Meir, 27, is Lior's lifeguarding and surfing partner. They're always together in the lifeguard tower, goofing around with the rotating cast of Gaza surfers that stops by the tower on a daily basis. But whereas Lior is often playing guitar or lounging in a hammock, Meir is usually praying or reading religious books (along with the occasional surf magazine). He came to Gaza to study in the religious academy 5 minutes away from the beach, and lives in the lifeguard tower. Meir says that "When we came inside to Israel from the desert, God told us not to make any peace process" that would compromise the land and the borders of Greater Israel. Now he must decide what to do when the army comes to take him out.
Meir spent most of the year following the pullout surfing in Fiji. He returned to Israel in the summer of 2006 and was called to reserve duty during the war in Lebanon. After traveling and living in the US, he plans to return to Israel.
Neta, 20, is a young religious girl — her name comes from a sentence in the Torah that means "our connection to the land will never be broken." Neta is trying to make her own documentary film about settlers in Netzarim, the isolated, embattled Gaza settlement where her family has a house. Netzarim is home to about 80 families who believe the Torah commands them to extend Israel's borders, even at the risk of their lives and the lives of their children. They make their way to and from the settlement in armored military transports since it is too dangerous for civilians to drive on the access road that skirts Gaza City.
For Neta, the Israeli government's announcement of the Gaza pullout plan sets off a desperate struggle to convince Israelis and the world that the withdrawal is a crime against God. She hopes that the world will learn more about her religious community, saying, "Sometimes when I meet unreligious people they tell me I'm crazy, and my whole family's crazy. And I think, we're not crazy, we're normal. YOU just don't live." Neta believes that God will intervene to prevent the pullout from Gaza.
Neta is living with her family in Jerusalem, and also spends a great deal of time with other residents of Netzarim, some of whom are building a new settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Neta spent time studying cinema but has decided to put the camera down to focus on her religious education.
Lior, 20, is a surfer who works as a lifeguard at a place called Palm Beach... in the Gaza Strip. Lior has grown up just steps from the sea in the settlement of Pe'at Sadeh, and with his guitar and his easy smile he would fit in at any beach town in the world. But life's a little bit different in Gaza — the religious beach Lior watches has a wall to separate the male and female bathers, and on the way to meet friends for a beer his car was hit by machine gun fire in an ambush that killed two people traveling behind him.
While he works at a religious beach, Lior is from one of many unreligious settler families who were encouraged by the government to relocate to Gaza. He says he'd be willing to give up his house and his life on the beach if he believed it would really bring peace, but he's convinced his family's sacrifice will be for nothing. Beach life in Gaza is never dull, says Lior, "We surf in the morning and we eat bombs in the night."
After losing his job and his home during the withdrawal, Lior moved with his family and the rest of his neighbors to a town 20 miles north of Gaza. After several months of unemployment, Lior found work as a lifeguard at a pool in the city of Ashkelon. And in his down-time, Lior says, "Man, I'm just trying to write happy songs."
This is where I live? For you it may be strange? It's not the end of the world? But not so far from there
You need to go down and cross? If you look closely you can see? A sea of green? Three foreign cities? For me they are neighbors, and that's a part of my life? Everything will be good from above as they say "Inshallah"
Now it's starting to feel strange? Not like it used to be? Now I don't feel welcome in this place, I'm a stranger
Where should I go? What can we do? Where is another place that looks like a picture from a dream? And the sea there is so beautiful - it's so hard to give it up?
This is where I live? It's not a war, not a desert? Just a few games of cat and mouse? And even these don't have to be But the sunset is still a sunset? That makes everybody dance? Especially the palms? And the sand that comes to us from above? From a land -far away- that doesn't want us anymore
Why? I don't have an answer. Maybe because it's such a special place, like no other. That everyone is fighting over it.
Tamar, 20, is a young female soldier who is normally stationed in a diplomatic unit on Israel's northern border - she normally works with the UN on the Syrian border and has little experience with combat. But now she has been ordered to join the front line of Israeli soldiers removing other Israelis from their homes in Gaza. Tamar says most American kids her age probably don't realize that life in Israel isn't so different. "Except at age 20 I have to be in the army. Which, I guess, is pretty different."
Tamar decided to extend her army service by a year to work as an officer in her unit. She is now studying philosophy, economics, and political science in Israel.
Ye'ela, 22, is participating in a cross-country tour to raise support for the withdrawal. It is her first political activity since 1996, when her sister was killed by a suicide bomber in front of a Tel Aviv mall. She believes the religious Jews who live in settlements like those in Gaza are one of the main causes of attacks against Israel.
Ye’ela is active in the Bereaved Families Forum, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members to violence in the conflict and have decided to respond by meeting each other to promote reconciliation and tolerance. She is studying communications in Israel and beginning to work on her own documentary film project.
Yuval, 21, wanted to be a combat soldier but since he's an only child Israeli law requires him to get his mother's permission. She said no, so he ended up in a unit that helps new immigrants assimilate into the army and Israeli society. Like Tamar, he'll be on the front line of soldiers going into homes to take people out. Yuval says he supports the political decision to leave Gaza, but doesn't know how he'll feel once he has to enter Gaza to force people out.
Yuval finished his army service in 2006 and moved to the US, where he lived for two years in San Francisco. He is now studying law in Israel and assisting his mother in her political career, including a nearly-successful campaign to become mayor of their hometown.