Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” begins in Gaza. I am consumed by the news. I scroll through Twitter with the television on, flipping between Al Jazeera and CNN. Horrifying images stream out of the Strip. Rubble. Bodies. Crowds around hospitals. People running, carrying limp loved ones. Shujaiyah.
When I can’t take it anymore, I turn off the TV, leave my phone inside, and go to the garden. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to “take a break” from the war — even if that break is somewhat of an illusion. No, I’m not in Gaza, but rockets are falling inside Israel; a few that are intended for settlements hit Palestinian areas in the West Bank. We have no siren in the Bethlehem and so there is no warning when one afternoon — BOOM, BOOM — two rockets land close enough to my house that the floor, windows, and walls shake and shudder. The neighbors — a young couple who live in an apartment down the hill, below my garden — call.
“What was that? Did you feel it? Are you okay?” we ask each other.
We pass many nights together, worrying over a bottle of whiskey, watching for rockets. Sometimes we see them tearing the black fabric of the sky. Sometimes we spot shooting stars instead. We gasp and point at them and make silent wishes.
One morning, a rocket slams into a Beit Sahour home.
The rockets make me reluctant to drive into Israel to visit friends, even though I have less than two months left here. I know the odds of my car taking a direct hit are slim. But I don’t know what I would do if the siren went off while I was driving alone. Would I stop, get out of the car, lie flat and cover my head with my hands? Or would I just keep on driving?
I can’t decide, so for the first four weeks of the war, I rarely leave Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. I don’t leave the West Bank at all.
A Jewish Israeli friend, an artist, who was born and raised in the north calls me from her parents’ house in Upper Nazareth one afternoon. She speaks Hebrew and, because I’m sitting in the garden, I answer her in English. She asks me if I think it’s safe to be alone in the West Bank during a...Read More