‘I’d make them drag me out by my hair'

Women reflect five years after the Gaza pullout.

disengagement 311 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
disengagement 311
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Five years since she walked out of her Gaza home screaming and crying, Shuli Yisraeli still hasn’t fully internalized that she will never see it again.
“I know that everything was destroyed,” she said on Thursday, as she sat in the small one-room community center in the town of modular homes that the government has set up for evacuees in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.
But in her mind’s eye, she sees her home as it was.
“I imagine that everything is waiting for me there, just as I left it,” she said.
She spoke with The Jerusalem Post as she and her next-door neighbor Tamar Maman waited for the start of a small ceremony held on Thursday night in Ein Tzurim to mark five years almost to the day, according to the Hebrew date, since they were pulled from their homes in Netzer Hazani, in Gush Katif.
The Western date was August 18, 2005.
Already on the 17th, the IDF began forcibly removing families from 21 Gaza settlements.
The Gaza withdrawal was followed by the removal of four settlements in northern Samaria.
Reminders of Nezter Hazani were everywhere in Ein Tzurim on Thursday.
Behind Yisraeli and Mamon on the wall of the community center hung a large handmade quilt with squares depicting scenes from the Gaza community.
On top of it were the words, “In Netzer we fully believe in God.”
Maman said the anniversary had crept up on her.
“How has it been that long?” she asked. “It is a long time without a home.”
When the soldiers walked Maman out of her home, “I was naive,” she recalled.
She thought that within a few days, for sure a few months, either she would be allowed to return, or in the worst case, the government would provide her with a new one.
The night before they left, her children wrote messages on the walls, as many families did.
“I allowed it, thinking when we return, I will have to repaint anyway,” Maman said.
It was only eight months later, when it was time to get ready for Pessah 2006 and they were still crammed into hotel rooms, as were many of the evacuees who were waiting for modular homes, that the penny dropped that her future was elsewhere.
Yisraeli said she, too, had been certain when she left her Netzer Hazani home that she would return in a matter of days.
Even when the soldiers knocked on her door and sat in her house for hours trying to persuade her to leave, she didn’t believe that it was her last day in her home.
She only left after a rabbi and a social worker came and insisted that she had to go.
Now she shakes her head with regret.
“If I had to do it over again, I would insist that they drag me out by my hair,” she said.
Even though her family is finally at the stage where it can build a new home in Moshav Yesodot, in the Nahal Sorek region, Yisraeli said she couldn’t relate to it, so deep was her conviction that she was returning to Gaza.
“I can’t connect to to the new house,” she said.
Both women said that if were possible to move back, they would do so in a heartbeat.
Similarly, they said, if they could live their lives over, they would once again choose, as they did in 1978 – Yisraeli when she was 21, and Maman when she was 22 – to move to Netzer Hazani, where they were next-door neighbors for close to three decades.
It helps to live together now, both women said.
Here in this tiny transitory town, no one knows the names of the streets, but everyone knows how to find each other’s homes.
Still, the closeness can’t make up for the loss, both women said.
“I felt like I was torn out of Netzer Hazani, the way a tree is torn up at the roots,” Yisraeli said.
Unlike her longtime neighbor, Maman said she understood that her future lay in the house she was designing in Yesodot.
She hopes that within two years, she will finally be once again in a home of her own.
They are among the 85 percent of the Gaza evacuees who chose to live in 22 new communities set up by the government and who still have no permanent home.
Evacuees hope that by the end of 2011, everyone will finally have a home.
On Thursday night, the two women sat in the dark with dozens of neighbors and watched videos of Netzer Hazani made during normal times, scenes of the evacuation, and shots of where their new homes will be in Yesodot.
Last week, Maman went to Yesodot.
She started to imagine children’s voices coming out of a nursery there, just as they had in Netzer Hazani.
“The thought gave me goosebumps,” she said.