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Love Beyond The Fence

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Novel ini di karang oleh seorang YAHUDI dan menceritakan tentang percintaan seorang Tentera Yahudi dengan seorang Pengkaji tentang Palestine dari Itali. Percintaan ini dihalang oleh satu pagar iaitu …

Novel ini di karang oleh seorang YAHUDI dan menceritakan tentang percintaan seorang Tentera Yahudi dengan seorang Pengkaji tentang Palestine dari Itali. Percintaan ini dihalang oleh satu pagar iaitu percanggahan pendapat dan minda. Di masukkan juga unsur memusuhi islam... ambil iktibar.. dan protect ISLAM...

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  • 1. 2
  • 2. 3 Love Beyond the Fence Claudia Radici claudia.radici.123@gmail.com Copyright © 2013 Claudia Radici All Rights Reserved
  • 3. 4 Summary Chapter 1........................................................................................................................................................ 5 Chapter 2...................................................................................................................................................... 43 Chapter 3.................................................................................................................................................... 115 Chapter 4.................................................................................................................................................... 145 Chapter 5.................................................................................................................................................... 205 Chapter 6.................................................................................................................................................... 247 Chapter 7.................................................................................................................................................... 277
  • 4. 5 Chapter 1 “Help! Aiuto! Help!” “Yalla! Yalla! Yalla!” It was almost night time in the small village of Dayr al-Hatab, in Samaria, a region in the center-east of Israel. Three girls were fleeing, chased by three boys. They threw their backpacks towards them in order to run better and shouted for help from the men who were calmly strolling in the alley, but nobody stopped them and nobody even looked at them. On the contrary, the bearded faces turned to look the other way, while the boys gained ground screaming. One boy grabbed the sweater of the girl with red hair, she fell and he threw himself onto her back, he tore her sweater and t-shirt, pushed her arms back and turned her around to open her jeans, while the other two girls kept running in front of the two boys who were getting closer and closer, no longer seeing her, but hearing her desperate cries. The sound of an engine approaching fast awakened the peaceful men in the alley, making them all escape together like a school of fish, and sent the girls’ attackers flying in three different directions. The jeep stopped next to the girl on the ground and two young soldiers jumped out, one chased the guy who had attacked her and the other bent down to help her. He gently lifted up her shoulders and softly spoke to her in Hebrew, switching immediately to English because from her lost expression he saw that she couldn’t understand his language. The girl answered in English stammering, “No, he didn’t ... have the time ... oh, Jesus, if ... if you hadn’t come by ...” “Do you want to try and get up? Let's see if everything is all right?” “Yes ... thank you ... yes, I’m fine ... just my sweater, my t-shirt ...” The boy took off his military jacket and lightly rested it on her shoulders, she wrapped herself around in it and, kneeling down, she started crying. He sat back on his heels before her and stroked her dreadlocks and the black and white keffiyeh that was sticking out behind her neck, the same look of her two friends who were approaching with the other soldier, who had preferred to take them to safety rather than search in the dilapidated apartment buildings for the attacker, that had vanished into a courtyard. The two friends embraced the assaulted girl, caressed her hair and her back and spoke to her. Yet she embraced the boy who had saved her and clung to him, saying that she was okay, that nothing had happened, that everything was fine now. The two friends remembered the backpacks and the other soldier left with them to help to get the packs, while they remained on the floor hugging next to the jeep. Then the other soldier said, “Come on, get into the car, let’s go to a safe place, let's move to the C Area.” and he got behind the wheel. “The C Area?” asked the girl who got into the front, while the other two got into the back: the assaulted girl in the middle, between the soldier who had helped her and the other friend. “The C Area, yes, under Israeli civil and military control, didn’t you know?” asked the boy who was driving and said, “Dayr al-Hatab is in the B Area. We only have
