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Jewish Settlers Make Plans for Gaza Withdrawal


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Two weeks before Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is scheduled to begin, some families have begun moving. They're going from their homes in Gaza to temporary homes within Israel. Over the weekend, the Israeli government formally opened a new trailer park designed to house 350 families. Other settler families will move into empty apartments or hotels. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

(Soundbite of a lawn mower)


At the new trailer park in southern Israel, work is going on around the clock. Sidewalks are being paved and narrow strips of AstroTurf are being laid down in front of each house. Eti and Yossi Ben-Dahan are the first family to get the keys to their prefab home. Eti walks inside and looks around the small kitchen, living room and four little bedrooms. Even without furniture, the rooms look cramped. The prefab houses with red roofs are 90 square yards, half the size of their old home in the settlement of Nisanit in northern Gaza. It'll be a tight fit for the Dahans and their six children. Eti says they decided to begin moving their possessions now to spare their children the experience of being thrown out of their house. But she says they won't actually leave Nisanit until just before the arrival of the Israeli troops.

Mrs. ETI BEN-DAHAN: It's hard. Nobody can feel what we feel. That's what decided--we bring all the house here, but we stay there till the last day with all our friends.

GRADSTEIN: She says that's what she'll misss most about Nisanit, the tight-knit community she's been part of for the last 12 years. But she says she hopes there will not be violence during the Gaza pullback.

Mrs. BEN-DAHAN: From the beginning, my husband and me said we're not going to do any problem to the soldiers or the army. They're like my sons. I always took care of them when they came.

GRADSTEIN: Ben-Dahan says that as hard as it is to leave, life in Gaza has become almost unbearable. A year ago, her 10-year-old son was slightly wounded by a Qassam rocket on his way to the synagogue. Since then, she says, he's been traumatized, jumping every time a door slams and frequently wetting his bed. Eti says as hard as it is to leave, she wants her children to be safe.

Eti and her neighbors in Nisanit are different than most of the other settlers who live in Gaza. Nisanit is right on the border with Israel, and Israelis who moved there came for a better quality of life. Now that the government's decided they have to leave, most of the 300 families in Nisanit are going quietly, if sadly.

In Nisanit, Pinina(ph) and Yaco Rochenburg's(ph) spacious house is filled with more than 200 boxes and they're not close to being done packing. Pinina and her husband are both police officers in their mid-40s. She says they had hoped never to leave Nisanit.

Mrs. PININA ROCHENBURG: (Foreign language spoken)

GRADSTEIN: `It's like starting completely over,' she says. `Instead of looking forward to new things, we're going backward and having to start from zero.'

Yaco says the government compensation isn't enough to duplicate their standard of living in Nisanit. He says they'll get about $300,000 total, including moving expenses, and a new house alone will cost at least that. And he says even with the Qassam rockets of the past five years, they'd much rather stay in Nisanit. Linda Gradstein, NPR News.

INSKEEP: You can explore the issues involved in the withdrawal from Gaza by going to our Web site, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Gradstein
Linda Gradstein has been the Israel correspondent for NPR since 1990. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Gulf War. Linda spent 1998-9 as a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University.