Gush Katif is the collective name for the 21 Jewish communities located in the Gaza Strip. The first community to be settled was Kfar Darom in the 1960’s and following that, twenty more settlements were established
Approximately 9,000 people lived in Gush Katif. Of those, 85% worked in Gush Katif itself.
Gush Katif was an agricultural success story, with some 400 farmers responsible for 10% of Israel’s exports, and 15% of Israel’s bug-free exports. Many families also owned small businesses, providing for the bulk of the day-to-day needs of the region’s residents. Fully 85% of the people living in Gush Katif, also worked in Gush Katif. It was a self-contained community. The unemployment rate in Gush Katif did not top 3%.
Most people associate the disengagement with destroyed homes and communities, and don’t realize that the overwhelming bulk of the residents earned their living in Gush Katif. So that the day after the disengagement the unemployment rate spiked at 85%. Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, Founder and Chairman of JobKatif, realized how crucial it was to get these people back to work as soon as possible, not just for financial, but also emotional reasons. JobKatif is the only organization helping this population find employment, thereby enabling them to return to economic self-sufficiency and financial independence.
While the former residents of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron have settled throughout the country there are two concentrated areas where they live. One: in the Ashkelon area which includes Yad Binyamin, Ein Tzurim, Nitzan, Amatzia, Yesodot, and more. Nitzan is the largest former Gush Katif community. Two: in the North: Avnei Eitan, Golan Heights and surrounding communities. There is also a significant contingent of families living in Ariel, Shomron.
JobKatif is the only organization exclusively devoted to helping Gush Katif evacuees re-integrate into the workforce. In launching JobKatif, Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, Founder and Chairman, was guided by Maimonides “Laws of Charity, 10:7, “The greatest level is to support a fellow Jew by… finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others.” JobKatif’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the Gush Katif evacuees — 97% of whom were hard-working self-supporting individuals — can attain the same degree of independence, self-reliance and ‘giving back to society’ that they once enjoyed. But, the path to independence is not an easy one. Unemployment was but one problem. Overarching, was the alienation and trauma that most Gush Katif families were feeling. Getting people back to work meant more than just ‘finding them jobs’. Oftentimes, before even speaking to the heads of the family about returning to work, an entire family needed counseling.

JobKatif’s programs evolved as the needs evolved. From the flagship program of employment placement, Jobkatif began to also introduce individual and family counseling, vocational retraining courses, employment subsidies, small business counseling, bridge-to-work volunteer programs, academic scholarships, community volunteerism.

Perhaps a brief review of how Gush Katif residents earned a living will help give us a more profound understanding of why it has taken so long for many of them to find employment. Employment fell under three categories:

(1) Agriculture. Gush Katif was home to 400 people who earned their living from farming. After the disengagement, only a handful were able to return to faming — it takes years to prepare lands to produce bug-free vegetables for which Gush Katif was famous. Compensation moneys did not cover the added costs involved in purchasing farm lands in areas approved by the government. When you’ve spent most of your adult life farming, and your farm has been taken away from you, what can you now do to earn a living?

(2) Small Business Owners. There were some 100 small business owners. When they were forced to leave their homes and stores, goods were stored in government-approved ‘containers.’ Unfortunately, most of the goods and possessions were destroyed.

(3) Municipal Employees. Many Gush Katif residents were employed in the schools, municipal councils, community centers, etc. With the disengagement, almost all lost their jobs.

JobKatif created multi-level services and programs to help the Gush Katif families re-integrate into the work force. In a few cases, JobKatif was able to help people make ‘lateral’ moves — e.g. if you were a bus driver in Gush Katif, JobKatif could help you become a bus driver in your new community. But what if you had been a farmer with no more lands to farm? Or a small business owner with no small business to continue? Or a director of a community center without proper certification? Or a teacher who had no desire to continue teaching? JobKatif staff had to think more creatively, trying to understand what the individuals would like to do, what they were capable of doing, what skills they possessed and what skills they needed to enrich. The process was long and complex.

• Our job placement specialist looks for jobs and matches appropriate candidates to these positions. Many of the jobs are ‘not advertised’ and come as a result of literally hundreds of connections, contacts and information gathered by the specialist. • JobKatif business counselors have helped some 200 people hone their business ideas, polish their skills and launch successful operations. A number of these individuals have returned to JobKatif for counseling in marketing, financing, management, administration. JobKatif has created a strong working partnership with the government’s small business administration and helps fund Gush Katif small business owners to enrich their skills so that their operations are economically sustainable and profitable. • When necessary, JobKatif will subsidize courses for people who want to gain a new skill or upgrade their skill set. We vet all the courses and individuals. • Our volunteer program offers a stipend in exchange for volunteering. This program is often the first step towards employment. * Jobkatif has partnered with Yedidut Toronto to provide academic scholarships to first generation Gush Katif students.
To date (as of December 2015) some 2,650 people have found employment.
Not really. The Government was unprepared for such a large group of now displaced people to be unemployed. In 2010, the Prime Minister’s office convened a State Commission of Inquiry and recognized JobKatif as the best organization to handle the employment issue. From 2010 through 2014, JobKatif served as the official arm of the Prime Minister’s Office dealing with employment for the Gush Katif families.
Yes, the Government has funded a number of our programs and for 2010-2014 offered a generous matching program, whereby funds raised by donors were matched on a three-fold basis by the Government. We still receive some funding for specific programs.
There are some 200 people left who still need our help. JobKatif will continue to help our friends from Gush Katif, but they will not be our exclusive focus.
We feel blessed, that over the years, we have gained extensive knowledge, skills and competencies in enabling peoples to find satisfying employment and support their families with pride and dignity. We have found that employment is more than a pay check, it is also a rehabilitation tool, helping individuals to rebuild their and their families lives.

We are committed to helping other population groups who find themselves on the margins of Israeli society because they are unemployed or under-employed. We believe this is the best way towards a truly ‘just society’ — and the best way to combat poverty.

Our Achotenu Project helps train Ethiopians to become nurses. New initiatives are currently under consideration.