  • 5. 6 military control, while the civilian control is Palestinian. It’s not a safe place for girls alone in the dark, especially foreigners. However, girls, nice to meet you, I am Eyàl.” “And my name is Yaròn,” said the soldier who had stopped to help the girl. “Thanks guys, I am Lucia,” said the girl sitting in the front, a beautiful chubby brunette. “I’m Paola. Thank you indeed,” said the very thin blonde girl sitting behind the driver. “Marina,” said the assaulted girl with a faint voice, sitting at the back between Paola and Yaron. The girls were frightened but very pretty: a brunette, a blonde and a redhead. Also the soldiers were two handsome boys, tall and thin, with short black hair. “Your names are beautiful. Are you Spanish?” Eyal asked. “No, Italian,” Lucia explained. So Yaron moved a bit away from the window, he moved closer to Marina and smiled, he took a dreadlock in his fingers and whispered in an attempt to speak Italian, “Fusilipomodoro?”, but Marina moved away saying, “Please, leave it.” “Sorry, you’re right,” he said to her at once, letting go of her beautiful knotted red hair and wondering how he could have been so insensitive: after what she had just been through, she obviously didn’t feel like joking. “Hey, Yaron! Her friends told me that they have to catch their plane in Megiddo tomorrow morning at 7,” Eyal said in English, so that the girls could also understand, and continued in the same language, “Do you think we should follow the Jordan or work around the fence?” and then, as if at the nod of the conductor, Paola and Lucia shouted in unison, “The wall!” Eyal turned around and said, “Girls, but do you know that it’s a mesh? It's a wall only in three points around Jerusalem, and in two other points near here, in Qalqiliya and Tulkarem. If we don’t follow the river we’ll see them as they are right on the road. In total, over the whole length of the metal fence, the wall part is less than thirty kilometers, 6% of the route.” Lucia, the brunette sitting in the front, replied, “That’s not true, almost all of it is a concrete wall! And it is also in Bethlehem, we saw it, we specifically came to Palestine to make a documentary.” Yaron was incredulous and asked, “You have made a documentary about it, but didn’t you understand that you’d seen it on the border between Bethlehem and Jerusalem?” “No, well,” said Paola, the blonde behind the driver, “Actually we didn’t manage to make the documentary. In front of the wall we filmed a bit the only guy who let himself be interviewed, then about ten men plunged upon us, they snatched the camera away and made this gesture to us, I'll cut your throat.” “So much for freedom of press,” Yaron said, adding, “That's how they influence the Western press, girls.” “But we stayed there for two more days,” continued Lucia, “And went even higher, and yet we saw miles and miles of wall, and even if we could not film anything we
  • 6. 7 saw the plight of the Palestinians, who must pass through the wall every day, morning and night, to go to work.” Yaron looked at her puzzled and said, “That’s not possible! Despite violence you have suffered tonight and in Bethlehem, are you still ready to defend to the hilt the fairy tales of the Arab propaganda?” “They are not fairy tales!” Paola interrupted. “That’s true, they are dangerous lies,” Yaron commented, shaking his head. The two girls held back their answer, so as not to insult the lads that had just saved them. In the meanwhile Marina remained silent, sitting between Paola and Yaron who exchanged exasperated looks. Marina knew that if she closed her eyes she would start to cry, and so as not to see them argue she pressed herself back against the seat. Yaron looked at her while she seemed concentrated on the ceiling of the jeep, and tried to imagine what was going through her head. “Poor thing, all she needs is quiet, and instead ...” he thought, and so he asked Eyal to stop for a moment, if they all agreed, now that they were safe in the C area, to recover slowly out in the open. Eyal pulled over and they all climbed down leaving the lights on. They stretched and walked in the night breathing in silence. Yaron asked Eyal if he had already alerted the base about this change in plans, and his friend told him that the commander had authorized them to escort the three tourists to the airport and stay with them until their departure, since the two of them were not on patrol that night and would have returned to the base only to sleep. After a few minutes’ walk they returned to the jeep and all sat on the ground, leaning their backs on one side of the car. The two soldiers were on the sides: Eyal was the first one sitting against the driver's door, and he still had the brunette Lucia beside him; next to her was the blonde, Paola; then Marina, the redhead, and Yaron. Thus Marina was still between Yaron and Paola, as before in the car. Paola and Lucia started talking to Eyal; Yaron