POTOMAC, MD (AP).- The left lens of Emily Henochowicz's black-framed eyeglasses is covered in tape that bears a black-and-white pattern she drew in marker. The design obscures her eye socket, but a faint scar is visible underneath where a tear gas canister fired by Israeli border police crushed several bones and took her left eye.
The 21-year-old art student and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors was protesting Israel's blockade of Gaza when she was hit May 31 near a West Bank checkpoint. She's undergone multiple surgeries to repair her face, but remains upbeat about the ordeal.
"It could have been a lot worse," she said during an interview at her parents house, where she spends long hours drawing as part of her recuperation.
She's currently working on a self-portrait, saying she needs to depict the physical changes in her face. Her pencil drawings on 6-by-6-inch sheets of white paper are stacked by the hundreds throughout the home on the dining room table, on top of the piano, in large plastic bins.
Last week, Israeli police opened a criminal investigation into the firing of the canister that hit Henochowicz, said her attorney, Emily Schaeffer. Schaeffer expects the investigation to take about a year.
"What we claimed to police was that tear gas was fired at Henochowicz in violation of rules of engagement, at close range and using direct aim," said Schaeffer, based in Tel Aviv.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department confirmed that the investigation had begun. The Israeli embassy in Washington didn't have an immediate comment on the investigation Thursday.
Henochowicz, an art student studying drawing at Cooper Union in New York, was studying abroad last semester when she was injured. An Israeli soldier fired tear gas to dispel the crowd, which was demonstrating against Israel's naval raid of a Turkish flotilla carrying international pro-Palestinian activists and supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Quoting an early police report, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said an investigation suggested that the tear gas canister bounced off a wall and exploded close to Henochowicz's face. They quoted an official as saying that police did not aim at the woman.
Henochowicz returned to the U.S. on June 6, and for now, she's back at home in Potomac, Md. She is spending her summer break shuffling between her parents' split-level home in the town where she grew up and doctors' offices. Her family has spent more than $30,000 on medical bills, more than $10,000 of which has been out of pocket.
The college senior has become a hero of sorts among young activists who are critical of the Gaza blockade, even though her parents insist they don't want her to become a symbol of the conflict.
"My daughter is maimed for life," said Henochowicz's mother, Shelley Kreitman. "This is a personal tragedy. We don't want her story subverted and taken away from her and used for other people's purposes."
For her part, Henochowicz remains positive about her injuries.
"Every time I start to feel angry about this, I start to feel icky," said Henochowicz, who holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship. Her father, Stuart Henochowicz, was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors and emigrated to the U.S. in 1960.
Following the attack, U.S. Embassy officials and Henochowicz's parents insisted that Israel launch an investigation into the incident. Some demonstrators were throwing rocks, but an online video suggests Henochowicz was standing away from those protesters and that she posed no threat to Israeli soldiers before they fired in her direction.
Henochowicz said she was waving an Austrian and a Turkish flag but wasn't standing near anyone throwing rocks.
"I stupidly didn't think it was going to be dangerous," she said, adding that she had protested at dozens of demonstrations throughout the semester.
Associated Press Writer Diaa Hadid contributed to this report from Jerusalem.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.