Yesterday night I was trying to study for my final Hebrew exam after a month long intensive summer course. I totally felt thirteen again, unwilling and unmotivated, easily distracted and doing anything but trying hard.
Granted, there were some real distractions. It started with the all too familiar sound of helicopters. During the day, this is something I am getting used to. At night, it usually means trouble.Sirens followed, and then numerous loud bangs and shots. It lasted several hours. Nothing new? Well, it felt like a whole new thing maybe just because I was doing something different: studying.
And to top it off, I started to hear drums and chanting.
I can hear you: drums and chanting in her head. You think I am going crazy. While going crazy is a not entirely remote possibility, there really were drums and chanting. I promise. The crazy part? I thought the noise was coming closer. I started to think angry crowds of people were approaching, fed up with the war, fed up with their lives.
Thank goodness I was wrong. It was just another group of neighbors getting ready for the weekend, albeit a bit early. When I decided to put my books away after midnight, they were still having fun. Loud fun.
This morning, only two people out of a class of fifteen showed up for the exam. The rest had gotten stuck not so far from their house at the other side of town. Checkpoints and barriers had made their walk to school impossible. Half the city had been shut down because of last night’s riots.
My children cheered.
With most of my class not present, there was enough reason for their happiness. The kids had been invited to the end of course-party. Students had prepared a play and some songs. The best part for the kids was that there would be snacks afterwards.
Mommy! My oldest daughter exclaimed. Now that there are not so many people, can we have a second round of bomb-bombs? Because, you know, in France people eat bon-bons, but here people eat Bomb-Bombs…
Back home, candy was on my red list of rarely handed out items. Here, sugar is one of the common pleasures in a child’s life. And like alcohol numbs the nerves for the adults, candy does the trick for the kids. So while I was setting up a whatsapp group with newly found drinking buddies, the kids stuffed their cheeks with sweets.
When we walked home after the party, we ran into the most progressive neighbor in the entire neighborhood. Since the last time I saw her she had aged beyond her years. Every wrinkle in her face carved in it by sorrow and pain. She holds out her hand and opens it. In it, four marbles nestle themselves comfortably in her soft skin.
“These I took home. I found them at the end of our street. Among the many stones and bricks still lying there”. She leaves it at that. But I understand what she is saying. The look on her face is so deeply sad, I want to hug her fragile body. She is referring to the riots last night. Coming ever so close to where we live. Riots with the Israeli’s shooting and the Palestinians throwing stones. And now, with marbles. Quite a hefty thing to run into when shot at you with a catapult, I assume.
A woman my age feeling like a teenager, anxiety over the sound of drums, children renaming candy and an innocent toy turned into a dangerous weapon. If it weren’t here, it might feel like a theme park.