preferred not to say anything to Marina because he was afraid of bothering her again, so he simply watched the road and smiled every now and then at her to give her courage. She looked at his handsome face in the moonlight: long black eyes, bushy arched eyebrows, short straight nose, high cheekbones, white teeth between his full but not too fleshy lips. He was really handsome, “handsome and impossible, with your black eyes and your middle eastern flavour”, just like the song (translator’s note: it’s part of the refrain of “Bello e impossibile” - “Handsome and Impossible” - a very popular song by the Italian singer Gianna Nannini). It crossed her mind that maybe Gianna Nannini had foreseen this encounter, and this thought made her smile for a moment. Yaron saw her smile and tilted his head to the side, and he narrowed his eyes as if to ask her a question, but didn’t ask anything for fear of being intrusive. Eyal was explaining to the girls that he had decided not to follow the River Jordan but to travel the road coasting the fence, so they could see it with their eyes for about thirty kilometers. “For five kilometers you’ll see a concrete wall, exactly
  • 7. 8 where we’ll pass close to it, and for the rest you’ll see that it’s a metal fence, a thing that can be dismantled in a day if it’s no longer needed.” “But what is it for? Only to create a closure, to separate,” said Lucia, and Paola added facing Yaron, “You’ll never have peace in this way.” Yaron explained to her, “The fence is to protect us. The day they stop hating us, if they ever stop, we’ll remove it. It has almost zeroed the attacks by suicide bombers, and the two sections of wall that you see now will also protect you from snipers.” “This is what you say!” Lucia replied, “It’s only meant to exclude the Palestinians, to make their life impossible! Only you need the wall, to keep the land that you stole from them in '67!” And Paola added, raising her voice and looking straight into Yaron’s eyes, “Not to mention what you stole in '48!”. Yaron would also have liked to shout in order to make himself heard, but he saw that Marina was uncomfortable as with the altercation in the car. So he didn’t raise his voice and tried to explain calmly, “Girls, we didn’t steal the land from anyone. This land has belonged to the people of Israel for thousands of years. Palestine has never existed.” “What the fuck are you saying?” screamed Paola and Lucia getting up and going to stand in front of Yaron. He remained seated and said, “Listen, calm down, okay? Do it at least for Marina who is still frightened.” The two girls replied, “Well then keep quiet, ok? Otherwise obviously we’ll get pissed off and she’ll get scared!” “Ok, I’ll keep quiet, it doesn’t matter.” Paola and Lucia sat down again and Marina looked at Yaron: this discussion was definitely close to his heart and if he renounced to continue it, it was only to protect her once again. In fact, he kept his head down and had a disappointed expression on his face, but when he realized that Marina was looking at him he smiled at her, and, forgetting that he didn’t want to be intrusive, he winked at her. She smiled back at him and thanked him, “Thank you, you’re kind. Thank you also for before, ah ...” and she started to cry again. Her two friends immediately turned around still angry, but they saw that Yaron was consoling her, telling her that everything was alright, that now they were safe and there was no more danger. Marina calmed down and said, “Tell me what you were saying before, I'm interested.” She saw his face light up and was happy to give him a chance to talk about it, but as he began to speak, she was reminded of the song by Gianna Nannini and lowered her eyes not to blush, concentrating on the seams of the jacket’s sleeve. So, without locking his gaze with her green-gold eyes, Yaron while speaking to her could get a good look at her delicate profile with a small round chin, upturned nose between the wide cheekbones and the gentle curve of her forehead, below the strands of red hair that fell down onto her shoulders: Marina's face was so
  • 8. 9 beautiful that it seemed to gently impose proportions, as if everything around were to lay about in harmonious curves. Behind them the jeep reflected the nearly full moon, slightly concealed by the fast, long and high clouds above the clear horizon. The current of a bright river seemed to pass through the doors that created a backdrop for their almost overlapping five dark figures. Paola and Lucia were telling Eyal about their journey, and Yaron was talking to Marina about the fence, explaining how it had helped to prevent the terrorists from blowing themselves up in the major Israeli cities, mainly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Marina drove the song from her head and studied Yaron’s thin luminous face, and the shadow that the clouds left on his cheeks, on his forehead and in his eyes. She struggled not to miss a word, now that Yaron had begun to tell her of his