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by Sara Layah Shomron

From a Nitzan caravilla.

It's been three long years since the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and three long years of temporary dwelling for the expelled from Gush Katif; beautiful communities and comfortable homes destroyed by government decree and population left to wander.

" ...Then, the people of Gush Katif were forced into two years of wandering. And they traveled to Jerusalem . And from Jerusalem they dispersed to a great many locations, for their numbers were vast and the government did not know where to place them. And from Jerusalem they wandered as far south as Be'er Sheva and as far north as the hills of the Galilee and the Golan. And eventually they settled in numerous, temporary caravilla sites. And they were sad, and they were weary, and they cried unto the Lord." (Taken with permission from From Golden Stalks to Golden Grains and Back Again by my daughter/author Shifra Shomron).

Soon many Jews world-wide will move out from their permanent and comfortable homes into a temporary sukkah for seven days. While I recognize that some people today build sukkot with tile floors, in most cases, the temporary sukkah is lightweight and modest — the opposite of a lavish and comfortable year-round house. Living in the fragile sukkah for seven days requires faith in G-d for protection from the wind, rain, snow... and criminal elements. It is also a holiday filled with intense joy and since we are all outside, with no walls to divide us, it creates unity, which crosses all divides among our fellow Jew.

Yet, for the people of Gush Katif, this idea of a temporary dwelling is something we live with year-round in our government issued pre-fab caravillas, which are flimsy, modest, cramped, and crowded. Our caravillas, like a sukkah, can be beautifully decorated inside and out. Yet when it rains you get wet — be it from the schach (greenery or bamboo) sukkah covering or some caravilla units' tiled roofing. Likewise, the chill and heat seep through the fragile sukkah walls as well as the flimsy pre-fab walls. The latter are extremely expensive to cool during the summer and extremely expensive to heat during the winter because of lack of adequate insulation. Moreover there is a burglary epidemic at the Ein Tzurim, Nitzan, and Yad Benyamin caravilla sites. For a population not in the custom of locking house doors there's now an urgent need.

The caravillas are meant to be a temporary stop-gap with a maximum life span estimated at five years. Clearly as long as the Gush Katif expellees languish in them, as long as we lack permanent homes and communities, nothing will take away the reality of our transient condition. After all, the carvillas were NOT designed to be permanent. As the old adage goes, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary situation. So come Sukkot, we will simply exchange one temporary dwelling for another.

Yet we, the Gush Katif expellees, look with joy to fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah. Perhaps for us as displaced people, it is the only sure way to move out — even if for only seven days. After all, temporarily living in the sukkah is from the Torah and it is good. It will be difficult to return to the stagnant, fulltime temporariness of the caravilla after basking in the mitzva of the temporary sukkah. While we rejoice in our sukkah, this holiday can be an opportunity for unity crossing all divides among our fellow Jew.

Sara Layah Shomron is a former Neve Dekalim, Gush Katif resident now temporarily residing at the Nitzan caravilla site. Contact her at

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