Sunday, August 13, 2006

Memories from Another Shelter

By Yael Israel

I was 7 years old when the 6th Day War broke out in 67. I was glad we didn’t go to school, but hated going down to the shelter, though I loved that mossy smell of those Ali Baba damp caves, as I saw it in my childish imagination. The sirens howled almost every night and made us run into the shelter along with the other 6 families living in our apartment building. My sister brought along her greenish beloved parrot, twittering desperately, scared to death. I brought along my grey donkey cloth doll, who grew old and bold overnight from too much worry. One night we woke up from sleep by the alarm sound and ran to the shelter still wearing our pajamas. Sometimes my teenage brother, fed up with going up and down to the shelter, stayed at home, taking the time to shampoo his hair and cover it with a black net hoping to straighten his curls. During other nights, when we didn’t run into that damp cave, I had nightmares. On Friday, we could finally go out. My sister and I ran to the corner to buy a newspaper, which announced by red bright bloody letters that Eastern Jerusalem is now in our hands. We felt terribly happy, like everybody else, like all the other morons, because we didn't know any better.

When the Yom Kippur War broke out on 73, I was 13 years old. The alarm sound found me in bed at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, hiding under the cover, listening to the radio, to the Voice of Peace, if I am not wrong, but maybe not, who remembers. I snatched my baby niece, a tiny scared crying bundle, and we all ran to the shelter. This time, it was a new shelter, in a new building, different from the previous damp shelter. During the next alarm, only a few neighbors came down and their number dropped more and more during the next other alarms. The next day there were no more alarms. We were asked to knit socks and caps for our soldiers and to also send them goodies. I sent "my soldier" a package filled with some candies, waffles and bagels. After about 6 months I received a postcard from him, trying to find out how I look, whishing to know if I am as sweet as my words.

During that bloody summer of 82, when the first Lebanon War broke out, I was a film student in an Art school. At that time, all I could think of was how to finish my year project, namely directing my lousy short film, based on a novel by John Bart, wondering what will happen if the man I love will get drafted and die in Lebanon. After all he didn’t get drafted then, but died anyway 7 years later. Tel Aviv seemed joyful and calm as usual, being criticized for it by the whole country. This time the shelters remained vacant. At one time, while the bombs howled in Lebanon, I visited the set of Uri Barabash film at The Golan hights, not too far from our national bleeding wound.

During the First Golf War at 91, I was already a film critic, and a promising young writer, dressed in black, true to my constant depressed mood and the latest Tel-Avivi Shenkin St. fashion. I carried everywhere my gas mask, its box adorned with colorful paper strips. This time, I went into the sealed room whenever the sirens blew. In spite of the missiles, I didn’t go down to the shelter, though a few days later we were told to to leave the sealed rooms in favor of those dark damp shelters, which have not been in use for years. Right now, at this dreadful Second Lebanon War, I have no intention of going back there. Let the missiles fall wherever they like, I am staying right here, determined not to go back there. As far as I am concerted, let me join my fathers, forefathers and my dead lovers, unfortunately too many of them, but to that damp shelter I am not returning.

And maybe now, hopefully we'll see the end of it all and we'll never have to take shelter there ever again!


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