A Jerusalem Story

By Larry Hart

 

Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague! See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.

—William Shakespeare

 

Prologue

 

BOOM!  A flash of light collides with the steel and concrete. Windows explode outward and the concussion throws the unfortunate who are too close to the ground like bowling pins falling every which way. The sprays of bullets firing back and forth in the night are like a ballet of lights coordinated to entertain, not to kill.

Mayhem.

Pandemonium.

The symphony of warfare.

Ron, the newest recruit and the youngest in the group of commandos, just turned eighteen last Sunday, runs around a corner to get a better position. Darkness! All he heard was the sound of the gun, the bullet hit him in the chest and he died before his head hit the ground.

The twelve-year-old Palestinian, screams back, “Ali, I got one, I got one, I killed a Jew.”

Confusion

Bedlam

Chaos in the early morning before sunrise.

In his moment of glory a screaming bullet whether meant for him or not, pierces the back of his neck just under his right ear and explodes out through his throat. The noise level is far to loud to hear the slight gurgling sound that comes from deep inside him. In mid sentence the young defender of Jenin falls, holding the blood from gushing out of his neck, only a few feet from the Jewish soldier he has just killed. His body twitches and contorts before it goes lymph.

“Ibrahim!”

Unseen because of the blanket of darkness, a synchronized whir of a large propeller gets louder with each passing second. Abu Yassin hears the dreaded sound and must make for cover leaving his beloved brother lying in his pool of death. He is hardly out of range when three rockets of immense firepower hit the culminating point in split second intervals, causing a huge explosion which lights up the night sky that can be seen on the Mediterranean coast almost twenty miles away. A plume of smoke, dust, and for sure some human DNA reaches high into the now dawning sky.

The shooting stops. The Jewish commander calls his superior in Tel Aviv on a secure channel. “All is still, all is still. “

In Ramallah, in the West Bank, a shopkeeper, whose son was killed as he fought in the name of Hamas… Fucking Jews,

In Jerusalem, the father of Ron, the youngest commando, and the only Israeli killed in the raid…Fucking Arabs.

 

 

Part I

 

 

“Hussein, pass me that hammer and nail”

“Yes, father.” Hussein hurries to hand off the hammer and nail sitting on the bench to his left.

“There, that ought to hold it until I can get it done right. Ok, Dahab, don’t allow any of the customers to lean on it, or it could fall.” Omar, tells his daughter while gently testing the orange stand, top heavy, watching it swaying back and forth.

“Yes, father,” Dahab says untrustingly.

“Come Hussein, we are late to pray. “

Dahab watches her father walk off with his familiar limping gait, a wound he sustained fighting the Israelis during the 1967 war.

Hussein, looks sympathetically at his sister, whispering to her, “not to worry, we will fix it right by tomorrow night, I promise,” and then walks off.

Dahab takes a deep breadth looking at the orange stand. She takes her left hand and gently gives it a soft push. The stand sways back and forth in a metronomic like style. I hope this  thing just gets me through the day. The table is very old. It was made by her great-grandfather almost eighty-five years ago.

 

Hussein Husseini struggled to come to Palestine as a young man. His native Huran was extremely poor, but the Jews had work in Palestine for all those who wanted it. He came and worked hard. He would stay two hours longer in the fields to make extra money. He saved it, storing it under a rock in a secret place along a nearby hillside. After twenty years he had enough to begin his dream. He bought a table, some oranges from the Jews he had been working for, and rented the space that still exists today. He was successful and never again worked for the Jews. He didn’t like working for the Jews anyway. They were a hard people he used to say. “They love God, but they don’t care if God loves them.”

 

 

The phone rings just as Yakov is about to leave his apartment.

“‘Hello.”

“Hey, kid brother.”

“Hi, Avi.”

“I just got off the phone with ma. She wants me to bring some carrots and eggplant for Shabbat dinner tonight, but I have an important meeting at the base. Can you do it, please?

“What? I don’t have time for that Avi. I am trying to get finished with this work here. I have two papers due at the end of next week.”

“ Yaki, I wouldn’t ask this, except it’s so important. You know how things are right now.” This war with the Palestinians is ruining everything.  “And now with the Americans getting into it, we need to secure and develop strategies that may involve them. It’s a mess, since this 9-11 thing—I know, but what can I do? It’s my job to do these things.”

Yakov relents, knowing his brother has got his hands full with all the fighting going on in the West Bank. “Yea… Ok…Hey what’s going on in Jenin?  Did you have any thing to do with what happened there last night? “

“I can’t talk over the phone, I’ll tell you about it when I see you tonight.”

“Shit, you had something to do with that? Were you there? Oh man, are you all right? Do Mom and Dad know?”

“I will tell you tonight.”

 

 

The digital red numbers on the clock in the library silently turn to 3:05. Yakov instinctively looks at his watch, which reads two minutes later.  He hurries to finish the sentence he is writing for his paper on Rousseau’s Social Contract for his political science class. I took too much time. I am going to be late. Like many Israeli families, every week the Shalev’s gather together for this traditional prayer and dinner. If I go into the Arab shuk in the old city I might be able to save some time. Yakov heads into old Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate. The city’s streets narrow and curve as he goes deeper within its confines. As time seems to stand still, he passes the Wailing Wall. Across the clearing, throngs of observant Jews are busy praying as nightfall approaches and the Sabbath begins.

Yacov continues on a consistent hurried pace to the far side of the city, where he knows the best groceries can be found. The Shuk is an interesting place to the outside observer. For hundreds of years it has seen vendors share their wares day in and day out. It’s a market place not unlike others throughout the Arab world, several square blocks of open air, merchant stalls that sell everything from bread to beads. Most of these vendors are closed today, because this is Friday, the Muslim holy day of prayer. However, a few entrepreneurial types open up for a few hours in the afternoon to take care of their Jewish customers and the Palestinians preparing for the week. Dahab is the only one in her father’s stand at the moment. Normally she shares the duties with her mother while her father and brothers are praying in the Mosque. But she is alone as her mother went to get her little sister from school. Several Jewish customers are lining up to pay for their goods; Dahab is busy making change while answering questions to others.

Yacov, moves across the street where Ibn Balut crosses Az Zabra way. There are people milling everywhere, Jews buying for their Shabbat and Palestinians stocking up for the week after the Friday call to prayers—it’s very crowded. The air is tense because of the violence that has occurred between the Jews and Palestinians in the previous couple of months. Palestinians eye the Jews with contempt and mistrust. The Jews eye the Palestinians with fear, and loathing.

“Yes mam, those are three shekels a kilo,” Dahab, answers without looking up as she provides change to another customer.

A short Palestinian woman begins to gather oranges on the broken stand. She prefers the ones at the back, as they are a little bigger. She reaches. Dahab is not watching as three people are talking to her at once.

Yakov walks up to a stall and begins to feel some homegrown apples. Amidst the stares and darting looks contributing to an already thick atmosphere, the stand sways slightly. Just as Dahab turns and looks up to see the old woman it teeters and falls directly over with the old woman falling with it, like a swimmer being forced over the falls on a strong wave.

Yacov hears a crash and splat and the screams of two people across the street. He looks up just in time to see oranges exploding out in every direction. At the epicenter lies an old woman face down on a bed of oranges. He would have laughed if things had been different, but in this atmosphere very few comical situations get the laughs they deserve. Instinctively, Yacov moves to help the others who are gathering up the rolling fruit. Working feverishly to keep the oranges from rolling down the street, he hurriedly gathers them into a pile. He grabs one at the same time as Dahab and their hands clasp for the same orange. Dahab and Yacov simultaneously look up to see each other’s eyes. Something happens. It doesn’t matter if the oranges are rolling away. Yacov is tranced revealing a faint pleasured smile. He cannot believe the vision that is before him. Dahab looks deep into his piercing blue eyes, his wavy hair falling poetically across his forehead.

The two young people are still holding hands as they rise in the street with everyone else gathering oranges around them. They sheepishly unlock their hands and the single orange that brought them together falls to the ground. They both laugh and then laugh again that they were both laughing at the same thing. Kindred spirits, Yacov thinks. Soul mates keeps running through Dahab’s mind.

