The family: My name is Gershon Chongloi. I live in Nitzan (I was evacuated from Neve Dekalim, may it be rebuilt soon in our days). I am 27 years old, married with two children. I made aliya in 1995 from northeastern India. I came with my family: my parents and my two younger sisters. The older of the two, Chagit is married, has two sons and is living in Ofra. My younger sister, Michal, is single, living with our parents and studying at Emuna College in Jerusalem.
Background: We are members of the tribe of Menashe. We came on aliya through the assistance of the Amishav Organization headed by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichayil. The organization brought us directly from the airport to Gush Katif, to the community of Neve Dekalim. There I attended the Na’ot Katif school and very successfully finished my studies. After completing elementary school I continued on to yeshiva high school in Dimona. During 11th and 12th grade I was a counselor for the Ariel youth movement in Neve Dekalim. After high school, approximately one year before the expulsion, I started the hesder program at Yeshivat HaKotel in the Old City of Jerusalem.
After the expulsion the state housed us in the Sha’arei Yerushalayim Hotel in Jerusalem. We stayed in the hotel for approximately half a year, at which time we moved with the entire community of Neve Dekalim to Nitzan, which is between Ashkelon (to the south) and Ashdod (to the north). After a year and a half of studying at the hesder yeshiva I enlisted in the IDF combat engineering unit – serving for two years as a soldier and a commander. After completing my army service I married and began learning at Yeshivat Neve Dekalim in Ashdod. Upon finishing the hesder track I started to work at the Assis Nurseries as head of the irrigation system and quality control of crops and spraying. I am still employed there.
Our house – then: The house that we had in Neve Dekalim was small (90 sq. meters) but fun to live in.
Our house – now: We began building our new house in Nitzan only five years after the expulsion, but, thank G-d, the house is bigger (approximately 120 sq. meters) and there’s more room for everyone.
What we left behind in Neve Dekalim: The house, of course, and the beautiful, carefully tended garden that we had. It wasn’t possible to take the trees we had planted in the garden, because we didn’t know how long it would be until we reached a permanent house.
Feelings toward the State:Before I tell you how I feel about the State, I must preface them with this: The main reason why we came to Eretz Yisrael was because we are Jews, and as such have no place to live in the world other than Eretz Yisrael. Concerning the question, my response is thus: My family knew that living in Israel would not be easy and of course our lives would change in every way from the moment we arrived. Therefore, when we were expelled from Gush Katif we knew that everything comes from G-d, and that there is no reason to be angry at the State or at the soldiers that came to expel us from our house. One must always know, that even with all the problems that our State has, in the end it’s the only State in the entire world that belongs to us, to Am Yisrael. We must always stand by the State, in times of happiness and in times of sadness. Of course all of what I said does not contradict the issue of attempting to improve and to influence the State so that it will get onto the right path.
The biggest difficulty: The biggest difficulty that I experienced in the expulsion was looking at our soldiers who came to expel us from our home. I always thought that our soldiers fought only our enemies and not, G-d forbid, us.
Have you built a house? Thank G-d, approximately one and a half years ago (2010) we finished building our new house and we are already living in it.
What happened to your community? One of the reasons why we decided to move to the community of Nitzan was because most of the B’nei Menashe community that was in Neve Dekalim, moved there. Among the Bnei Menashe who live here approximately 90% of the families (about 40 families) have not yet begun to build their houses. However, thank G-d, in terms of work and livelihood, everyone has work and is supporting themselves.