childhood in Jerusalem, of the terror that paralyzes you when you hear an explosion nearby and dozens of ambulances pass in front of you, of people torn to pieces as they danced, ate a pizza or were out shopping. Of the rows of children’s bodies under the white sheets, with the distraught mothers arriving to scrutinize the shoes and hoping not to recognize them. Of how his parents used to put him and his little brother on two different buses to get to school, so at least one would survive. Yaron went on to explain, “Since the fence was built, the bombings in Jerusalem have dropped by 99%. It’s the fence that has blocked them, that has prevented them from continuing to burn us, dismember us, slaughter us. Before building the fence, the terrorists had killed 4,000 people and injured 10,000, left without an arm or a leg or without skin or blind or deaf or scarred or paralyzed. And the terrorists were all from here, that’s why we had to fence in Judea and Samaria.” “What do you mean? Judea and Samaria? Two Jewish places?” Marina asked, and Yaron explained to her, “They are the Israeli territories occupied by Palestinian settlements.” “What?” “If you think like your friends then you’re used to the opposite concept. Judea and Samaria are what you in Europe call the West Bank, and what you certainly call Occupied Palestine don’t you?” “Certainly, the Palestine that you invaded in ’67!” “We didn’t invade anybody. We defended ourselves from the umpteenth attack that our Arab neighbours were about to launch upon us, and we won back the land where we had been living for thousands of years. In fact, you also recognized its biblical names, which just goes to show how the people of Israel had already been living there 3500 years ago.” “Yaron, you are kind and you saved me tonight, but don’t speak to me anymore about Israeli territories occupied by the Palestinians, because it’s you who invaded their territory in '67 and you don’t want to give it back to them!” “Okay, Marina, I give up because I don’t want us to fight. But reflect on this one thing: you are repeating exactly what the Palestinian terrorists say to justify their attacks. Don’t you get a doubt that, who taught you these things is using you to
  • 9. 10 spread hatred against the Jewish state, to the point where they justify the elimination of the only free and democratic nation in the Middle East, as Ahmadinejad, the dictator of Iran, hopes to do?” “Let’s leave it, Yaron. I also don’t want to fight with you.” They remained in silence and Marina tried to get involved in the discussion of the others, who were laughing at unlikely Hebrew-Italian translations because they couldn’t always find the English words to explain themselves. But she really didn’t feel like laughing that night and turned back to Yaron. “Let's walk, shall we?” she asked him, and they moved away from the others after having informed them, passing a curve overlooking a small cliff. “Do you like walking?” Yaron asked her. “Yes, it allows me to think in peace.” “So here it’s perfect, with the sky in front of and the hills below. Are there places like this where you live?” Marina leant against the parapet of the road and looked down at the gently wavy plateau of rolling hills and valleys. Some dim light emerged as a mist from the small villages scattered here and there. “Yes, it reminds me of my Upper City, because from there you can see the hills below. But there it’s different, it’s flatter, and at night there is a whole sea of lights right up to the horizon.” “Do you live there?” “Under it, amidst the sea of lights. In Bergamo, near Milan, in the north of Italy.” Yaron also leant against the parapet and they remained in silence, gazing out at the landscape. Then he looked at her and realized how tired she was, he asked her if she wanted to go back to the jeep, but she replied, “No, it's beautiful here. But let’s sit down.” They left the street and sat on the sand, resting their backs on large white stones. “Come on, continue what you were saying,” Marina said to him. “I’m sorry for not having let you speak, I could see that you care.” “You let me speak about my childhood, it’s ok.” “No, Yaron, finish what you were saying.” “I don’t want to make you angry, with what you went through tonight. Tell me about your childhood, ok?” “No, finish what you were saying, I owe it to you.” “You don’t owe me anything at all. We were passing by and we helped you, we couldn’t just leave you there.” “But all those men just ignored us.” “What did you expect from people like that?” Yaron said shaking his head. Marina pursed her lips for a moment and then sighed, “Well, yes, maybe you are right. Come on, go on with what you were saying.” “Ok, as you wish. Stop me when you want, though.” “I promise.” “So, in 1947 the UN decided to formally assign this land to the Jewish people, the land where they had lived for 3500 years, and that in spite of all the exiles and persecutions they had never abandoned, neither spiritually nor physically.”