He stares at her, captivated by her natural beauty. Whoa! I think my world has just changed.  “I’m Yacov”, he says instinctively like someone that doesn’t have to say it.

“I’m Dahab.”  She tilts her head a little to the side, smiling, flirting with him. What’s happening to me. I never acted this way with a man before.

Yacov reaches out and tenderly takes her hand again, and peers longingly into her eyes. Dahab makes no move to back away. She likes the way it feels. Is this love? It can’t be, I just met this guy.

Yacov slowly comes closer to Dahab holding her hand, almost to the point where they embrace. Oh, shit, my mother’s…Shabbat.

“What’s wrong?” Even though she just met him she understands through the look in his eyes that something is bothering him. It is almost like I have known him all my life.

“I’ve got to go, I just remembered something. I have to be somewhere. Can you meet me here again tomorrow? I must see you again.”

“Yes, but not here.” Dahab furrows her brow slightly putting a crease in her perfectly toned olive skin.

I like the way you do that forehead thing.” Relaxing again, Yacov waves his hand slightly across his face in a gesture of description.

She looks up without moving her head, and smiles at him. Do you know “The Rain Spout” near the university?’

“The one on Ben Yehuda St. upstairs from the movie house?

“Yea, meet me there at seven.”  

.  Dahab pulls away as she notices some religious women looking at her with disgust. How dare she display such sexual positions in public. She is a stain on Islam. “Now you must go. You are going to get me in a lot of trouble. Please leave” Dahab looks over at the religious women peering at her with only their eyes showing through their veils.

I can’t wait to see this woman again. She is so beautiful…I have to wait until tomorrow.. I don’t know if I can stand it ..“I will see you tomorrow. Don’t  be late.” Yacov smiles and approaches her again. She recoils from his advance.

“I must get back to work,” Dahab says now with some trepidation. What came over me? How could I have done that in front of everyone? What if they tell my father?.

“Until tomorrow then.” Yacov, sensing that something is wrong looks in the direction of the Arab women staring. Realizing that Dahab might be in trouble, he tells her. “Don’t worry, they can’t hurt you.”

Dahab gives a faint smile knowing that Yacov can’t possibly understand the intricacies of being a Palestinian woman in an Arab culture and she is not about to begin to explain it to him here. She turns and grabs a box and begins putting all the oranges that are now gathered mostly in a corner of the stall. “Go now.she says almost under her breadth so that no one will hear.

“Ok, see you.”

“Bye.”

Yacov leaves and disappears around the corner.

Dahab likes the attention from this Jewish guy. But why? She can’t understand the attraction; she only knows that it is true. She contemplates the hold that first introduction seems to have on her for a moment and then returns to her work.

 

 

 

 

“Yaki, you seem far off in some distant place tonight…everything OK?

“Sure Ma. Can I have a piece of bread please?”

“ How’s school?” She probes with only a concern for his welfare.

“It’s fine. Everything is fine ma, really.”

“ Yea, you seem to be in especially good spirits tonight.” His father leans over handing his son a piece of bread.

“Maybe little brother is in love.” Avi says trying to get a rise out of his brother.

Ooh, you’ve got a girl friend, Yaki? Jordana asks with all the nosy enthusiasm and interest that a little sister in high school might ask in a situation like this. “I hope she’s nicer than the last one.” Referring to Yacov’s previous dating experience.

Yacov could never quite understand why Jordana did not get along with his last girl friend. I’ve got enough problems without trying to figure out exactly what’s going on between those two.

Yacov rolls his eyes at his brother and sister’s comments without missing a step in devouring his mother’s Motza Ball soup. He concentrates hard not to reveal what he is really feeling. He can’t stop thinking about Dahab. Perhaps he is right. Maybe I am in love. Is this what that feels like? If it is, I like it. He can only imagine what his family would say if they knew he was interested in a Palestinian girl.

His father turns to Avi for more serious conversation. “Avi, what is going on in the territories? Is it getting worse or what.” Moshe Shalev, an ex army officer and cited for distinction during the Six Day War, is no stranger to violence. Serving in a special unit for fifteen years after the war, he was part of a commando team that stole its way into Lebanon twenty years ago to infiltrate and kill one of the terrorists responsible for murdering eleven Israeli athletes in Munich, Germany, during the 1972 Olympic games.

 

“Moshe, if only you were born a woman, I’d be taking you home right now.”

“Fuck you. How in the Hell do women walk in these things anyway.” Moshe wobbles about getting used to the high heels he must wear as part of his cover. Two of the assassinating agents were dressed as women. However the other agent, Shimon, was dressed as a religious woman, relegating a much easier disguise. He wore street clothes under his robe and no make up because his entire face was covered to his eyes. Moshe’s cover was a modern woman dressed in the style prevalent in secular Beirut in the late 1970s. A woman would never be suspected.

“Are you ready Moshe?” His commander asks anticipating a positive response.

“Yes sir, as ready as I’m ever going to be.” Moshe walks up to the commander and slightly stumbles, drawing giggles from one of the other commandos.

“Gentlemen,” the commander orders, “this is not funny. We are about to engage an enemy of the Israeli people. Our objective is a cold-blooded killer. We are going to make sure that he never gets a chance to kill another Jew. Not here, not in Israel, not anywhere, not ever. So, if you guys think this is funny, maybe you should go back right now?”

A perfect quiet fell over the room in the small safe house on the south side of Beirut. Moshe prepared to leave to perform his mission. He checked his lipstick one more time and the door opened.

The lady’s wig that Moshe wore concealed the earpiece from which he received direction.  The area was crowded with pedestrian traffic. Or does it just seem that way because of the job we have to do? As he approached his position he casually stood at a bus stop listening to the constant chatter coming over his earpiece. He identified and established the position of his contacts, Rafael, directly across from the objective, and Shimon who was on the opposite corner. They were set up purposely that way to trapped their victim. Whichever way the objective turned he could not get away.

A voice came over his earpiece. “He’s out, he’s moving, Moshe he is coming your way.” The other two converge on the man from behind. Moshe grabbed his revolver with the silencer already affixed from under his dress and when the man was close enough he drew and fired twice, hitting the man in the chest almost before he knew what was going on. One of the other agents methodically aimed his weapon and fired twice into the man’s head to make sure he was dead.

Pandemonium struck the crowded street. The three men walked away briskly before anyone could gather their thoughts. Moshe took off his high heels to move quicker.  Around the corner a car moved into position, synchronized with the their arrival. The three men climbed into the back seat.  Within two hours the whole team was back in Tel Aviv, safe with the mission completed.

 

“So tell me Avi, what do you think about what they’re doing there in the territories? Do we have any chance of reviving Oslo?”

Avi finishes swallowing his food while he gathers his thoughts. ”In my opinion there will never be peace between us and them in our lifetimes. The hatred on their faces makes it seem”, he gestures with his arms looking for the right word…”hopeless.”

“Avi, you need to be patient, this thing that they’re doing, the violence, suicide bombings, all the hatred it will burn itself out some day.”

“But, when father? Are my children going to have to deal with this also? Since the Arabs started killing us over a hundred years ago, we have always fought so that we could someday have peace. Haven’t we always said,  ‘we fight so our children won’t have to?’ Isn’t that what we say father? Isn’t that why you fought, and my grandfather fought…and him,” Avi points to a fading photograph on a wall with seven Jewish settlers posing with rifles and bands of bullets around their shoulders, “my great, great, grandfather, who came here from Russia, isn’t that why he fought?”

Realizing the futility of defending such a notion to his son’s argument, Moshe sighs, “yes, son, that is why we fought.”

“Nodding his head in agreement and taking time to swallow his food, Avi continues, “Of course it is—but how long must we continue to fight in order to have peace? I don’t want to leave this to my children, their children or their children after that. This is to stop now, in this generation one-way or the other.

