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Photo: AP
Arial view: Ganim
Photo: AP
Residents start exodus
Residents of West Bank settlement of Ganim pre-empting troops, leaving on their own

GANIM, West Bank - Houses and streets are deserted. Boxes stuffed with old magazines, toys and towels — remnants of an old life — are piled on a porch. Residents in this tiny West Bank settlement marked for demolition are leaving one by one, without waiting for troops to remove them by force.

 

 

 

At least eight families have packed up, only a trickle, but one that heralds the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza and the northern West Bank in August.

 

Ganim, one of the West Bank settlements to be evacuated, sits next to the Palestinian town of Jenin, a hotbed of violent militants.

 

While most of the 9,000 settlers slated for evacuation have vowed to oppose the pullout, the residents of Ganim have mostly decided to leave quietly. Cardboard boxes and garbage bags filled with old magazines, books, towels and children's toys sit on a porch. Garden furniture lies discarded in a large green garbage can.

 

Unlike many settlers who claim an ideological attachment to the biblical land of Israel, many of the residents now leaving came to these settlements to get away form the city and live in a small pastoral community with their own homes and land.

 

"By the end of the month I will no longer be here," said Gershon Bloomberg, a Ganim resident for 12 years. "Three-quarters of my belongings are already packed up."

 

Five since Thursday, more expected

 

Five families have moved out of Ganim since Thursday, and five more are expected to leave in the coming days, said Rami Mansour, the secretary of the community. Many of the families waited for the beginning of the summer school vacation, which started this week.

 

Some of the 30 families who once lived in Ganim fled over the last four years, driven away by the violence when the settlement and the single road that connects it to Israel were frequently attacked. Now those who kept the community alive are leaving, and the place is starting to look like a ghost town.

 

Streets are empty, the silence broken only by an occasional army patrol. Weeds cover once neatly terraced gardens of the hillside community. An old exercise bicycle rusts under a tree near the shell of a car, cannibalized for parts.

 

Sadness despite attacks

 

Despite enduring more than four years of fear and frequent attacks, the departing residents are sad and disappointed.

 

"It's a horrible feeling. We are leaving a place that was our shelter, a place of friends with a real culture of community," Bloomberg said.

 

Last Thursday, the residents had a farewell party. They around in the community center, drinking beer and reminiscing while children sang songs and danced. "We have spent our whole lives here," said one young girl.

 

Compensation not enough 

 

The residents complain about the government that sent them there and now is making them leave.

 

"The compensation we are receiving is not enough to replace what we are leaving behind," said Anita Kobi, who has booked movers to take her to a new home in the nearby Israeli town of Afula.

 

Nowhere to go

 

But not all the residents of Ganim plan to leave voluntarily. Mansour, the settlement secretary, estimated that seven families would remain until the end.

 

"I have nowhere to go," said Yefem Weintraub, 55, who has lived here since 1998.

 

His daughter was killed in a shooting attack on the road to Ganim in 2001.

 

"I can't imagine never being able to come to this place where my daughter lived and died," he said pointing to her house.

 

"This violence did not just kill my daughter, it killed a whole community."

 

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