Former Gaza Settlers Face Uncertain Future

Many of Gaza's former Jewish settlers are living in hotels around Israel, uncertain of their future. Those who refused to leave Gaza voluntarily face the prospect of much less help from the government.

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Many of the families who left Gaza by the deadline moved into temporary housing, but hundreds of other families who'd made no plans to leave have been sent to hotels. In 10 days, they'll have to move out and they say they have no idea where to go, as NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

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LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

The lobby of the Shalom Hotel in the orthodox neighborhood of Biet Vegan in Jerusalem is jammed. Dozens of families with children mill around. In the corner, a table is loaded with homemade cakes. On the bulletin board are signs announcing movie showings, free baby-sitting, arts and crafts time and even an emergency dental clinic. At first glance, it looks like these families are on vacation. But they were brought here from Neve Dekalim, the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza, after they were forced to leave their homes last week. Yehudit and Yisrael Golan, both in their mid-20s, have come here with their two young children. Last Wednesday morning, Israeli soldiers came to their door.

Ms. YEHUDIT GOLAN (Neve Dekalim): We didn't believe that it will happen, so we set with breakfast. Then they knocked on the door.

GRADSTEIN: She says they asked for time to pack their things and the soldiers obliged. Then they went to pray in the local synagogue with their neighbors. After the third time the troops came to the door, they allowed the soldiers to drag them out crying and screaming. They were put on buses and arrived in the hotel Wednesday night. She says teen-age volunteers from Jerusalem have been great, running a children's camp and giving them diapers and clothes. The Israeli government is paying the hotel bill for 10 days and after that she says she has no idea where she'll go.

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GRADSTEIN: And how long will you stay here?

Ms. GOLAN: Until there will be an agreement about where we are going to live. We will not move until then. And maybe they will have to come to here to take us out.

GRADSTEIN: Another mother, Rena Ackerman(ph), stands nearby. She has come here with 11 children. Her husband, a psychologist, is still in Gaza trying to help the last settlers there. Her voice breaks as she talks about her 10-year old son.

Mrs. RENA ACKERMAN (Neve Dekalim): (Through Translator) I have a 10-year-old child that's crying from--day and night. I ask him whether he wants to be in the lobby with all his friends or in his room. He said `I want to go home.' And in a few weeks--in two weeks, school starts. I can't think of a future because there is no future right now.

GRADSTEIN: Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, says he understands the families' pain, but he says the Israeli government started working on different housing options for the Gaza settlers months ago.

Mr. MARK REGEV (Spokesman, Israeli Government): For political reasons, many of them refused to acknowledge that they would be moving, and only with their actual removal from Gaza have they started to think about what the next step will be.

GRADSTEIN: Regev also says the Gaza evacuation happened much faster than the government had expected and there were some mistakes. In one case, 60 families from one settlement arrived at a hotel in the Golan Heights on Friday. On Sunday, the management told them they would have to leave as vacationing families had already reserved the rooms. They said they will set up a tent city in Tel Aviv if they cannot find a place to stay together. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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