Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sirens in Jerusalem

Good thing I read in the papers just the day before that the best shelter from missiles, if you are living on the top two floors of a building is the building's stairwell. I was hoping to have a peaceful Sabbath, enjoying the fact that Hubby was at my married daughter's house for the afternoon, and I was joyfully alone, cooking the Friday night meal for my family who were due to come later. Nobody bugging me. Except for Hamas. While the dusk was setting in, the loud siren went off, and I was wondering if it was a drill or the real thing. Well, most warnings are anywhere between 15 seconds and 1 1/2 minutes, so I didn't have much time to figure out whether it was real or not and settled for the "real". I ran to get my phone, shut off the rice and headed for the staircase. I ran down the stairs to the 5th floor wondering how it would be if a missile headed through my building on the very same floor where I sought refuge. I called up my religious daughter, knowing she doesn't usually answer the phone on the Sabbath, but this was obviously an emergency. No answer. I called my husband. My daughter answered his phone.

"Dad is sticking his head out the window trying to see the missile. He's the only one looking out the window."

Of course he is.

No one was in the stairwell but me, though I could hear people talking nervously just inside their apartments. They seemed to be standing right by their doors. After about 5 minutes I went back into my apartment, relieved I hadn't heard any booms anywhere.

Everyone came in shortly afterwards for dinner, and it was like nothing had happened, except the grandkids were rowdier than usual, perhaps their way of acting out.

After dinner and after the family leaves, I'm reading Facebook posts, knowing more about what's going on from my Palestinian friends than from anyone else and feeling touched by the concern of my Syrian friends. I'm reading posts between people who are against any violence and people who feel Israeli strikes are justified. My eyes are closing, and I'm lying on the couch. I eat M&M's for comfort and wake up Hubby, who is sleeping in my son's room, to come to our bed. I usually never do that.

Monday, November 05, 2012

We're On The Road to Nowhere in the land of 1,000 cups of tea

The place was miles away from any known town or village on the map. The Rashaida live in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Judean desert. I had visited them for a one day trip 3 years before, but this was my first overnight with them (). My friend was having a birthday gathering/party and decided to have a campout with friends at the Bedouin tribe's encampment. Passing Maale Amos, the last remote settlement on the road, groups of kids stood on the road watching our convoy of about 7 cars pass by and waved and smiled. Some got out to photograph groups of camels and one young man excitedly ran over to our car - "Have you ever been to India? THIS is so much like India, the way the kids behave and the view!" His wonderful memories of a faraway exotic land were all coming back to him. I tried to GPS where we were and the only thing I got was a blue pulsing dot in the middle of a grey grid. That blue dot in the middle of nowhere caused so much laughter, the birthday girl passed aruond my iPhone showing the blue dot to everyone in the large tent.

We brought in the Sabbath and found a corner table inside the tent to light the Sabbath candles. Then when it got dark, over the kiddush and challot, we had our Bedouin dinner served to us. The younger Bedouin kids hung around us the entire time - they all looked under 7 years old and were so well-behaved we wonder why people think Bedouin are primitive. Their mothers were probably thrilled to have their kids off their hands. I asked one little girl - she must have been no older than 5 - if she wanted to eat. She waved "no" with her little finger. After we all took food, I saw the little girls take food for themselves. So different from our "civilized" brood who whine when they're hungry and tired. The Bedouin kids were adorable, filthy, but so well-behaved. We marveled at how they lived - and walked around on the stones barefoot as if it were just a regular carpeted area - not having changed clothing the next day. How many days did they wear the same outfit? Their hair was long and crackly dry. The adult men's teeth were all rotted and we thought it must be from the 1,000 cups of extremely sugary tea that they drink all day.

That night the local musicians came over and played oud, rabab and another strange instrument that looked similar but with more strings than a rabab. We took turns singing an assortment of Israeli classical folk songs and what seemed like Bedouin love songs. The friend who drove us there spoke Arabic and went over to the women's tent where the women of that family lived. Muhammad has 2 wives who actually say they get along. They seem to think it not strange at all for a man to have more than one wife. They're also cousins which makes it more familiar for them. They seemed to pity our single friend who lived alone. "They probably think your family rejected you and tossed you out into the big, wide, cruel world," I told her. After all, this doesn't happen in their communities. We were happy to hear that their oldest, a 12th grader, loves school and intends to go to university. In fact, all their kids seem to love school. That struck me more strange than anything. My kids and their friends, couldn't wait to finish their schooling. They certainly didn't love it. They coped with it.

Next day we woke up with the sunrise. We saw the little Bedouin children with their mothers sitting quietly outside their tin shack. Again - quietly. So surprising for me. The goats went out of their pen and Muhammad made some goat-like noises to get them back to where they belong. After a breakfast of fresh piping hot Bedouin pita, tea, coffee and cucumbers and tomatoes (no labane until the Spring, because the goats were pregnant, we were told), we headed out in the direction of the Dead Sea. It was a 4 hour hike, through several mountain ridges, with a different magnificent view every time you made a turn. I was happy to go with Muhammad as a guide because he knows every inch of this place. The view to the Dead Sea was beautiful, and on the way, people stopped off at wells and caves for some singing sessions. Luckily, their 2 jeeps came our way and took us back - a 40 minute roller coaster ride over the mountains.

A beautiful weekend spent in an enchanting place in the land of 1,000 cups of tea, in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Traitor or Refusenik

I'm stepping over all these soldiers' duffle bags this morning, dumped in the aisle, trying to get off the bus. They're all going back to their base from home. My son is now in military jail and I get different responses from people, depending on their politics. I hear my left wing and Palestinian friends tell each other excitedly "Do you know her son is a Refusenik!!" and suddenly I'm a hero, even though I live over the green line. My right wing friends and family are disgusted with him because he's wasting his life because he's not serving his country. He's a traitor in some of their eyes. Some say you can't even find work if you don't have army service on your CV. I think that's mostly my concern more than any others...

Truth is - he's neither a traitor nor a Refusenik. He just wants money. He's nearly 21 years old and doesn't want to earn a soldier's measly salary of $100 a month. If he's a combat soldier, it jumps to a giant $200/month. He's not combatting anyone and so it's $100 only. While AWOL he found people willing to hire him for sporadic waiter jobs in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. They coudln't care less about AWOL soldiers.

Life is fun in military jail - they do nothing during the day and at night, he and his 3 roomies watch either soccer or whatever film is on the national station. The food is edible with chocolate spreads and pudding for breakfast, which he doesn't even get at home. But he's itching to go out and work because "girls will only go out with me if I have a car." Even here in the Middle East,the chicks are spoiled.

Lately, I've heard that there's an army program which lets you work for 9 days and then do army for 5 days. The program is called 9/5 or something like that. Looks like there'll be some compromise and he'll be neither a "refusenik" or a "traitor" to his country.