“There will never be peace between them and us. At least I am tired of fighting for it. The only solution to this problem is complete and total separation. They hate us. That hate is so deeply ingrained, I don’t know if it is possible for them to ever change.  And, as long as they pose a threat to us we will be forced to defend ourselves. “

“Avi, with that kind of attitude for sure we are not going to have peace.” Yacov adds disturbed by what he just heard.

Indignant, Avi glares at his little brother.  Yaki Look, do you think I want to keep going in there and shooting little kids? Do you think I like killing these people? I’m telling you either we fight them there or we will have to kill them here. And, I am not taking a chance at having to defend my mother and father’s lives from their front yard. I have looked into their faces and see only hatred. There is no negotiation with hatred. None…none.” Avi’s voice tails off with the final word clarifying for himself as well as his family the total despair of the situation.

A strange surrendering quiet settles over the table. His mother simply says, “we will finish this meal in peace at any rate.”

 

Part II

 

As the morning call to the faithful circulates through the city, the Jerusalem chill surrounds the men and women setting up their domains to sell today’s goods.

It ‘s a hard life but Dahab’s family’s stall is one of the oldest and most successful on the street. The cold gray Jerusalem morning bites at Dahab’s perfectly toned olive skin. She can barely move her lips in the morning chill.

“Looks like it might rain today.” Omar, her father implies with some authority. He places the oranges on the table as his great-great grandfather  had done almost eighty five years ago.

“Oh father, if we have to close early today, can I go into the city to get a book I need for one of my classes.”

“We’ll see daughter, we’ll see.”

Dahab hands the change to Mrs. Rahim while her father carries on a conversation with her cousin that she cannot help overhearing. Omar stands and listens respectfully to the firebrand that is explaining his interpretation of Allah’s wishes.

“We will push those Zionist monkeys right into the ocean.”

“Muhammad, the only thing you and your friends are going to accomplish with that attitude is to get more of our innocent people killed.”

“Your problem uncle is that you don’t understand the words of the prophet. We will retake the land that was stolen from us. It will not be easy but in time we will be victorious. And, we will throw the Jews out.”

“Look, no one wants to see the Zionists removed from this place more than me. My father, your grandfather was the mayor of Darmoun and owned land in the valley near Tel Aviv, before 1948.

 

Two World War II vintage lories filled with Jewish soldiers, only about half in uniform, ride through the streets of Darmoun. Over the loud speaker the booming voice rings out the words that no one in this town wanted to hear. The information from other towns was that the army was expelling residents. Now, they had come to Darmoun. This is a nightmare.

 

“This is the Israeli Defense Force. This town has been designated for evacuation because of the military situation at the present time. Gather up your belongings and meet in the town square at 1000 hours.  You will be transported to a safer location where the Army of Israel can protect you.”

 

“Who is in charge here? I need to speak to whoever is in charge?”

“My name is Abe, you can call me Abe. I guess you might say that I’m in charge. “

“Excuse me sir but I am the mayor of this town, and we really protest the army coming in here and forcibly moving us out.”

“What is your name?”

“Rahim Husseni, sir.”

“Well, Rahim, three times in the last week this town has served as a staging ground for irregular Arab forces. Three of my men have been killed. “

“Nonsense, There are no soldiers here. We support a neutral stance in this war. You have no right to move us out.”

“We know that those attackers came from this place. We followed their tracks here. And, as far as having the right to do it, well, I have the authority given to me by the Provisional Government of the State of Israel. And since you are on Israeli land that government’s authority applies to you and your town. I have been given the order to clear this town and that is what I am going to do, with or without your help. I do not have the time to argue with you about it. When the war is over, you can come back, but only when the situation becomes stable.”

 

“Until the day he died my father insisted that the government told him that he could return. Therefore, I would like to have it back. I’m entitled to it. But that time never came and now the Jews are too strong, their weapons are too advanced and they have the United States backing them up. No, my friend, you will not win. You will only lose. Our best bet is to compromise with them. If we can return to the 1967 boundaries, that would be enough for me. ”

“NEVER! I will never give anything to those pigs. They murder our children, oppress our entire people, and poison us with their western democracy. They must die, and they will. We will not stop until they are all gone.”

Omar, realizing how hopeless it is to continue the conversation, ends it by turning to the next customer who is waiting patiently to be served.

Appalled by the determination to continue such bloodshed, Dahab stands and listens while she continues her work. Afraid to say anything, less she brings suspicion upon herself.

 

 

“Dahab?”

“Yes father?”

“I heard something strange today that I need to talk to you about.”

“Sure, what is it father?”

“I heard that you were holding hands and talking with a boy out here yesterday, is that true?”

“Of course not, what—who on earth would say such a thing?” Dahab, trying hard to control her composure, Alla please help me so he won’t find out.

“A Jew, he was.”

What? I am accused of cavorting against the laws of the Koran and with a Jew? Who would say such a thing, father?”

“Then it is not true, my daughter?”

“Of course not. I would never do anything to dishonor this family father.”

”Good. Because to dishonor is bad enough, but to do it with a Jew.” Omar looks up at some Jews haggling over some fruit at the stand across the way. “Look at them, they invade our land and bring their stinking European ways with them. They are the enemy. Never forget that.

“But, you have always said that we must make peace with the Jews.”

“That’s right, we must because they live here, but they are still the enemy.”

“When we make peace with them they will no longer be our enemies, right father? As usual Dahab tries to get her father to submit to logic.

“ I suppose, but it will take a long time for this resentment to stop after the signing of any piece of paper.” Omar continues tying the bags of oranges together. “My time in the ’67 war convinced me of that.”

 

 

 

Omar filled another sandbag and tied it together. The men in Omar’s unit were working feverishly to build a defensive position so when the Israelis come they will be able to stop their advance. However, they never figured the Israelis would get there so fast. Their leaders had told them that the Egyptians in Gaza were holding them back. But, that was not true and the Jordanian troops defending Jerusalem were not aware of it.

“Omar! The Israelis are coming, Tanks… many tanks and soldiers are crossing the bridge right now. “

Right after he heard the word “now” the scream of F-4 phantom fighters came in low and strafed their position sending Omar and his informant running for cover.

“Alla help me!” Omar cries as the inferno surrounds him killing almost everyone in his unit.

Confused and daze by the noise and devastation, Omar begins to run. If I just run and don’t stop maybe they will just let me go. I’m running away from them so maybe they will just let me go…Maybe they will just let me go…Maybe…

“Udi look, that Arab is running right for us.”

“shoot him!”

“But Udi, he is unarmed.”

“You don’t know that for sure, private, shoot him!”

“But Udi?…”

He is too close. Udi grabs the privates American made M-16 and fires one shot hitting Omar in the kneecap. He falls to the ground like a sack a potatoes falling off the end of a truck.

 

“Hey, wake up, wake up, what’s your name?”

“Um, my mouth is so dry, who…where…”

“Now just relax young man, no one is going to hurt you.”

“Where am I?”

You’re at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. You were shot in the leg and when you fell you hit your head. You needed surgery so we did it for you. I am Dr. Benjamin, and your name is…?”

“Omar Husseini.”

“OK, Mr. Husseini, you just relax and take it easy and enjoy the accommodations here courtesy of the International Hadassah Women’s Organization.

“Doctor?”

“Yes?”

“What is wrong with my leg?”

“Nothing, now, but it was touch and go for a while.  The soldiers that shot you gave away their position and were attacked by some of your friends. You lied there for six or seven hours until the fighting ended. When it was safe they sent two men out to get you. They brought you here, the closest hospital around. And it was a good thing too. If they hadn’t, you might have ended up losing that leg.”

Omar laid back on his bed and tried to absorb everything that happened, running the events over in his mind, at least what he could remember. Damn Jews, now they’re even making sure we all heal correctly after shooting us with their bullets…probably so they can just shoot us again…maybe killing us next time.

 

 

 

All through the Shabbat, Yacov cannot get her beauty out of his mind. He only knows that he has to see her again. At 5:00 he turns off the T.V. after a story about a settler who beat to death a twelve year old Palestinian boy, who had thrown a rock and hit the settler’s four year old daughter in the head, causing a slight concussion. He takes a shower and a needed shave. He puts on clean clothes and combs his hair. Slicking it back with water Yacov looks like a different man. He looks into the mirror and stares at himself, contemplating how lucky he is that he is going to see such a beautiful woman.

