Maya Levi
Maya Levi Thursday 16.7.15 No comments 2336 views

10 Years Later...

It turns out that being in a women’s running group has another advantage, aside from the obvious health benefits. I’m talking about the social aspect. The truth is that the best part of running is the conversation, the support group that is formed, especially when you’re the only one who manages to keep talking even while running up the hills between Talmon and Nerya, and everyone has to listen to you. The conclusions and rest of the conversation will follow when we get to level ground again.

This week, we panted along while discussing a very relevant topic: 10 years since the expulsion from Gush Katif. The topic was raised and I found myself pouring out my story to the runners – what I experienced and what I feel today. Meira, running nearest to me, urged me to write it down.

My story began 38 years ago when my parents, young siblings and I – I was a young girl who had just finished first grade – moved to a huge beach. It didn’t even have a name in Hebrew, just in Arabic. All that was there was sand and more sand. With two other families with children and a few single guys, my parents established the first community in the Gush – Nezer Hazani. My social group was composed of two girls who were about my age and a few younger siblings.

A barefoot childhood, because sandals get lost in the sand and it’s a pity buying new ones again and again; a childhood driving a tractor from the age of 12; a childhood in which my first home was the tomato hothouses, because that was where Mom practically lived, my second home – the beach, my third home – the horse stables, and only my fourth home was the house where we slept.

It went like this: I was in the first graduating class of the elementary school (10 children, two classes combined), first graduating class of the junior high school (a junior high school was built in the Gush when they discovered that my friend and I came right back every morning with the shuttle driver who was supposed to be dropping us off in Netivot), first graduating class of the Neve Dekalim girls’ high school (8 girls in the class, and my father was the teacher for half of the subjects). So it’s pretty understandable that when I left to do my National Service and when I got married, I searched for something new, a different landscape.

I moved to establish the community of Talmon.

But always, ALWAYS, my real home was in Nezer Hazani, and every Shabbat and every summer, it was obvious that we’d be there, despite the distance, even during the difficult periods of frequent terror attacks.

During the period before the expulsion, I moved with my family back into my childhood home for a few months. I organized the summer camps for the school and kindergarten children of the many guests who had arrived, and we were active against the expulsion plan.

I found myself supporting and encouraging everyone during that entire period, even my brave mother. After all, they were about to be thrown out of their home, headed toward the unknown.

It was only when I ascended the steps of the bus that drove us out of the Gush that I understood that I couldn’t go back anymore to my home, my roots, my childhood. I felt like I was being disconnected from my umbilical cord, and then it all exploded in tears and screams which went on until we reached the Western Wall.

 From the Western Wall, the members of the community and my family continued to the tent in Tel Aviv, and from there to a guest house in Hispin, and I collapsed at home. After all, I had to go back to work after being absent for so long, and to try to restore my family’s routine. Simultaneously, my extended family was experiencing a severe crisis, with no home and no belongings. I had to be the strong one, to travel to visit them in the Golan Heights, to organize my brother’s wedding which took place a month after the expulsion, to host the Shabbat Chattan (weekend after the wedding) and make sure everything was celebratory because everyone was so depressed – to keep everyone’s heads above water.

Thank God, they all moved to caravillas (prefabricated homes), opened the mobile storage containers with the belongings from their homes which had been very quickly packed into boxes by the soldiers and representatives from each family (it turns out that when men pack, half of the things are left in the demolished house). I’m given all of the wedding albums and childhood mementos from my brother and myself, for safekeeping – since there’s no room in a caravilla for extra things.

Everyone begins the long rehabilitation process, which includes communal therapy, personal psychological therapy, documenting testimonies for the Gush Katif Museum. Where am I in all of this? I can’t stomach seeing photos from the destruction, videos that were produced, photos from my childhood home. But I’m not part of the Nezer Hazani community, I don’t need therapy, I’m strong and supportive.

I feel uncomfortable telling friends in my own community about my extended family’s problems. How much can you complain, how much can people hear about the poor expelled families, how many school projects can my children do on the topic? They’ve already moved on, exhausted the subject.

The families from the Nezer Hazani community finally move to permanent homes. I accompany and help my parents and siblings with the move, happy about every family that finally enters a new permanent home. Accompanying my mother in constructing the new synagogue.

Celebrating with them the Chanukat Bayit (housewarming).

Here, something inside of me starts to slightly crack. Mixed feelings. It’s not my community anymore; I’m a guest there with my family and community friends. I love to be with them, but it’s not my childhood home.

As the time goes by, the yearning gets worse. As we get older, we find ourselves searching for our roots and connecting to our past. I don’t have any of that. Mine was demolished, erased. The memories come back and flood me, and the longing gets so strong that I feel like I am suffocating time and time again.

My father took his grandchildren on a “roots” trip to the United States. I can’t do that.

There are new Facebook groups of people who grew up in the Gush and in Nezer Hazani – to tell stories, reminisce…I am a member of all of them, but I feel like I belong and don’t belong. I can’t seem to identify. Perhaps I’ve fallen between the cracks?

I wonder how many others like me have fallen between the ruins.


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