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The Sun is Setting

The Sun is Setting

The Expulsion From Gush Katif


This week marks two years since the Israeli government disengaged from the Gaza Strip, expelling 8,000 Jews from their homes. After spending months in hotels, most Gush Katif refugees now temporarily reside in Caravilla sites set up by the government. The unemployment is high, and the Gush Katif refugees have yet to see progress being made on their future communities. This article was written shortly after Disengagement, and still remains relevant. Unfortunately, little has changed.

Sunset, and I let out the sigh I have been holding in all day. Sunset. Dull streaks of red, orange and yellow stream across the western horizon. Quick moving lights flicker as cars dash hither and thither on the busy road below. A young child whoops gleefully as his bicycle rides over a balloon, bursting it with a loud boom!

I see the dull streams of faded color, yet I do not see the glowing sun. I feel the tired, gentle breeze, yet I do not feel the mind-clearing, hair-blowing rush of fresh cool air. And I do not see the sea.

Once again I uselessly ask myself: what am I doing here? And, even if given all the grains of sand and all the hour glasses in the world, one will always reach the same painful and bewildering answer: the government of Israel banished me from my home, destroyed it and gave the land to the worst of my foes.

I uselessly ask myself: what am I doing here?Alas! Alas for my beautiful Gush Katif that I knew and loved. At this hour I should be standing in my garden; my ankles deep in the lush dark-green grass, the sun a crimson orb sinking in the blue Mediterranean sea, the sky splashed with deep purples and bright reds and vivid pinks, my left hand resting on the rough bark of the sturdy tree beside me while it's many leaves dance merrily over my head under the summer sky, children cheerfully calling to each other as they play… a peaceful tranquility as the sun sinks, the stars shine and a plover trills sharply.

And where I am now, a thick layer of dust covers the closely set, identical, small pre-fab houses and the sinking sun is hidden by a ridge of dirt. The lights of the nearby cities to the south and to the north are cold and numerous; they need to take the place of the stars.

Sunset. A time to reflect upon the day. To reflect upon the hours of National Service I served at a nearby elementary school and at a local "club" for children. Instead, unbidden, pictures rise before me of Neve Dekalim as a sea of hundreds of smashed houses in the midst of golden sand dunes; of Arabs capering with glee and brandishing guns and grenades as they burn, demolish and defile the many synagogues that the Israeli government decided not to have the Israeli Defense Forces destroy; of the rabbi at the nearby elementary school tearing his shirt in mourning; and of the small plastic bottleful of golden grains of sand from Neve Dekalim's sand dunes that my brother and I collected an hour before our exile. That precious bottle of sand, pictures and mortar pieces are the only tangible things I have from the Gush. But memories – so vivid that they are almost tangible – engulf me and threaten to choke me as they are so sweet and yet so painful. So soothing and yet so frightening. So personal and yet… so national.

Sunset. A time for reflecting as the day is drawing to its end. And what does the future hold? How long will my family be in the Nitzan Caravilla site between Ashkelon and Ashdod? How soon till we find a permanent home where we cam once again merge ideology and purpose with our day-to-day life? How soon until the dust rises?

Shifra Shomron is an American-born writer who grew up and lived in Neve Dekalim untill the highly disputed, tension-filled Israeli Disengagement from Gaza in 2005. She is the author of Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim, (2007, Mazo Publishers).
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Nathalie Jerusalem, Israel July 8, 2008

To abdlwhed ali, baghdad, iraq I am pleasantly suprised to see you posted a comment to the Chabad site but please allow me to set you straight. Israel DOES NOT occupy 'Palestinian territory' simply because Israel is the land of the Jews. The Jews are present in the land for the past 3,300 years. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank and the once beautiful Gush Katif. It is incomprehensible the Disengagement actually happened, the only comfort I have is that I know that G-d is in control and I am relying on Him. Reply

abdlwhed ali baghdad, iraq August 27, 2007

with my respect this is true story which appeair the relationship with land but I think same feeling when israel occupied many palesitnian and all humman have the same. surelly I effected by this story because thousand of stories like this happened in my country . suerlly I feeling sad about what happen to thats family Reply

Leah July 30, 2007

beautiful article Shifra, this is a beautiful article; we all hope that soon you and the other former residents of Gush Katif will be able to see a new sunrise over a new home that will be permanent, and as beautiful as the one you left.

(and to the readers of this column - I highly recommend reading Shifra's book, all about the story of Gush Katif.) Reply

Anonymous Laguna Woods, CA USA July 29, 2007

THE SUN IS SETTING This beautifully written and expressive response to the living conditions and emotional upheaval imposed on a dedicated part of its citizenry should awaken all Israeli Jews to the harm that has been done to Israel by its government. What can be done to help these people? Will additional people be made into "wandering Jews"? Reply

Tammi Forman cape town, RSA via July 28, 2007

Shifra, your writing allows a glimpse into your ordeal, thank you for sharing your continuing experience. May G-d give you all strength. Reply

Michal Morgenstern July 27, 2007

Shifra, What a touching and true article. You really manage to bring us so close to your feeling. Really, I think about it alot.


Anita Tucker July 26, 2007

A bright sunrise So grateful your short article was posted again . You expressed so beautifully exactly what so many of us who were expelled from Gush Katif feel. We usually share these feelings only with G-d in our prayers. It is important ,though , that others understand these feelings as well. It must never be allowed to ever happen to anyone else. G-d willing the sun will rise one morning brighter than ever. Reply

Chaya Eliefja Coral Springs, FL July 23, 2007

The Sun Is Setting Shifra Shomron vividly describes the Gush situation in a way that is so very personal. Thank you for sharing your continued plight. Have strenth for the continued fight. Reply

ruthi stein July 23, 2007

what a beautiful article, and very touching. thank you for baring your soul a little. we had just made aliyah when the hitnadkut (expulsion)took place, and it was quite heartbreaking, and disillusioning. kol hakovod to you and your family for making thru something so disastrously difficult.... Reply