 

 

It’s 4:00. Dahab figures this would be as good a time as any to ask her father if she can go early. “Father, can I go into town to buy that book I need. I might meet some friends for coffee also, is that OK?

“When?”

“After work.”

“If you finish everything you have to do we’ll see.” Dahab often asked her father to let her go out on Saturday nights with her friends. Many times he would say yes, pleading over his wife’s disgusted looks, Ayeesha, that is what young people do these days. Dahab new, he would not suspect anything, even though someone had told him what had happened at the stall yesterday.

 

7:15, and no Yacov. Is he coming? Maybe he decided against it?  Maybe he won’t show? Maybe he didn’t like me as much as I thought he did? Dahab sits on the Veranda over looking Ben Yehuda street, easily swishing a straw in her coke while she is beginning to feel like a fool sitting there waiting for someone who will never show.  She watches the throngs of people walking up and down the popular promenade.

“Dahab!”

She leans over the vine covered, decorative, wrought iron railing. She sees him standing there looking up at her with that beautiful smile, one dimple on his left cheek. “Where have you been? I thought you weren’t coming?”

Yacov, looks up at her with an unbelievable look. “Are you kidding. You’re not mad are you?”

“Well, it is 7:15 you know,” she says half jokingly.

“Yacov falls to one knee. Please, please forgive me. This would never have happened if that puppy had not been hit by that car.” He looks up at her and his semi serious face fades into a broad joking smile.

She laughs.

He loves the way she laughs. He stops laughing in order to savor what a wonderful feeling it is to make her laugh.

Tuning into his banter, she playfully suggests, “Just for that you cannot come up here unless you recite me a poem or sing me a song. “

“Oh no you’re kidding. In front of all these people?”

Dahab enthusiastically shakes her head yes, and leans her chin on her hands, looking down at him on the street below, to watch his next move.

Yacov, thinking fast, had been listening to a Simon and Garfunkle set on XM just before he left the house. Thinking for a moment, with his untrained, but reasonable voice he suddenly breaks into:

Here is my song for the asking

Ask me and I will play,

So, sweetly I’ll make you smile

Do,do, do, do, do, do, do…imitating  Paul Simon’s lyrical guitar riff that comes directly after that verse.

He does kind of an awkward soft shoe to finish off the rendition. Not watching what he is doing he almost hits an elderly couple as they walk past him.

“Mashuga.” The man shakes his head as he escorts his female companion around this crazy kid. 

Yacov raises his hands as if to say, what happened? She breaks into laughter again, and motions for him to come up. Yacov runs in and climbs the stairs double time. As he walks through the painted black door, he works his way through the Saturday night mass of people. He looks out at the veranda and there she is, dressed in a clean, conservative but very feminine Arab muslin dress with strapless sandals revealing perfectly formed light brown feet and just a hint of what looks like a set of beautiful legs.

She smiles at him from across the room. He makes his way over to her table and sits across from her, just so he can absorb her beauty.

They talk for an hour sipping cokes, and he orders one beer.

“I have to go to the ladies room, “she breaks the line of conversation, “I’ll be right back.”

Yacov leans back pushing his legs forward and clasping his hands behind his neck. This is just too good to be true. She’s perfect. I even like her faults.

“Hey, hey man, don’t bring those Arab bitches in here any more ok?” An obviously drunk young man in a tattered Israeli army uniform, his shirt out and some kind of food stain on his chest, staggers around Yacov holding a bottle of beer in one hand. Trying to maintain his balance as Yacov looks up at him. The smell of booze accompaning his offensive words closes in like a small room causing Yacov to almost gag at the scene.

Not looking for any trouble and preferring to diffuse the situation, but unable to control his youthful pride,  “What’s it your business who I associate with? Who are you my mother?

A finger now points right into Yacov’s face poking his cheek, “Look, bro, this place is for heebs only, got it?” The teetering young man applies a little more pressure to Yacov’s face after “only” and “got it.” Feeling quite proud of himself due to his inebriated state, the young man turns and laughs to some of his friends at the bar.

Seeing Dahab returning from across the room, Yacov takes the finger away from his face twisting it, drawing a yell from its owner, and he shoves him to the ground. With the aid of the fourteen beers the young man has in his system, he cannot get up to take Yacov to the next level.

“Hey, let;’s get out of here, go for a walk or something.”

“Sure,” she says, looking back at the person lying on the ground, showing some confusion about what just had happened.

 

Down on the street people are everywhere. It is a normal Saturday night.

“What happened in there?”

“Oh, just some people never understand to mind their own business.” Yacov evades the question because he fears that any more negatives might destroy this great evening, maybe the best evening of his life.

Dahab, reaches over and takes Yacov’s hand. They smile at each other and turn the corner, walking into an ice cream shop. They sit outside on the edge of a brick planter box, eating ice cream and telling stories about themselves growing up, both funny and sad. They both laugh so hard that Yacov remarks how his jaw is hurting.

After a long pause, Yacov  says, “I have to go on reserve duty next week.”

“Does that mean we can’t see each other?”

“That depends on where they send me, what I’m doing and who I am doing it with.”

“Oooh mysterious.” She leans over and playfully pinches him in the side. He jerks forward and they both laugh. Dahab loses her balance and she falls against his chest. They stare at each other’s eyes. Slowly their heads meet, her head rising upward and his coming down. They kiss on a side street in Jerusalem in front of an ice cream parlor in the middle of November with people milling all around. It was as natural as a kiss can be.

“I think I better go, it’s getting late, “ she whispers in his ear.

“Just when this was starting to get interesting.” Yacov says disappointingly resigned. Still holding her in his arms he strokes her hair once. “Actually it has been pretty interesting since we met yesterday.”

She smiles. “Its getting late, I really have to go.”

Yacov lifts her up so that she is now upright again and sitting by his side. “Ok come on, I’ll walk you home.”

As they approach the Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, she says,” that’s far enough, I better go alone from here.”

Yacov looks around and pushes her into the shadows next to the wall of a building. Passionately they kiss for an extended time. She holds him tight.

“Thank you so much for tonight.”

“ I can’t remember a time when I have been happier.”

“Me neither, “ Dahab understands completely what Yacov is saying. She feels what he feels. Can this really be happening?

“So, what about tomorrow,” he looks down into her chest while holding her against his body?

Dahab thinks for a moment, “here, take my cell number.” She removes a pencil and a piece of scratch paper from her pocket book and scribbles her number on it. “Call me about three.”

“OK.” Yacov reciprocates and gives her his cell number as well. “Maybe we can meet right here?”

“That sounds good.”

“Maybe we’ll go to Tel Aviv?”

“Ooh yea, I would like that. I haven’t been to Tel Aviv since I was a little girl.”

They hold each other tight again and kiss some more and then slowly break their embrace stretching their arms so that the last point of contact is their finger tips.

“Goodnight.”

“Bye.”

Dahab runs back and hugs him one more time, she whispers, “I’ll be thinking about you.”

“Me too.” Yacov agrees. He watches her as she walks away from him down the street. Her silhouette responds happily in the bounce of her walk. Occasionally she coyly looks back at him to see if he is still there watching her, knowing full well that he is. She smiles and lets go a little laugh that he doesn’t hear. Yacov watches her until she turns the corner and disappears into the night. He slowly turns and begins to walk back to Ben Yehuda Street, trying to understand all that has happened to him in the last couple of days. I must be in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part III

 

Yacov, stirs in his bed as the sunlight pierces his room casting shadows on the wall. He awakes to the sound of a radio in the other room. Two Jewish boys, ages twelve and thirteen, playing hooky from school, were found beaten to death in a cave just west of the town of Nablus on the West Bank. The announcer continues with the gory details.

 

“Military experts maintain that the bodies they found were apparently stoned to death and then mutilated further with the use of knives and axes. The boys were so badly disfigured; their loved ones could not identify them. Dental records had to be consulted in order to confirm the boys’ identities.”

