Levy, Daniella. “Disengagement: Leaving Home, Finding Home & Encounters Along the Way”, Kasva Press, 2020.
Leaving Preconceptions Behind
How often do we ask ourselves if the place where we live is home? Can we really define “home” and do we know when we are there? Years ago I went “home” to Israel and was sure that I was indeed in the place where I was supposed to be? Is home a physical place or is it a state of mind? Daniella Levy faces these questions in “Disengagement” by having us step outside our regular lifestyle and listen to what others have to say. The Key word here is “other”. It is important for us to know and experience others in order to understand how we live today. Against the backdrop of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we meet characters as they deal with each other and themselves.
In “Disengagement” we meet characters whose lives are changed when on August 18, 2005, the settlement of Neve Adva was evacuated by Israeli forces. This was a polarizing event and we see in it a microcosm of the politics of today. People were forced to leave the place that they considered to be their home. Among the characters that we meet here are a rabbi who searches how to understand his own sacrifices, a formerly religious soldier who is forced to evict the first girl he ever loved, a Holocaust survivor who can escape the memories of the past, a widow who is the process of moving her husband’s corpse to a new grave and a young Palestinian female who seeks hope and she deals with the destruction that surrounds her. Taken as a whole, we have a group of people who might never have met each other had times been different.
“They come from different corners of Israeli society, rooted in their own beliefs, busy with their own troubles. Farmers and fishermen, skeptics and believers, immigrants and natives, children and grandparents struggle with faith, loss, jealousy, hope—and the turmoil around them only deepens the rifts that divide them.” Some of them live in Neve Adva, the place whose destruction brought all their lives together and changed them forever. In reading about them, we have to leave our preconceptions behind and forget what we have thought about the “other”.
Neve Adva, while a fictional place, becomes very real as we realize the meaning of the word “disengagement” especially for those of us who have never been forced to disengage from something we love. Here this is not just physical disengagement; our characters disengage from their material surroundings but also from the people they know and love, from their opinions and from their beliefs.
I remember all too well watching on television in Israel when the first disengagement came after the visit of Sadat to Israel in 1977. We watched as Israelis at the settlement of Yamit in 1982 were forced out of their homes by other Israelis and their settlement leveled to the ground. It was a numbing and heartbreaking experience. With “Disengagement”, I was taken back to those memories.
This is a beautiful book and a wonderful read and it just might challenge you to see the “other” differently. I deliberately have not named the characters or go into much detail because I want you to have the same experience I had as I read. Each character (and poet Maayan Tzurim) opens new doors and new ways to think. Now it is up to you to open those doors and walk through. You just have to wait until March 23, 2020 to do so.