Here in Israel, our hearts go out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The sudden and unexpected loss of life, the damage to homes and property, the temporary loss of electricity and heat, and the overall hardship, physical, emotional as well as financial is internalized by a people who know all too well about loss and hardship.

We can feel your anguish, your pain and your suffering. We’ve more than tasted it here in our own land, albeit, not by natural causes, but by the consequences of war. It is not without reason that our planes are always at the ready to bring much needed supplies and relief to people and countries throughout the world that fall victim to natural disasters.

Our prayers go out to you for a smooth and quick recovery, that you may once again enjoy the warmth of your homes and the security of well being. None understands loss more than those who have endured it.

And, while efforts are underway to alleviate your plight, we know there are still many among you without heat two weeks after the storm. Yet, as bleak as it may be for victims of Hurricane Sandy, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The water has dissipated; the lights will go on in your homes, heat will envelop you with warmth once more, and the routine of life will return.

With the affects of Hurricane Sandy still fresh, perhaps it may be possible to understand the complete devastation endured by a segment of Israel’s society. A segment of society, for which, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no hope of recovering their homes, much less the light from a fixture or the heat from a hearth.

A government they trusted bulldozed the homes of the Israeli residents throughout 22 communities of Gush Katif. Their dead were dug up and interned elsewhere, their possessions unceremoniously packed into crates, jobs obliterated, families destroyed, with no hope, no one to turn to, no planes bringing relief, no light at the end of the tunnel, no possibility of ever returning to the homes they built with the sweat of their brow.

Seven years later, the plight of the refugees from Gush Katif remains precarious. After seven years − not two weeks – barely one third of Gush Katif refugees have permanent homes. Unemployment is at 14%. Fifty out of the four hundred individuals who owned farms in Gush Katif still wait for the government to allocate them land in exchange for the land they were forced to abandon. In light of the government’s failure to deal appropriately with the former Gush Katif residents, legislation was passed to alleviate the situation. However, many problems still exist and the majority of Gush Katif refugees are barely scraping by.

In my work with One Israel Fund, www.oneisraelfund.org,
I have an opportunity to visit former Gush Katif residents in their new communities – some permanent, most not. We have a bus ready to go south to visit those living on Israel’s southern border, now under a barrage of rockets launched from their old but not forgotten neighborhoods.

Where once the communities of Gush Katif valiantly carried the brunt of terrorist rockets and protected Israel’s southern communities, now the entire south is under a blanket of flames. After forced to abandon their homes and farms to make way for “peace,” the former residents of Gush Katif join over one million Israelis residing in southern Israel – from the frying pan into the fire.

The world is now witness, for whatever it’s worth, to the consequences of this monumental sacrifice for “peace” as it only served to provide the strategic depth into Israel that the Gazan Arabs sought for their rocket launching pads.

Bad enough to be booted from your home. Worse that it was all for naught and further demoralizing with the knowledge that your old front lawn is now an enemy launching pad.

The difficulties presently endured by the former Gush Katif residents are not the results of an “act of God,” rather; they are the results of human decision, sometimes more formidable to overcome.

Seven years and still waiting for the storm to dissipate.

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