 

Yacov rolls out of bed, determined not to let the bad news of the day, which he regards as the systematic destruction of both peoples little by little, ruin the good feeling he has built over the last three days for Dahab. He rises, takes a shower and dresses for the day.

 

 

Dahab, a student at Bir Zeit University is sitting in class at the time Yacov is getting out of bed. She finds it hard to concentrate on her studies. He is constantly on her mind.

Her best friend Kadijah, nudges her, “Hey, what’s wrong with you today?”

Dahab is dying to tell someone and who better than her best friend. But she debates whether that is wise or not. She whispers “I’ll tell you later.” That way, if I change my mind by the end of class I can make up something.

“Is it good or bad?” Her friend wants to know with an inquisitive smile.  

Dahab leans over and touches Kadija’s arm, “Oh, it is definitely good, definitely.”

Dahab’s answer catches the attention of the professor who stops his lecture for a moment until the two girls are through. Dahab, apologizes and the professor continues.

After class is over Kadija stands waiting for Dahab gathering her books, “Well, what is it? Tell me, I can’t wait.”

“I met someone, someone really great.” Dahab says beaming.

“What? Really? Who, what when where, how?”

Dahab proceeds to tell Kadija about the other day at her father’s stand, gathering the oranges, how their eyes met, and how she just knew that this felt really right.

“Wow! That’s great, I am so happy for you. What’s his name?”

Dahab hesitates and grits her teeth before she says his name. “Yakov.”

Kadija slowly loses the sympathetic smile from her face as the reality of whom her best friend is seeing. Yakov? That’s a Jewish name isn’t it?”

“Well…”

“Are you nuts girl?”

“Kadi?”

“A Jew?”

“Kadi?”

“You’re seeing a Jew, an Israeli, a Zioinst?”

“Kadi?

“Are you nuts? Do you know what will happen if…?”

“Kadija!” Dahab continues when she is sure she has Kadija’s attention.  “I love him.” Dahab takes both of her friend’s hands and holds them with hers. “And, he loves me too.”

Kadija blinks twice still in disbelief of what she is hearing and turns her head slightly sideways to try and understand her friend better.

“Please Kadi. I need at least one person on my side. I was dying to tell someone. If I can’t trust you who can I trust?”

Kadija thinks hard on it for a moment, and after weighing everything she just heard, her love and devotion of her friend and the very possibility that she might really be in love, she nods her head in approval, “OK, Dahab, I will support you, but I am still not convinced about it.”

“You will have to meet him, that is the only way.”

“A Zionist, I don’t know, those people are the enemy. My uncle died in a Zionist prison camp last year. I don’t know if I can do that.”

Dahab, looks at her friend, once again searching for some support in her eyes.

“OK, OK, I’ll meet him.”

“Thank you, so much, Kadi. I know you will like him.”

“Yea, well, I got to go to class, I’ll see you later.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Hello?”

“Dahab? Can you talk?”

“Yea, sure.”

“Can you meet me where we said goodbye last night in say, about an hour?”

“Yes I think I can do that. Are we going to Tel Aviv?”

“Yea, we can relax there a little more I think. Less people there to recognize and hassle us.”

“Great! But I have to back by 9:00. Ok?”

“I don’t see a problem with that.”

“Good! See you in an hour then.”

“See you then.”

 

In Tel Aviv, along Dizengoff Ave. the two walk arm and arm. The wind is blowing harder than normal for this time of year. The smells up and down the street, attack the senses with a battery of culinary delights.

When they arrive at the plaza at the end of the street, Dahab says, “I’m tired, can we sit here for a few minutes?”

“Sure.”

The two sit down on the edge of the fountain that defines the center of this portion of the city. The cold winter air, becoming colder as the wind occasionally sprays them with a mist of water as it dances to the sway of the wind.

Dahab leans against him as they snuggle for warmth, occasionally and lovingly kissing each other.

“I love you, Dahab.”

“I love you too, so very much.” She holds him as tightly as she can. “I never want this to end.”

She looks at him right in his eyes and tells him, “I want to be with you.”

“You are with me,” and he kisses her again.

“No, you don’t understand, I want to be with you as your lover.”

Yacov, not surprised at the revelation, would have suggested it himself but didn’t want it taken the wrong way. “Ok, let’s go, I know the perfect place.”

The two walk two blocks to Herbert Samuel Dr., the last street before the sand at the western edge of the city. Arm in arm they enter into the five-story building called The Beach Hotel. Dahab waits in the lobby while Yacov makes the necessary arrangements with the clerk at the desk. He signs the register, and beckons Dahab to follow him upstairs.

Dahab is a little embarrassed but realized that no sacrifice is too great for Yacov’s love. While they make their way up the stairs the two hold hands but remain silent, lost in their own thoughts until they reach room 14 on the fifth floor. Yacov opens the door to a wide picture window looking out at an angry ocean churning and spraying in deference to the wind and the apparent storm that looms from the dark clouds on the horizon. The room is clean but common, with a double bed, a nightstand with a lamp and a picture over the bed of a farmer harvesting his crops. Everything is screwed down to its surface. They smile at each other and Yacov closes the door.

 

 

 

 

Dahab’s phone rings while she is standing in the food line at school. She reaches into her purse to say, “Hello.”

“Hi.”

“Yacov, I’ve been thinking about you. Where are you? I must see you.

“You can’t. At least not until tonight. I have to report for my reserve duty at 4:00.”

“OK. Tonight then, where?”

“At our usual place in front of the Jaffa Gate.”

“OK. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Oh, why were you calling anyway?”

“I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“I’m glad you did.”

“OK, see you tonight about 8:00”

“Ok, bye.”

“Bye.”

 

Yacov Shalev walks briskly to the army depot around the block from his house.  He knows he was supposed to report at 4:00 pm sharp, however he is a little late. The sergeant, at the front desk, a wide, powerful thirtyish looking man, eyeballs Yakov as he moves up to his desk. “Good afternoon.”

“Can I have your name, please sir?”

Yakov removes his gloves, which were protecting his hands from the biting cold outside. “Yakov Shalev. Phew! It really is chilly out there, hey sergeant?”

The sergeant gives a courteous acknowledging smile, but is obviously too concerned with his immediate task making sure his army discipline does not falter. “Yes sir, you are to report to Major Greenbaum  at checkpoint 313. The sergeant carefully studies his maps, “here it is, in sector fourteen, the Talal junction, on the north entrance to Jenin.”

“Oh, shit, I hate Jenin, but then again who doesn’t, right sergeant?” The low stocky, sergeant nervously adjusts his beret, as he knows no one really likes to go there because it is so dangerous.

“Thank you, sergeant, have a good day.”

Once there, Yacov begins his reserve duty by checking pass cards for Palestinians who want to travel to another place in the territory, whether for work or pleasure. It is these restrictions that make Palestinians so angry. But, for Israelis, they see it as a necessary element in securing Israel proper from terrorist attack.

The commanding officer, Major Greenbaum, comes over to the three men at the guard gate and announces. “All leaves are cancelled for tonight.”

Yakov’s heart drops. He was counting on seeing Dahab tonight.

“Sorry gentlemen, the army is planning something special so no one can leave.” When the officer leaves Yacov grabs his cell phone and calls Dahab.

“I can’t make it tonight. They’re canceling all leaves because something is up. I can’t talk too much over the cell, but we are not going to be able to see each other tonight.

“Oh no, and there is someone I want you meet.”

“Who?”

“My friend, Kadija. I told her about us and she wants to meet you.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No really, but I guess it will have to wait for another time.”

“Ok, I got to go, I’ll try to call you later.”

After several hours Yacov gets a call that tanks and men are moving into the area, from the 106th Golani Brigade. Oh shit, that’s Avi’s unit.

 

 

The Israeli army prepares another incursion into the terrorist controlled city. At the precise moment that Dahab was turning the key to that big iron green door to her house in Jerusalem, Israeli commando soldiers were taking up positions inside Jenin preparing for an all out assault on a two street area, comprising of not more than fifty homes. As the soldiers quietly make their way from house to house taking up positions and qualifying a path for the tanks and armoured personnel carriers, the residents are unaware that anything unusual is taking place.

