This week marks the four year anniversary of the Gush Katif disengagement in which 1700 families, 9000 people, were uprooted from their homes. Some of these families had spent 30 years building their homes, farms and businesses and were forced to leave them to the awaiting bulldozers. They were shepherded into hotels where there innumerable needs had been unforeseen.
The communities of Israel sped to their aid, sending food, laundering services and social workers. Rabbis were sent to the front to assess the needs of the evacuated families and try to bring some order to the chaotic hotel lobbies. They were meant to provide leadership and guidance, spiritually, emotionally and practically.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, rabbi of Alon Shvut South, went and immediately set to work, answering questions in Jewish law and advising people in their individual circumstances. He brought the volunteers of his community to jump in and see what needed to be done. But his eyes and heart were looking deeper than the immediate crisis.
"What will these people do when their savings are wiped out?"
He saw men who had lived productive lives, now dormant in hotel lobbies. Entrepreneur women who had supported their families, now bereft of their prosperous business. There were children who were going to need food and clothing way beyond this stage of emergency. He asked himself and those around him, "What will these people do when their savings are wiped out?"
Rabbi Rimon began his work by sending men out to trade courses. Yehuda Gross had previously owned a framing shop in Neve Dekalim. Rabbi Rimon sent Yehuda to a training course for locksmiths. Eventually, with the help of Rabbi Rimon, he was able to re-open his shop in Nitzan, a caravan park for Gush Katif evacuees. There he has combined his framing and locksmith profession and provides both services from under one roof.
Rabbi Rimon believed that with proper support, every one of the evacuees could become once again a financially self-sufficient, contributing member of Israeli society. And so JobKatif was born.
Margalit is a widow with two teenaged children. Following the disengagement she was bedridden with severe depression. JobKatif sent an employment counselor to work with her at home. After three months of counseling she found a job at a supermarket as a cashier. Margalit thrived in her position, winning the employee of the month award several times. After a year, she realized she wanted a job upgrade and enrolled in a course to help her define direction. She continues to support her family through her job at the supermarket while she moves towards the next stage of her career.
JobKatif is the only body that has been making re-employment of evacuees its goal. This non-profit organization has been monitoring the employment status of the evacuees and works to see to it that the victims are given an opportunity to once again stand on their own two feet financially. The families are assigned a one-on-one counselor to work them through the process of starting over. The first and biggest obstacle is usually the crushed spirit with which these people are found. JobKatif starts their work with each family and sensitively helps them overcome their fears, helping them look towards a future. They help them make the decision of what direction to start in. Some evacuees need to start from scratch, deciding on a new profession and acquiring the proper training. Others will be able to find employment, but need the help of the counselor to seek the right position. Some want to open businesses and need professional business advising. The advisors work with them day in and day out, from the planning stages until the business is open and secure, with the owner standing on his own two feet.
JobKatif found jobs for more than 1500 citizens and has helped open 160 businesses across Israel.
Of the 1700 families, 85% worked inside Gush Katif, of which 70% were self employed either in agriculture or other private businesses. JobKatif found jobs for more than 1500 citizens and has helped open 160 businesses across Israel. Today, 21% of the evacuees are still unemployed and still have no way of providing for their families what they once had -- financial stability.
Moshe and Miri have five children. Miri is a teacher. Moshe began a home improvement business after the disengagement but the delay in building homes has stunted businesses growth. Employment counselors helped Miri find her job. A business counselor has been working with Moshe since he first had his idea for a business. JobKatif has assisted the couple in securing a business loan and a grant for start up and referred Moshe to a marketing course which helped him network with others. Business is slowly building through word of mouth. Moshe works part time to up the family's income while his business grows.
Moshe and Miri are on the track to success. The couple feels that they are working together and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Visit www.jobkatif.org.il to learn more about JobKatif.
To find out what you can do in your neighborhood to help JobKatif find employment for former Gush Katif residents, please contact: Beth Shapiro at (631) 791-5556 or 054-330-5941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org