  • 10. 11 “Stop, Yaron, I must stop you at once. It’s true that you had been persecuted in World War II, and I’d have something to say about the numbers ...” “What?” “Let me finish first about Palestine. How can you ignore the fact that you were given the land where the Palestinian people had always lived?” “Marina, the Palestinian people have never existed. The Arabs who lived in these areas before 1947 were Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Saudis, who had immigrated here since the end of 1800 because they were attracted by the better living conditions in the Jewish villages, more freedom and more well-being than what they might have aspired to by remaining in the tribes, the clans, the religious sects that make up the so-called Arab states.” “The so-called Arab states?! Yaron, first you want to de-legitimize Palestine, now also Egypt and Jordan?” “Listen, states such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Sudan are inventions of British colonialism, which created them arbitrarily after 1920, regardless of how the Arabs have always been divided in ethnic and religious groups, that often have nothing to do with the land given to them. It’s the big problem of the Arab states, which do not reflect populations with their own unity, as we can see now in the conflicts that are tearing them apart in the so-called Arab Spring.” “So-called spring! For sure you are one of those who name these revolutions “winter”, these revolts of the people against the tyrants.” “Yes, it’s the Arab Winter, because unfortunately the people can do very little, squeezed between the tyrants and Islamic extremists. Why don’t you demonstrate in order to give support to those people, rather than turning a blind eye while they are being slaughtered? Why not try to give support to the common people, who aspire only to having better living conditions? It’s easier to always go against Israel, the one country that will surely never massacre you, as you will always find an excuse: the pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugees are always there, forced to rot in refugee camps by their Arab brothers full of space and full of money!” “Pseudo what? How did you call them?! Look, Yaron, I’d better keep quiet, continue what you were saying otherwise you won’t be able to finish it in a year, let alone in a night!” “Listen, Marina. Pseudo or not pseudo, throughout the vast Arab lands they still haven’t found them a little place in which to stay. And the Arabs are sitting on the oil, and receive millions of dollars from the world for these pseudo or non pseudo-refugees, but have still not been able to build them a single decent house! Hey, what wouldn’t they do to keep Israel at bay! Just to have something to justify to the world their hatred towards us Jews, those golden hearts of the Arabs are even willing to make their brothers live in shameful conditions!” “Yaron, you are the ones who created these shameful conditions! You stole the land where they lived!” “Marina, I explained to you that Israel has been the land of the Jewish people for 3500 years, but you don’t believe me. You won’t believe me either if I explain that the 500,000 Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 weren’t driven away by us, but they
  • 11. 12 left their homes to escape the war unleashed by the Arab states against our nation, created not even a day before. And you still won’t believe me when I say that we had even made a law so that nobody would dare take possession of their homes and their lands, and that we would have welcomed them back immediately if the Arab states hadn’t forced them to stay away from us. Very well, think all your beliefs are true. But now explain to me why the Arabs leave these people in refugee camps instead of integrating them into their cities, as we did with the 600,000 Jewish refugees that were kicked out from the Arab States in 1948, upon the birth of the state of Israel. They drove them from their homes where they had been living for generations, and without anybody from the world protesting or giving us money to help us to integrate them into Israel! They were kicked out, their houses, land, savings were stolen, many of them were killed, and the survivors came to Israel with nothing. And we, a nation that had just been created and already burdened by the war, that had just welcomed thousands of survivors from Nazi persecution rejected by all the nations of the world, we did everything in our power to allow these 600,000 refugees to live in dignified conditions. And we did so for the one million Russian Jews who have been coming here since the seventies, persecuted by the Communist regime like my mom and her family. And for the 20,000 Ethiopian Jews oppressed by Mengistu at the turn of the eighties and nineties, that we went to fetch secretly at night with planes because they didn’t have the means to reach us ... and then we are the racist state!” “Racist towards the Palestinians! Not against the Jews, whatever their colour may be!” “The Arabs are the real racists against the Palestinians, because they cram them into refugee camps in their big, generous and civilian Arab nations ... But do you know that the Palestinian refugee camps are only in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, in the Gaza Strip and in the areas of Judea and Samaria under Palestinian control? In Israel, where we govern and not where the Palestinian Authority governs, the refugee camps don’t exist. We give equal dignity and equal rights to all of our citizens whether they be Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Bedouins, Druze, Circassians, atheists ... You are a Christian, I imagine.” “Yes, a Catholic.” “Well then, aren’t you going to tell me that you believe that Israel is the persecutor of the Christians?” “But Yaron, who is driving us away from the Holy Land, hey?” “Here is another milestone of Arab mythology, Marina. But don’t you see that we are the only country in the Middle East that protects your safety and freedom? Open your eyes, you are disappearing from all the Arab states! In Islamic countries you cannot even walk around with a pendant in the shape of a cross!” “You're right about that, because I couldn’t bring my baptism pendant, here into Palestine.” “You mean in the Israeli areas under full Palestinian control, the A Zones.”
