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The End is Where We Start From | 3.1

Chapter 3 (part 1) - Jordanian Sniper

“You can’t make me leave my home!” Ima whispered, pushing her plate away, untouched.

Savta refilled my plate. “A full stomach brings peace of mind,” she said.

We were sitting around Sabba and Savta’s dining table for the traditional Sabbath cholent, which Savta had spent the entire Friday preparing, before simmering it overnight. The room was redolent of lentils, potatoes, and beef enriched by the gentle sweetness of prunes. It was Ima’s favourite dish. Mine too.

“And once again the radio said that an investigation by the UN concluded that the shooting incident was caused by a soldier who had lost his mind. They recommended that the soldier should be removed from position,” Abba said.

I glanced up from my plate and looked at him. As usual, he was taking notes in his pocket diary. I wished I could see what he was writing.

Sabba raised his voice. “Sarah was your neighbour. You mustn’t be selfish! You must think of your family and what’s safe for them.”

Earlier that week a Jordanian sniper had shot and wounded a girl on her way to school—the school I was to attend the following year. Sarah ran to help her fallen friend. A second bullet hit her. She died on her way to the hospital. Ima and Abba went to her funeral. I did not know Sarah very well.

Ima lit a cigarette, the first I had ever seen her smoking. “When I was a girl, Jerusalem was much more dangerous than now. But we did not think about leaving. It was our home.” Her voice quavered; her eyes sought Savta’s support.

“Everywhere was dangerous then,” Savta said. “But now we have our own country, and you can choose where you live. You can choose what’s good and safe for Boaz.”

"I want to stay," I imagined myself saying. But nobody had asked me; and fearing Abba’s scornful lectures about children learning from adults’ conversation, not interfering, I remained silent.

“You can’t make me leave,” Ima repeated, as if to herself. “As long as I live, I’ll never forget how the Jordanian legionaries herded us out of the Old City … You were sick, mother … The English soldiers could barely stop the mob from lynching us … the sight of our house on fire … the stench of burning bodies … I promised myself then that I’d never abandon a home again.”

Savta reached for Ima’s and stroked her arm. “Don’t you think I, too, suffered? And I lost much more than a home. A loss I pray you will never know.”

Shedding Savta’s hand, Ima stood up. “Masada shall never fall again. We are staying!” Her words echoed in the silenced room.

In early spring we moved to our new home. It was a three-bedroom apartment, under the roof of a building Sabba, who was a builder, had just finished. It was ten minutes’ walk from his home.

Standing on the slope of a hill, the house was made of local limestone chiselled by skilled craftsmen. From our living room window, we could watch the construction of the parliament house, the Knesset. Atop an opposite hill, the white cubicles of the Israel Museum sprawled like a Mediterranean village, overlooking the monastery.

The moment Ima set foot on the balcony, she fell in love with the view of the rocky valley, the carpets of scarlet anemones and yellow turban buttercups, the gazelles grazing before dusk, and the howling of jackals at night. None of this mattered to me.

“I hate this place,” I said, hiding my tears.

“This is our home now, and tantrums will not help,” Abba said, not raising his eyes from his book.

Ima was more sympathetic. “Let’s go to the valley tomorrow; we’ll have fun together.”

“But I don’t have any friends here.”

“I’m sure you'll make new friends soon. Besides, Abba’s lab is only a short walk away. He’ll take you to work with him.”

“Is it true? Is it true, Abba? Will you really take me to your lab? Can I see experiments?”

Abba lifted his glasses to his forehead and looked at Ima. But when he went back to his book without a word, I knew I would be going.

a herd of Gazelles
A herd of gazelles


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