“Fire!”

The blast of the canon wakes up the sleepy city of Jenin. A second and a half later an explosion rips a house apart in the middle of the targeted neighborhood. Rubble and debris bloodstained with the former inhabitants is all that is left when the smoke and dust clear. Five Palestinians run down an alleyway behind the house and slip into another abandoned apartment building.

“Abdullah, take position over there behind that window. You, over there, move that table into position. Walid, you go with him. Hurry, we don’t have much time.” The fighters move themselves into position with a grace that resembles an exercise in planning for this very occurrence. They learned their lessons well. In short order the men are ready to do what is necessary to die for their country.

“OK. Let them come now. Abdullah releases the safety on his Kolishnikov and checks it one more time. “Com’ on Jews, I’m waitin’ for ya. I got somethin’ for your asses right here.”

“Easy Abdullah, your chance is about to happen. They’re coming. Be patient. Rest assure we are going to make some Jewish wives and mothers cry tonight.” The commander, Saeb, an unshaven, handsome young man in his late twenties or early thirties, kisses the nose of his Russian made rifle, the weapon of choice of the Palestinian terrorist.

At the end of the street the Israelis methodically and carefully move from house to house. Yoni, the commander, calls his platoon together on the corner. Half the men get down on one knee, the other half stand with their backs to the commander with their weapons ready for any eventuality.  “Itzik, you  take your squad on the right flank through that street on the other side. Avi,  you take your squad to the left flank through the ally. I want you two squads to run parallel to my moves, understand? We take one building at a time, back, front, and neutralize if necessary, got it?

Both squads of men shake their heads in the affirmative.

 

“OK, guys, let’s go and be careful. They’re here. It’s just a matter of finding them and neutralizing their ability. Yoni cautiously moves out.

Saeb answers a vibrating cell phone hooked to his front shirt pocket as he peers out of the darkened sanctuary. His eyes are sharp and can see any movement down the street, friend or foe. Whispering, he gently says, “Hello?”

“Saeb, this is General Hamzah. Do you have the device ready?”

“ Yes sir, everything is in place, we have the remote detonator in our possession and when the Israelis are decoyed into the building across the street, the walls will come down killing anyone underneath them.” Saeb, lets go a low sardonic laugh that is acknowledged by Abdullah and the others around him.

“This should be Jericho with their Joshua,” he muses.

“How many men do you have in your command there, Saeb?”

“Five.”

“Five?  That is not nearly enough to take on the Israelis. I am sending you the ‘September 20th Brigade.’ They are only two blocks from you now. That should give you over thirty men.”

Within five minutes, over the rooftops a group of Hamas fighters joins forces with Saeb’s men.

“Welcome, Tanzim is proud and willing to fight the Zionist enemy alongside the brave Hamas fighters of your esteemed group.” Saeb diplomatically offers the Hamas group’s commander a spot next to him so they can rule over the fighting together. The two men shake hands and bring each other up to date on what they both have been doing to recapture their country of Palestine, a favorite pastime of individual Palestinian terror cells.

A young boy leans out from a window from behind the Jewish soldiers, “Jew! Come and get me!”

“Yoni, there is a boy, he threw a rock and hit Yossi in the arm. We’re going after him. In pursuit of one Palestinian behind the south side of the building.”

Yoni, listens to his squad commander’s description of events as it plays out.

Like a shock expected but still hoped would never happen, dreaded and terrorized… BOOM! The earth shakes. Yoni looks up and sees the walls of the building imploding with his soldiers inside.

“Close ranks! Close ranks! Now, now, now!”

Avi turns and instructs his men to form back on the street with the rest of the platoon, “Double time!”

Bullets are flying everywhere. Both groups of Israelis are firing back as they run for cover. Two more men drop in the street as they scatter behind doors and broken windows to return fire.

Oh God, they’re all the dead. They’re all dead.

Yoni, shot in the leg motions to Avi he will send help to them as the Palestinian fire traps them in the middle of the street.

 

“We got them now, hey boys? Saeb congratulates his men on a job that is so far well done.

“Look at them Jews, scatter,” marvels Abdullah. “Like the cockroaches they are.”

 

Avi, rolls into the dirt. Pinned down and without a radio, He and Yossi are together behind an old burned out car, both are running low on ammunition. Their comrades are losing ground up the street. Nine men are dead. It is a disastrous day for the Israel army. Headlines in tomorrow’s papers will show:

Soldiers lured into a booby-trapped building exploded by Hamas

 Collapses on the nine young men pursuing the terrorists.

“Yossi, what is your ammo situation?” he yells above the roar of the explosions and firing of automatic weapons. “

“I’m almost out”

“Look, our only chance is to make it to that building over there.” Avi points in the direction of an abandon building fifty feet from where they are. A burst of gunfire strafes the top of their cover. The two men instinctively duck. To get to the building they must run right through the direct line of fire from Palestinians who show no let up in their attack. “If we can make it there, we can exit the back door to the street and have a chance to get back to our unit.” When there are lulls in the Palestinian fire, they can hear their comrades battling up the street. But without a radio they have no way of knowing their actual situation.

Yossi studies the probabilities of survival analytically, as he is an adjunct professor at Tel Aviv University in the math department in civilian life.  Everything Yossi does is based on mathematical probabilities.  “Our chances are not too good, but we are dead for sure if we stay here.”

“There is no cover so we are going to have to blast our way, Rambo style.”

“Agreed.” Yossi reacts as if he is arguing one of the advanced equations he postulates at conferences.

The two men take a deep breadth, pull out their pistols and load their Uzi’s with the final clip in their belts. “On three, ready?

Yossi shakes his head yes.

“One, two, three!”

The two men dash for the building, a hail of bullets rings out. The men are both hit but continue to return fire as they stagger toward the building’s front door.

“AHHH!” Yossi cries out in anguish and pain, his body can no longer move forward. He falls about twenty feet from the door. With his back to the enemy bullets continue to pierce his body. Avi, makes it to the door, looks back and sees Yossi’s lifeless body riddled with gunshot in the street. He did not deserve to die like that.

The pain, and the weakness are growing in him by the second. He has made it through the door but six bullets are keeping him from advancing. The most serious one, just to the right of his stomach and lodged in his spleen is causing severe bleeding. Avi slides down the wall he is leaning up against until he is in a crouched position. The gunfire has stopped for the moment.

The enemy is calling to him in Hebrew from across the street. “Hey, Jew boy, you dead yet?” Your friend sure is.

Avi struggles to an open window, which is five feet from him. “Say your prayers to Adonai, Jew boy, you are about to meet him. One less Jew for us to push into the sea!”

Avi struggles to his feet and cuts loose with the last of his clip and kills the Palestinian standing in the window yelling the insults in Hebrew. No more ammo. The Palestinian had a rather comical look on his face when Avi cut him down.

“Come and get me, Assholes!”

A sniper from on top of the building fires at Avi and hits him high in the chest. He falls back against a chair and table in the middle of the room.

“Are you out of ammunition Jew boy” A second Palestinian yells in English.

I’m losing it. Out of nowhere a sound of normal life, a phone rings. My cell. He laughs, spitting up blood in the process,  at the thought that someone would be calling him at a time like this. With all his strength he pulls it out.

“Hello?”

“Avi, we heard on the news that your unit is trapped there, are you OK?”

Grunting to pull himself together, “Hey, little brother, how ya doin?”

“Oh no, Avi, Oh no. Where are you? What’s your position?”

“You know I can’t tell you that kind of info over an unsecured channel.” He coughs and the blood that comes up begins to choke off his air.  Feeling himself begin to fade he accepts his fate. I’m so cold.

“Yaki”, Avi whispers, I love you… and…”

“Avi, please, I come to get you, tell me where you are?”

Silence.

“Avi! Avi! AAAAAVIIIIII!!!”

 

Avi’s funeral was a typical military affair. It was the way Avi would have wanted it. Yacov, numb from the experience cannot think of anything but getting to Dahab. Now that his brother is gone she is the only thing that gives him stability in his life. After the service, he kisses his mother and father and leaves.