  • 12. 13 “Call them as you wish, Yaron. However, it’s always the same story. You're telling me that you have integrated many Jews, well then integrate the Palestinian refugees as well!” “But there are 5,000,000, Marina!” “You just said they are 500,000!” “They were 500,000 at the very most those who fled in 1948, when we were attacked by the Arab states. Only these would be called “refugees” by any person with common sense. But no, the UN established that, only for these refugees among all those around the world, the definition of a refugee extends also to their descendants. Today there are five million, do you understand, Marina? In Israel we are seven and a half million inhabitants, how could we have almost doubled our population? We are such a small country, moreover, we must be one-tenth of Italy, not even! But the main problem is that these pseudo-refugees ...” “Again you call them pseudo-refugees?! Don’t make me laugh, Yaron!” “But over sixty years have passed, and of the initial 500,000, only 50,000 must still be alive. These are the only genuine refugees of war! Apart from the fact that, to be honest, even on those initial 500,000 we have to do a good skimming. But do you know that the UN established that, in 1948, any Arab who had lived for at least two years in what was to become under all effects the state of Israel, was to be defined as a “Palestinian refugee”? Two years, Marina, do you understand? Even among those initial 500,000, who knows how many pseudo-refugees there were, because if they had lived in any Arab state until ‘46, in ‘48 they could also go back to live there! What's more, I was telling you that there is no other group of refugees in the world in which this social status is passed on from father to son. Because one escapes from the war and is well or badly accepted by those who welcome him, and he does everything to fit in where he finds refuge, in order to no longer be a refugee but a citizen of his new country. It’s normal to be like this, it has always happened in the world! Maybe you also know someone in Italy who escaped from a war, you have so many immigrants, don’t you?” “Yes, indeed ... My grandmother’s caregiver ran away from the war in the Balkans, she arrived in Italy after having travelled for days and nights on a tractor with her husband, their little son and another family. They left their farm and fled, they arrived in Italy with nothing. They started working, I know of some people who helped them, they must also have received some official help, maybe, I don’t know. Anyway, now they have settled down, their son goes to university, he also gets excellent marks. Yes, you’re right, in fact, Yaron.” “You see? They came to your country without anything yet they worked hard, they are good people who give you a hand with their work, they respect your country. Instead they want to impose five million anti-Semites upon us! In the refugee camps they cultivate hatred toward us in every way, from papering the schools with posters of their acclaimed martyrs who committed suicide killing our children, to distributing textbooks in which Israel doesn’t even exist on the maps, and as not to mention the actual weapon factories that we found in there!
