When those who fled the border villages of Israel are trying to return, what is hanging in the balance?

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KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel (AP) – Months after Hamas killed 1,200 people in the early hours of the morning, areas of Israel that were devastated by the attack remain empty. Now the residents who fled these “kibbutzim” on the border with Gaza are fighting to return, how and when – decisions that have implications not only for their families, but also for the country. Here are some key takeaways:

Before Oct. 7, regions formed by contradictions

The kibbutzim, which for years have been a symbol of Israel’s resilience, have long been a source of confusion. Most of those on the Gaza border were built on or near former Palestinian settlements. For years, people have been trying to maintain economic ties with the residents of Gaza, many of whom are refugees or their descendants. The people living in the kibbutzim found life in the areas very interesting. However, as early as October 7, many were the target of frequent rocket attacks.

The problems continue as the war continues

Five months after the attack last October, the pain caused by the killing and abduction of relatives and friends still haunts the residents of the kibbutzim. Israel’s massive offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people in Gaza, may have reduced the risk of such a large-scale attack being repeated. But the frequent shelling and the roar of warplanes are a reminder that the empty borders of kibbutzim are military extensions.

Many people long for their homes

Residents are beginning to assess when and how they will return. Hours after the attack, hundreds of kibbutzim residents were moved to hotels, hostels and other places, hours away from their schools, jobs and homes. Many mourn for the lives they left behind.

Consensus is impossible in the midst of great uncertainty

But they are divided on how to do it, some are eager to return and others are very reluctant. With so much uncertainty about the future of border security, many say that right now, it is impossible to make long-term decisions.

Family decisions, but with possible consequences for the world

The decisions that kibbutz residents make about whether to return are very important to their families and communities. But the results are also important for Israel, whose leaders relied on the kibbutz border as a way to strengthen control of the land after the 1948 war against Palestinian forces and the forces of neighboring Arab countries.

“If the kibbutzim… don’t come back, no one will come,” says Shlomo Getz, a researcher who studies the communities. “This means we are losing our country.”

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