Shifra Shomron’s novel Grains of Sand: The Fall of Neve Dekalim tells the story of Efrat, a teenage girl living in Neve Dekalim, one of the Jewish settlements of Gush Katif. The residents of this community in Gaza were forced to evacuate their homes and communities in August 2005 as part of Israel’s disengagement plan.
The disengagement from Gaza was a politically and socially complicated issue. Many families left voluntarily before the announced date of disengagement, but some stayed and were forcibly removed from their homes. Shomron’s novel is told by a resident of Gush Katif whose family chose not to leave voluntarily.
The book starts by introducing normal family life in the neighborhood. Efrat describes her parents, brother, dog, school and her attachment to Neve Dekalim. We follow Efrat’s life through the intifadas and into the disengagement. We hear Efrat’s emotions and the feelings of her family and neighbors in regards to their removal from their homes.
Shomron, who was in 12th grade when she started writing the novel, utilizes narrative, poetry, journal entries, news articles, photos, and Biblical text to give the reader a full picture of her experiences. As the first English novel about the disengagement geared towards young adult readers, Shomron wrote her story in order to encourage dialogue and discussion and make sure readers knew what the disengagement was like for the residents who were forced to leave their homes.
How much of this story is true to your life?
Though my book is personal, it isn’t an autobiography. Most of the events actually happened–if not to me then to people I know–and much of the dialogue is true. My book is indeed personal but it isn’t only my story. My story is the story of thousands of Jews who lived in Gush Katif.
Many people who have met me after reading Grains Of Sand have approached me and said, “Shifra you’re Efrat, right?” And the answer is not quite “yes,” and yet, it’s not “no.” The character Efrat does reflect me to a certain degree. On the other hand, things happened to her that did not happen to me. Her reactions are not all the same as my reactions were at the time and so, while she is similar to me, she is not a mirror image.