Sea full of memories: Israeli who grew up on Gaza border returns as Navy ship captain

When Shahar Meirovich was just 7, her family was forced to leave the Gaza periphery due to the dire security situation; this week, she completed a significant circle in her life by returning to the same region, but this time as the commander of a naval vessel tasked with safeguarding the maritime border of the Gaza Strip; 'I promised I would come back'
Matan Tzuri|
The years before the Iron Dome era were challenging and complex on the border with Gaza. Residents in southern Israel endured relentless rocket fire and mortar attacks, making their lives unbearable and perilous. The incessant bombardments from the Gaza Strip, coupled with the lack of adequate defense measures forced many residents, especially families with young children, to abandon their homes in the south.
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Shahar Meirovich from Kibbutz Miflasim was only in the second grade when her parents made the difficult decision to leave due to the dire security situation. "It was a very painful move, but the reality was just terrible. We felt like sitting ducks; it was only a matter of time before we would be hit," recalls Niva, Shahar's mother.
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Shahar Meirovich is now the commander of a Navy vessel
(Photo: Gadi Kabalo)
"Shahar was born into this reality, and even after moving to a new home she still carries the scars. It's essential to understand that during that time, there were no fortified structures, no peaceful days and there were no shelters even in schools. Nowadays, things are different in many ways, but unfortunately the security situation hasn't improved," she adds.
In January 2008, during the peak of the security tension in the Gaza Strip, a young girl named Shahar participated in a photography project by Yedioth Ahronoth. As part of the project, residents of Sderot and the Gaza periphery documented their daily lives. Shahar was photographed in her family's bomb shelter, just six months before the family decided to leave the kibbutz and move to the Hula Valley.
"Shahar loved the place where she was born, and the transition was tough for us. We have family and friends in the Gaza enclave, and we never truly detached," adds Niva. "Shahar's initial response was, 'Mom, we're leaving the Gaza enclave, but Gaza won't leave us.'"
Indeed, like a fulfilled prophecy, 22-year-old Shahar returned to the Gaza periphery this week. However, she did so wearing the rank of lieutenant after completing the Israeli Navy Captain course. She now serves as the commander of the "Dvora," a class fast patrol boat in the Israeli Navy, tasked with safeguarding the maritime border with the Gaza Strip.
"I always dreamed of having a role on the maritime border with Gaza. I have vivid memories of my childhood in the Gaza periphery, and there were tough moments due to the security situation. For example, they used to tell us in kindergarten to hug the wall if there was a siren because there were no bomb shelters," she recalls. "I promised I would come back, and I'm glad to protect the home that will always be mine, my friends, and my family. The Gaza periphery and its residents are a part of me."
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