“Hello?”

“Hi.”

“Oh, Yacov, I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

“Yes meet me at the Jaffa Gate in one hour. Can you do that?”

“Yes I will have to get away but I can do it. “

Yacov begins to walk to get a cab from outside the cemetery. He arrives at the entrance to the old city early. He spends the time at a kiosk where the headline of the Jerusalem Post reads Bus Bombing Kills Thirteen. The incident in Jenin which killed nine Israeli soldiers including Yacov’s brother is now old news. Terror strikes everyday in this land. As he stands there reading about the bus bombing he overhears two men arguing the points of peace with the Palestinians, one young, and the other old.

“We need to go in there and kill every one of those bastards.”

“What we need is to establish peace quickly so we can separate from those that want to do us harm.”

“And how is that going to stop the terrorists?”

“Look, when you have a responsible Palestinian government, with something to loose by violating international law, you will see a crack down on terror.”

“No you won’t, Arafat’s people are the ones that are sponsoring the terror. Giving them legitimacy will only make it easier for them to kill us.”

Yacov just shakes his head at the insolubility of the problem and walks away still hurting about his brother who died for this unsolvable cause.

 

 

Dahab had already asked her father if she could go early to go to get a book for school, knowing full well that Yacov was going to need her after the funeral. When it started to rain she saw her chance. “Father, it is starting to rain, and I really need to get this book, can I be excused?”

“Where is it that you must go, Dahab?” Her father says slightly annoyed.

“I told you before, father. It is on the western side of the city. It is the only store that has the book, please father, I need to go.”

Omar realizes that he must allow his daughter to do this. “ Ok, but be careful. I don’t trust those Jews over there.”

“I will, I promise”

Dahab gathers her pack and leaves the stall to walk toward the Jewish quarter of the city. She makes her way through the narrow passages of the old city, past the stalls, and weaving through the afternoon crowd. She passes the Temple Mount with the familiar sight of all the Jews mingling around down below in front of “The Wall.” For the Jews this is the holiest spot on earth. Behind “The Wall” is the dwelling place of God on Earth. And, the Palestinians concgregating on top of the mount. Activity is moving in and out of the Al-Aksa mosque, the seventh century shrine built to Mohammed where it is believed he arose to heaven on a white horse. The juxtaposition of so much love and hate in one place is too much for Dahab’s sensibilities to comprehend so she doesn’t even try. She cannot wait to see the only meaningful thing in her life. She passes out of Jaffa gate into West Jerusalem. She sees her love standing on the corner his head hanging, the perfect picture of despair. He looks at her and she sees his eyes are red. He falls into her arms and breaks down in the street. She gently strokes his hair as he cries into her chest, and repeating Why? Why? When he calms down they begin to walk along Jaffa road eventually hailing a cab turning toward their only refuge in this awful place, Tel Aviv.

 

“Where were you Dahab it’s late.”

“I told you father, I went to get a book.”

“Sami al-Muhammed, the shoe maker from across the way, said he was in Tel Aviv getting some leather supplies and saw someone who he thought might have been you. Was that you, Dahab?”

“No, father, I met Kadija and some other friends while I was out and we stopped for coffee at the university. So, he must be mistaken.”

Yes, he must be… go to bed now my child; we can talk more about this in the morning.”

Dahab went to her room but with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She did think that she convinced her father this time. He is definitely suspicious. Oh Allah please help me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Yakov, my father is suspicious. what are we going to do if they catch us…”?

“Stop it, no one is going to catch us.”

“I’m scared,” she sobs, “do you know what they will do if they catch me with you?”

“They’re not going to catch us. Look, I have been thinking, we’ll leave and  go to the United States. There we can live our lives together, without all this shit.”

“Leave my family, my mother, my home, are you serious?”

Gently, he takes her face in his hands and caresses her lovingly, “Dahab, I love you, All I want is to be with you, spend the rest of my life with you, have children with you. I want to live like normal people… with you.” Yacov turns away and hangs his head as he contemplates his next sentence. “We cannot continue to live in this world where people will not stop killing each other.” He turns back to Dahab and takes both of her hands; “If we have any chance at a normal life we must leave Israel, now. Look, I have almost enough money to buy two tickets. We take a plane to Paris, from there we go to New York, I have a friend living there. I talked to him yesterday. I explained the situation. He is willing to help us Dahab. Please I love you.”

She looks, forlornly at first, and then her dark, exotic eyes seem to glisten with happiness. She throws her arms around his neck, holds him tight, and whispers in total submission, “yes, anything for you.”

They continue to hold each other for a minute, then walk arm in arm into “The Beach Front Hotel” on Herbert Samuel dr. They exchange greetings with the hotel clerk who by now regards the two young people as regular customers. They silently make their way up to the fifth floor, a climb they have made many times. The shaky handrail gives some sort of strange comfort to Yacov. A safe feeling? No, it’s more like an old friend.  They walk into room 14 closing the door behind them. The two lovers surrender themselves to each other…

 

 

 

 

Part IV

 

 

 

 

 

After work Dahab gathers her pack and leaves the stall to walk toward the Jewish quarter of the city and out of Jaffa gate into West Jerusalem. Outside the old city walls she walks along Jaffa road on the small patch of pavement that runs next to the green lawn spacing the old city walls from the street. It begins to rain a little harder, she crosses to take cover at the bus stop, the one that faces the building pocked with snipers bullets reminding all that this is the Middle East. She takes out her cell phone and dials Yakov. Her fingers cannot move fast enough to punch in his number as she misses him so much. She feels her heart ache, which really is probably a stomach upset, until she hears his voice.

“Hello?”

Yakov leaves work telling Major Greenbaum that he does not feel well. He hitch hikes back to Jerusalem a few blocks from their special meeting place. Through the rain he walks fast. Jerusalemites walk fast anyway, something to do with being picked off by snipers in the early days before the Zionists consolidated their power in 1967. Learn to walk fast in case a sniper takes a shot at you from the Jordanian side.

Dahab continues north on Shivtai Yisrael like he instructed her to do. At the crossing of Gruzenberg Ave. she sees him on the corner opposite her. Her heart begins to pound, they must be careful. He waits for her on his side of the street. She crosses. When they are next to each other they both look around like children who are misbehaving. There is no one to hurt them. They embrace.

“I have a cab waiting.”

“Where are we going?”

“To talk, to plan, to love, to live.” They both chuckle in a serendipitous connection of which only real lovers are capable.

She playfully slaps his arm, as he gets too close for them to avoid a kiss.

“Yakov, I don’t know what to do. I love you but I am scared to leave my family. I will never be able to return if I go.”

“We can never live a normal life here. Do you want to spend the rest of our lives looking over our shoulders to make sure no one can see us?”

“Well, no, of course not, but…”

But nothing, it is either we go or we continue to live here in misery. Dahab, I will tell you again and again. I love you. I will never leave you. If you must stay I will stay with you. I cannot live without you. I need you…I want you…BOOM! What was that? Oh my God…

A huge explosion

The concussion drives them both to the ground. With instinct, Yakov covers Dahab protectively. Within seconds debris begins to fall all around them. Rocks and boards bouncing in the street.

Fire, dust, raining debris.

The fire and heat was a curious juxtaposition to the rain coming out of the sky. An ordeal of fire and water. Dahab and Yakov slowly rise; they cannot believe what has just happened. Stunned, they look around. The building behind them is on fire. There are people screaming, there is destruction and confusion everywhere. At Dahab’s foot Yakov sees a hand, a child’s hand, curled with blood still dripping from its fingernails. He nestles her head into his chest so that she will not see the gruesome sight.

“C’mon we’ve got to help.”

Several people are lying on the street already, Yakov goes into the building and brings out a woman that has a nail stuck in her eye, but she is alive.

“My baby, my baby, my baby is in there,” seemingly unaware of the seriousness of her own injury, she locks on to his shirt and will not let go.

