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July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
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The Wechsler Family: Formerly Of Neve Dekalim; Now Of Nitzan

The Wechsler Family before the expulsion

The Wechsler Family before the expulsion

The family: My name is Liora and I made aliya from Toronto when I was 16. That was 29 years ago and I came without my family. I lived in Neve Dekalim for 18 years. I met my husband Elimelech during my first year of college. He was studying in Yeshivat Hesder Yamit which was located in Neve Dekalim. When we go t married we decided to stay in Gush Katif until we completed our studies.

Back in 1987 when I arrived in Neve Dekalim there were about 80 families living there. It was like living in a little “Legoland.” All the houses looked the same. There were gardens but the sand was everywhere – outside, inside, in the beds and sometimes even in the food. I also started to fall in love with the place and when we decided to buy a home somewhere in the country, it was obvious to us that we were going to invest in Neve Dekalim.

The community was made up of families from different backgrounds; yet, there was a feeling of belonging. Whenever you had a simcha the neighbors and the members of the community prepared the food for you. If it was a brit mila or kiddush you didn’t cater it, the community automatically got together to make up the menu for you, bake the cakes – and it was something taken for granted.

We were all young families. Most of us lived far from our relatives. I saw the community blossom to about 500 families. Our six children were born there.

Our house – then: It was the first house we bought. It was 115 sq. meters. It was not luxurious but it was a very warm home. What meant more to us than the house was the garden around it.

Our house – now: We moved into our home a week before Pesach. It took us almost a year to build. We, more or less, did the planning ourselves. This is a house of my dreams – it’s not fancy but serves our needs and it’s bigger because our family is bigger. Baruch Hashem we have married children and grandchildren. It was very hard for us to take the first step in planning the house because we always hoped to be able to go back to Gush Katif – and we still hope to. I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime or theirs, but we will definitely go back.

The Wechsler’s current home

It was very important for me not to turn my new home into a shrine in memory of Gush Katif. This new home doesn’t resemble my house in Gush Katif. I have been learning mosaic art for the past 2 years and I made a little work of art in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem and Gush Katif in the entrance of my home. And I have shells from Gush Katif on a plate on the coffee table in my living room. When the GK homes were being destroyed, one of my neighbors took photos of it and he brought me a photo of my home being destroyed with the bulldozer on top of it. I asked my eldest daughter who is very artistic to turn the photo into a work of art. She stuck it to a piece of wood, painted around it as though continuing the picture, and added a verse from Yermiyahu, chapter 31, verse 24.

Day of uprooting from Neve Dekalim: We were expelled physically from our home on Thursday, 13th Av (18 Aug 2005). As a family we decided there would be no violence but that we would let our fellow Jews who expelled us know of our hurt and pain. We begged them to let us stay. There was a lot of crying. My eldest children, then teenagers, were physically expelled from our home. We took the younger ones out of the house and put them on a bus a few minutes before so they wouldn’t witness what would take place. I kept going on and off the bus to make sure everybody was okay. I was especially concerned that the expulsion forces were treating my two eldest daughters properly even though they were female soldiers. I was very proud that my girls kept on talking to the authorities in a very stern, emotional way but with respect. We didn’t pack anything – only a suitcase as though we were going on a holiday for a month.

I told my children when the authorities/army/police were expelling us from Neve Dekalim: this is part of the Promised Land and we will definitely come back one day. As we were being expelled, my husband hung up a flag of Israel on the back of our station wagon. Initially the forces wouldn’t let us take our car out of the Gush but as they got our family out of the house, they slowly agreed. At first I was shocked that he hung up the Israeli flag as the flag was one of the symbols of the expulsion – each soldier and policeman had a small Israeli flag patch sewn to their cap, their shirts and backpack. And my husband said that they (the authorities) will not make us feel that we were not part of the State and therefore it (putting flag on car) was his way of saying that the flag belongs to us and we belong to the flag too.

The bus took us to Jerusalem where the government eventually placed us in the Jerusalem Regency hotel for five months along with other Gush Katif families. The families who were expelled from Neve Dekalim were divided into 3 hotels in Ashkelon and 7 hotels in Jerusalem.

What you left behind: We left behind a beautiful, simple, and even innocent life. We left behind dreams.

Feelings toward the State: As a religious woman who believes that Hashem knows what’s best for us, I know that the people, for example Ariel Sharon, were His messengers. I have no pity whatsoever for those people involved in our expulsion and each one of them, in their time, is getting their punishment from above. The first couple of years after the expulsion I had trouble with the army whereas before that I was very loyal to the army. Thank G-d I feel better about the army, but I detest the police and have very little respect for the police force.

What happened to the community? Our community was broken up and is in some kind of rehab. All of us have made new friends from within our community because during our time in the hotels and caravillas, we got to know those we had not really been in touch with before.

The biggest difficulty: As I said before, the community in Neve Dekalim had become my family. It is still hard that we cannot be together in the same way anymore.

Something good that’s happened since: Baruch Hashem we have been given lots of strength, something we would never take for granted. We have our beautiful home. I think in a way our faith in Hashem is much stronger.

What do you wish for yourselves? My main goal when we were being expelled was to make sure that not only my family’s physical welfare was intact but that their emotional state wouldn’t be damaged. I wanted my children to grow up being healthy, functional, G-d fearing Jews even though they went through a very traumatic ordeal. And that is the main thing I wish for us; that my family and my community will be happy and healthy and just flow with life. G-d willing we’ll be able to return to Gush Katif and rebuild it so that it will be even more flourishing than what it was when we were there before.

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One Response to “The Wechsler Family: Formerly Of Neve Dekalim; Now Of Nitzan”

  1. Time has given the cruel expulsion distance to be absorbed & reflected on.
    Anesthetized by that space, the author brings out new understandings I'd thought impossible. I remember these most Zionist of people as broken refugees in Jerusalem (REFUGEES IN JERUSALEM? Compare that to the Tisha' Be-Av Dirge that compares the Exodus from Egypt to the "Exodus/Expulsion" from Jerusalem, refugees in Jerusalem is a bitter mix of both). I'm deeply moved and amazed that the healing wound ironically, ILLOGICALLY, deepens belief in Divine Providence instead of only being nurtured as the dark and evil shame that it was, that it is. The refugees have defeated the political machinations that hoped to wipe out their goodness and sweetness and idealism by rising again.

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