Israel launches first official community for ex-Gazans

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Israel launched its first government-sponsored community for former Gaza Strip settlers five years after their evacuation.

Five families moved Monday into Naveh, one of six communities planned for a regional community to be named Halutza several miles from the borders with Gaza and Egypt. Silvan Shalom, the minister for regional development, laid a cornerstone.

The Jewish National Fund is a partner in the development and is emphasizing "green" living, with recycled water and solar energy.

"Five years ago, Israel implemented the painful decision to uproot Israeli citizens from the Gaza Strip," said JNF-USA Executive Director Alon Badihi. "Instead of dwelling in the past, Jewish National Fund is looking forward to the next five years and beyond with Halutza as a prime example of meaningful Negev development."

Initially the community will accommodate 200 families; plans are to expand to 1,800 families.

Most of the 8,500 settlers evacuated in 2005 have resisted new accommodations, saying they are not commensurate with their Gaza lifestyles. Many still live in temporary dwellings.

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