“Ok, I will get her, you stay here and don’t move”

Yacov runs back into the pile of twisted metal and broken glass, smoldering in its wake, small fires burning sporadically like something out of Dante’s inferno. He comes up on a pile of what looks like human flesh. Oh no, please no. Then he hears the whimper of a little person, shaken and brutalized by the blast, but very much alive. He looks behind a door, which is hanging on one hinge. She is there. He picks up the little girl and carries her outside where there is a reunion of life between mother and daughter.

Dahab is comforting an old woman who has a superficial gash across her forehead. It will leave a memorable scar that she fully accepts knowing the alternative is unthinkable.

“Thank you young lady, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, just lie still until the medical people can come.”

That accent, its Arabic.  “You’re an Arab! Take your filthy hands off of me.”

“Mam, I am only trying to help you.”

“I don’t want any help from the likes of you. Go to your own side of the city. Haven’t you done enough here for one day?”

Dahab, humiliated and disgusted begins to walk away.

“Dahab! Wait” Yakov sees her start to walk off and goes after her leaving the wounded, the dying and others that need his help.

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I’m going home, leave me alone”

“What? Dahab, wait, stop it, wait, WAIT!” He grabs her by the arm and physically halts her drive.

“What is going on? What happened back there?”

“I just realized something. Those are your people, not mine. Mine are over there,” She points to the eastern side of the city.

Dahab suddenly realizes what she is saying and cannot continue to be angry with Yakov for something he is, not something he does. With clarity she knows that subjecting him to that makes her no better than that woman on the street, or her terrorist cousin in the shuk or anyone else that hates on either side of this fight.

She falls into his arms weeping.  “Shhhh, it’s OK, it’s Ok,” he tells her in comforting tones.  He sits her down on the bus bench in front of them and gently caresses her, rocking her back and forth with a loving touch.

“I hate this place, “ she says in quiet proclamation.

“So do I.”

From a car down the street, Mohammed, Dahab’s terrorist cousin, is there to reconnoiter the destruction of the suicide blast for his superiors in Jenin. But he discovers a much greater subterfuge at the bus stop. He watches Yacov and Dahab lovingly caring for each other.  It disgusts his cultural sensibilities that his own cousin would be carrying on like that, unmarried, un-chaperoned, and with a Jew! He knows what he needs to do. He understands his obligations. He will perform it with pleasure under the watchful eyes of Allah.

 

Part V

 

“C’mon, let’s get a cab and I’ll take you home,” Yacov says.

“No.” She tugs at his shirt. She looks up at him. “Don’t leave me.”

“OK. We’ll go to Tel Aviv.” As they climb into the cab her cell phone drops out of her purse and falls gently on a patch of grass next to the street. They drive off and a shadowy figure comes and picks up the phone.

 

 

 

As they lie on the bed looking out the huge bay window of the hotel on the sand, the waves are choppy and gray. They lie as one; their bodies wrapped together like a vine across the bed. The rain has stopped but the streets are still wet.

“What time is it?”

“Five o’clock”

“Oh, I have to go. It’ll take me at least an hour to get back to Jerusalem.”

On the ride back, both lovers are silent. They hold each other’s hands all the way back to the city.

Yakov drops her off inside west Jerusalem where she gets directly into a cab, partially because she is in a hurry, and partially because they have both learned to move fast in case someone sees them together.

At her home she pays the cab driver and walks up the stairs to her house. Just as she is about to put the key in the huge, green, metal door she hears screaming going on inside. “She must die” her father demands.

“No, Omar, please not my baby.”

“She has disgraced this family. Our honor will be restored.”

They know.

“Allah demands it.” Another voice. Who is that? She can’t quite make it out… Mohammad, that lunatic!

Frightened by what she’s heard she takes off down the stairs and begins to run. Not in any particular direction, just away from that house. Her mind is racing faster than her feet. Oh my God, I can never return there. That house is my house and from now until forever it will mean death. I can’t believe this is happening. She begins to cry. My mother. She hails a cab and tells the driver Yacov’s address.

 

 

Yacov gets confirmation on the tickets. They leave the day after tomorrow. He can’t wait to tell Dahab. He dials her up on her cell. The phone rings three times. A man answers.

Mohammad is helping Omar prepare for the honor killing of his daughter. A phone rings. What is that? It’s coming from his pocket. It’s her phone.

“Hello?”

“Who IS this?

Who is THIS?

Where’s Dahab?

“Oh, is this the Jew dog?”

Yacov holds the phone away from his ear for a moment and stares at it like it’s the phone’s fault. Frantic now, “What have you done with Dahab?’

“What have I done? It’s you that has done something, Jew boy.”

“Where is she? What have you done with her,” he repeats himself as a sinking feeling begins to take over his being.

She’s DEAD asshole! You killed her by dishonoring her to her family. So, say good-bye Jew, she’s gone.

Yacov hangs up the phone and releases an anguishing yell. His world is crushed. He is beside himself. He cannot get it out of his mind. You killed her, you killed her, you killed her. He begins to cry. What will I do now? How can I go on? Yakov cannot think straight. He is confused, dazed , hurt and devastated. Suddenly, he looks up and stares at the wall across from the bed he is sitting on.  He decides that he cannot live without her. There is just no life without Dahab. If I cannot be with her in life maybe I can be with her in death. A strange calm suddenly comes over him now that he knows how to solve this problem.

 

 

Dahab reaches into her purse to call Yacov to tell him that she’s coming. Her nerves are frazzled and she feels so alone in the world. Just hearing his voice would mean so much to her. Where, where is it? She cannot find her phone. She really needs to hear his voice but she will be there in a few minutes.

 

 

What’s the point? He sits on the edge of his bed for what seems like an eternity. He sighs, gets up, goes into his closet and takes out his IDF issue .45 and pops in a clip. He holds it to his temple. “I will see you very soon my love.” BAM! The shot goes off and Yacov hits the ground. The blood runs out slowly but consistently from the wound that covers a three quarter inch hole in his head. His eyes glaze over.  They can only see into the other world now.

Climbing the stairs Dahab hears a shot. That sounded like it came from Yacov’s room. “ Yacov?”

She runs up the rest of the stairs and opens the door and sees him lying on the floor. “NO!” She collapses next to him crying, trying to hold him and keep his blood inside. At that moment the phone rings. Somehow composing herself she answers it, not saying anything, only listening.

”Oh there you are, you have to come home whore.”

”Mohammad! How did you get this phone number?” She fights to hold back her sobs.

“I told your boyfriend that you were already dead, I hope that is alright since you are dead as soon as I find you anyway, you whore.”

Now she understands. Now it is all clear. He continues to cackle into the phone. She closes it on him in mid sentence. There is nothing left. She sits and holds yacov’s lifeless head in her lap. He need’s me.  She gently rocks him back and forth breaking a slight smile amid the swollen eyes and puffy cheeks. I must go to him. She picks up the .45 that is still in Yacov’s hand and looks at it, “I’m coming my love.” In one motion she puts it in her mouth and pulls the trigger.

 

Epilogue

 

I love Jerusalem this time of year. The winter weather broods and bellows like an angry old man. December’s and January’s are dark, cloudy and rainy. Sometimes it even snows. When the sun does show itself, it is strong and plays off the classic Jerusalem stone that covers every building  by law.  Giving off a golden hue, it truly is one of the more beautiful cities in the world. Yacov was my brother and I loved him. He had mentioned a couple of times he was seeing somebody but he was always vague. Like a normal little sister I pressed him on it but he would not budge. Now I know why. My father found out  about their forbidden love affair mostly through two sources. The hotel clerk on Herbert Samuel Dr. explained how they had been coming there for weeks, and how they appeared to be so in love. Yossi Ben Haron, Yakov’s friend in New York contacted my father when he heard the news. Yakov had told him everything. After Dahab’s family refused to claim her body, and considering all that happened, we thought it appropriate to bury them together. They were interned at Mount Herzl cemetery. The only one who comes to visit from Dahab’s side is her friend Kadija, a nice girl. If you go there today you can find them off to the right on The Hill of Abraham. Their epitaph simply reads: Loving brother and son, and lover of Dahab who also lies here. Together in life, together with God, together in peace.

 

 

 

 

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