(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday (Wednesday, 20 July 2005), chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Disengagement Committee ahead of the implementation of the Disengagement Plan.

A Disengagement Authority team briefed ministers on the format for moving residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria to immediate housing sites and afterwards to temporary housing.

The government is preparing for residents of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria to be absorbed at several centers, where they will be met by professional teams that will include, inter alia, social workers, health and education system representatives, Disengagement Authority representatives, Amigur representatives, and employment center representatives.  The teams will see to the residents’ needs and assist every eligible family in finding housing and in locating its possessions.

In order to provide the residents with housing in the interim period until the move to their permanent housing, the state has rented approximately 1,000 rooms in hotels and guest houses.  The committee decided that these hotels will be available to residents as of the beginning of August in order to enable them to leave the areas designated for evacuation as early as possible and thus give themselves better conditions in which to get organized.

Construction and Housing Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav told ministers that his ministry is preparing a list of approximately 1,500 temporary housing solutions.  The ministry has signed 650 contracts for rental apartments around the country; the list of rental apartments is expected to reach approximately 850.  Dir.-Gen. Abuav said that as of today, the government is in contact with approximately 100 families who have expressed interest in renting apartments from the list, with the pace of residents’ requests for such solutions growing daily.

Plans for evacuating synagogues and cemeteries in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria were also presented.  Meir Spiegler, who is responsible for religious services, said that there are approximately 30 synagogues, eight religious schools and one religious council in the aforementioned areas.  Equipment in these institutions has been fully catalogued and will be put in storage.  A special team composed of representatives from the IDF Chaplaincy Corps and the security establishment will verify that holy objects are handled appropriately and will be stored safely.  Regarding moving graves from the Gaza Strip, OC Chaplaincy Corps Brig-Gen. Yisrael Weiss said that a team under his supervision will accompany the enter sensitive process from start to finish.  Weiss said that his people will be at the families’ constant service and will be able to provide such advice as may be necessary.  Prime Minister Sharon added that, “This is a delicate issue and I request that it be dealt with with due seriousness.”  Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen said that Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar have given him their unequivocal opinion that all graves must be evacuated to the State of Israel after the evacuation of the civilians.  Ministers were updated on an appeal which bereaved families have submitted to the High Court of Justice regarding the moving of graves from the Neveh Dekalim cemetery.