The encounter: I often go to the beach in Neve Yam because my family lives nearby. Next to the public beach, on an idyllically secluded private beach, stands a small caravan park. This is the temporary home for a group of settlers who were evacuated in 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza. They are waiting to receive land for permanent homes, in return for the houses they left behind in 2005. As I strolled amongst the trailers – which, I thought, looked like vacation bungalows– the sun was setting in the Mediterranean and Sabbath was about to set in. I met Amalia as she was standing in the doorway of her caravan. When I explained my project, she invited me in and offered me coffee.
What are you doing here right now?
When you came, I had just taken a picture of my new car and was sending it to my family.
What is your occupation?
Nowadays I don’t really work... meaning... I don’t produce money... I’m unemployed. But, I’ve worked in education, as a kindergarten teacher, and as an educational facilitator. I’ve changed careers a lot. At one point, I had a snack stand at the Erez Check Point. I sold sandwiches. We made a crazy gamble. We are supposed to get land so we can build our own house, in return for the house we abandoned in Nisanit [a Jewish settlement in Gaza, evacuated in 2005]. But we’ve been here for four years and nothing is moving. We’re still fighting the government to get what we were promised. Our money is running out.
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
My husband is very religious. He’s at the synagogue now. I’m a little less religious. He prays three times a day. I just do what’s convenient. We didn’t used to be religious, but we became more observant when my husband lost his father.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have four grown children – three girls and a boy – and six grandchildren. I’m married to a very nice husband!
Where is your family from?
My parents were both born in Libya and came as teenagers to Israel in 1951. They met on the boat. My mom is a Holocaust survivor. Many people don't realize the Holocaust also happened in Libya. And then, after the war, there were Arab pogroms against the Jews. My family lost everything. They hid some money in the soles of their shoes and that’s all they could take with them when they left the country. They were settled in Ashkelon, which is where I grew up. From there, my husband and I moved to Nisanit. We started the settlement with ten other families. When the town was evacuated, 300 families had to be moved out of their homes. There’s nothing left. Hamas now fires rockets from where we used to live. When they had moved us out, the [Israeli] army flattened all the houses. They only left the synagogue standing.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
Obviously, I’d like to have peace and security, but what I truly want is for this country to be just for the Jews. As soon as we decide to make this into a Jewish country – only for Jews – we solve the problem. I know it sounds awful– my son is left wing and if I’d tell him this, he wouldn’t understand – but it’s what I believe. I know the Palestinians are in a miserable situation, but it can be solved if we separate. The answer is transfer. We’ll give them their own country, we’ll help them move; we can even give them some money to start over. I admit... in some place in my mind I feel that the world belongs to everyone. But I also think that because of the history of the Jews, with all the trouble we’ve had, and because of all the hatred against us, we need a country for ourselves. Nowadays, everybody talks so nicely and wants to be inclusive and protect everyone’s rights. But if we always welcome others, we’ll hurt ourselves.
I don’t think the conflict will end. Ever. We won’t reach a peace agreement. It’s a fact: we evacuated Gaza and gave them everything. But now Hamas is shooting rockets at us from the settlements we abandoned!
Next week, I’m organizing a trip to Jerusalem for a class reunion. I started getting phone calls from people who are worried and want to cancel because there were riots. I tell them: “This is our country!” If they are afraid of conflict, they should go live in America.