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Bombs from my Backyard

Aharon Granot

Ten years ago this week, the residents of Gush Katif lived through a second Tishah B’Av as they were wrenched from their land in a drastic, controversial operation that was supposed to bring peace and calm to the Gaza region. Last summer, dozens of young people traumatized by the expulsion found themselves back — this time as soldiers fighting the terrorists who launched missiles and dug tunnels from the ruins of their former homes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It was Friday evening last summer in the Gaza Strip, and the echoes of explosions were replaced by the tense silence of yet another humanitarian ceasefire — the nervous quiet of uncertainty. As the setting sun painted the houses of Khan Yunis a golden orange, an IDF reservist named Chagai Locks sat in his tank at the outskirts of the town, hoping for a few hours of respite and to finally be able to contemplate his surroundings without (he hoped) fear of sniper fire or booby-trapped bombs. He’d grown up here, on the sand dunes of Gush Katif — was it really nine years since he and his family had been expelled, shoved onto buses before the bulldozers came and flattened their homes, their shul, and life as they had known it? Last summer during Operation Protective Edge, he returned for the first time — this time in an IDF uniform driving a tank, in the forefront of a military operation aimed at eradicating Hamas’s deadly tunnel infrastructure. Darkness descended over the Gaza Strip, as Chagai sat in his tank with challah rolls and a makeshift Shabbos meal and began singing “Kah Ribon Olam.” “Perok yas anach mipum aryevasa — Save Your flock from the lion’s jaws, and bring Your people out of exile,” he began translating for his nonreligious tank partner. “The zemer was composed right here in Gaza hundreds of years ago byRavYisraelNajarah,” Chagai explains a year after the war, and ten years to the week since the expulsion from Gush Katif. “As I looked out past the dim lights of the city, I could imagine my own childhood home just beyond, hearing the Friday night melodies wafting through all the open windows in a huge chorus. A decade later, it’s still mind-boggling to think how it all disappeared.”

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