While many in Israel proudly refer to Ariel Sharon as the ‘bulldozer’, other Israelis remember him far less fondly.
Nitzan, about 15 kilometres north of Gaza, is now home to some of the 9,000 Jewish settlers who were kicked out of the Palestinian enclave in 2005.
Many residents still feel bitterly betrayed by Sharon after he controversially ordered the army to remove them from their homes.
“During the years the Gush Katif settlement was built up, we were made to feel that what we were doing was important, both for the country and ourselves. And then in 2003 when Sharon unveiled his plan to pull out of Gaza, we felt betrayed. It was like a huge slap in the face,’‘ said former Gaza settler Laurence Beziz.
In all, 500 Jewish families moved from Gaza to Nitzen. Many are still awaiting full compensation from the Israeli government. Despite that, some believe Sharon would have helped if it had not been for his stroke.
‘‘I’m very upset about Ariel Sharon’s death. When I heard the news I could not stop crying. This man was a ‘bulldozer’ but he was also sensitive to our cause and would have helped us if he’d had more time. If he’d not had his stroke, I’m convinced he would have taken care of us. Even though he threw us out of Gaza by force, he would have helped us. I really believe Sharon was a hero. Although at the time I was really angry when he expelled us from Gaza, I think that if he had not had the stroke, he would have never left us here like this,’‘ former Gaza settler Malka Mordejai said.
Reporting from Nitzan in Israel, our correspondent Luis Carballo said: ‘‘Ariel Sharon’s order to expel Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005 left an indelible scar here. Eight and a half years after these people were thrown out of their homes, they still remain in limbo.’‘