Gaza evacuee wrestles with identity

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NITZAN, Israel (JTA) – Shifra Shomron is moving on with her life.

She lives with her parents and seven brothers and sisters in the Nitzan Caravilla Park and is studying at a local college to become a high school English teacher.

But many of her peers from Neve Dekalim, one of the Gush Katif communities evacuated with Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip two years ago, have not been able to move on, she says.

Like Shomron, many of the young women who graduated from high school shortly before the disengagement chose to perform their first year of national service in and around the caravilla park. They wanted to be near their families after the trauma of being forced from their homes.

Now, in the second year post-disengagement, many of the girls have retreated to the secure environment of midrashot, post-high school Torah academies for women.

And Shomron says young men who may have dreamed of serving in the best combat units instead have opted for full-time Torah study and evaded army service. Her brother, however, a recent high school graduate, still has plans to join a combat unit after attending a year of yeshiva.

Shomron and her peers have had to find themselves all over again.

“Questions of personal identity that you thought you resolved when you were 18 all come up again,” she says.

The living room of the Shomron caravilla is half filled with unpacked boxes carefully labeled in black marker. The small hallway leading to the bedrooms is likewise stacked with half-opened cartons that hold the family’s belongings.

Her parents are both unemployed and still have not decided where they will build their permanent home. Still, Shomron says, “I think my family is coping better than most.”

Shomron recently published a book in English about the experience, “Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim,” which follows a fictional family from the beginning of the second intafada to their expulsion from their home.

“I said to myself that the situation was so absurd, if I did not write it down, I would never remember it,” she says.

Shomron says the second year after the destruction of her community has been even harder than the first.

“This year you find yourself still in the caravillas, nothing has gotten better, you just don’t know,” she says. “You realize just what disengagement means.”

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