 people, the most difficult of the cases, back on track. They need you to help them maximize the government’s pledge and matching funds.
Together with Jobkatif, you can show these amazing people that there are still people who care about them and helping them achieve some measure of “returning to normal.” As we prepare to enter Yom Kippur, let’s together make a part of the tzedakah portion of “uteshuvah, utefillah, utzedakah” quadruple beneficial to these needy people.
You can donate to Jobkatif online at www.jobkatif.org.il or by sending a donation (make the check payable to “Central Fund for Israel” and write “Jobkatif” in the memo portion of the check) to CFI c/o Jobkatif, 71-41 171st St., Flushing, NY 11365.