  • 13. 14 Welcoming them would be suicidal madness, they would immediately take advantage to destroy Israel.” “Well, maybe ... But never mind, Yaron, okay? In any case, neither one of us will change our mind, so it’s useless to argue.” “I’ll stop just so as not to exasperate you, Marina. However, it would be good for you to hear these things, because at home, from what you told me, I guess you have the possibility to hear only the Palestinian propaganda. It could help you to listen to my point of view, and not because you have to change your mind at all costs, but at least you’ll have the information to assess for yourself what seems more sensible, more likely.” Marina sighed and didn’t answer, leaning her elbows on her knees and her cheeks on her fists, and gazed out at the thinning clouds that were unveiling the stars. The furthest ones from the moon were very bright and their irregular twinkling reminded her of the flickering lights that can be seen from her Upper City, among which one, impossible to discern, that is her home. She broke off a twig from the half-dry bush which was sticking out of the large white stones they were leaning against, and drew a sad face on the sand because she was sorry to have ended the discussion with Yaron. He watched her tracing two simple dots for the eyes and a downturned curve for the mouth, and was about to caress her on the head but stopped through fear of disturbing her. She saw his gesture and smiled, “Ok, come on, Yaron, continue. I don’t think that I'll change my mind, but tell me everything.” So he also broke off a twig and began to draw on the sand. He traced the borders of Israel and the Arab states surrounding it, and outlined the rest of Asia and some African nations. “Here, Marina, all of this big space is the group of Arab nations, and this little piece is Israel. Our small country is 0.2% of the land of the Arab states, that is where the main language is Arabic, and it’s 0.1% of the land of the Islamic states, that is where the main religion is Islam. Like I said, in 1947 the United Nations established that this small piece of land was to become under all effects the Jewish state. At the same time, for fear of the Arab reaction, they decided to assign a part to the Arabs: Judea and Samaria.” “Occupied Palestine.” “Ok, call it as you wish. So, the Jewish people accepted the division into two states: Israel to the Jews and Occupied Palestine to the Arabs. And what did the Arabs do, Marina? I'm asking you if in 1947 the Arabs accepted the division into two states, what you call Occupied Palestine to the Arabs and the rest of Israel to the Jews.” “Honestly, I don’t know.” “Two states for two peoples ...” “But of course! Two states for two peoples!” “So, did the Arabs accept or not?” “Yes, of course!” “Instead the answer is no, they didn’t accept it.” “Are you crazy? That’s exactly what they want!”
  • 14. 15 “That’s what they say they want. “Two states for two peoples” is just a refrain, that they have been repeating since 1967 when we conquered Judea and Samaria defending ourselves from Jordan. An empty refrain that hides their true hope of wiping out Israel, of getting rid of the Jewish people from their civil and peaceful Arab land ... So, as I was saying, in 1947 only the Jews accepted the provisions of the United Nations, and so the following year the UN proclaimed the creation of a single state, Israel, which didn’t include Judea and Samaria. It was May 14th, 1948. The next day we were attacked by all the neighbouring Arab states, and the attacks were repeated several times, every ten years or so, but every time we managed to win.” He took her right hand, extended her index finger and guided her hand along the drawing to show her where the attacks had come from in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, in 1973: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan. Every Arab country had directly invaded Israel, or sent money and resources to those who could do so more easily because they were located closer. Marina didn’t object, she lost all her anger, she found it hard to follow the conversation because Yaron was holding her hand and, whatever he was saying about the map on the sand, was nothing in comparison. He moved her index finger to the south of Israel and the Gaza Strip, to take up once again the subject of the fence, because he thought that she cared very much about it having come all this way from Italy to make a documentary out of it, and said, “This is Israel and this is the Gaza Strip, which can be considered a small Palestinian state. At the border, there is a wire fence between them and us. It’s made just like most of the fence inside Israel, the one that surrounds Judea and Samaria, the one you came to film. In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians bypass the fence from the top and bombard the Israelis who live across the border, in cities like Ashkelon, Sderot, Ashdod, Beersheva, and many smaller further villages, depending on the range, endangering a total of one million inhabitants. There the siren sounds every day and you have to escape into the shelters because the Palestinians fire missiles, kassam rockets and mortar shells into homes, schools, offices, wherever people are trying to live their lives in peace. In six years they fired 9000, it’s an average of four rockets a day! Do you realize what it means for those who live there? And what would the Palestinians of Gaza do to the Israelis, Marina, if there were not even the fence? They would attack them more easily, wouldn’t they?” “I don’t know ... yes,” she stammered, because Yaron was still holding her hand and her entire being focused only on that. She clung to the memory of the sound of the last sentence, and tried to answer, “Yes, they would attack you even more easily, maybe.” “Maybe? You are so naive.” “But ... that’s what I continue repeating to you. You stole their land, that’s why they hate you, that’s the problem you have to solve. You have to give their land back to them, and they’ll stop attacking you.” - yet don’t stop holding my hand, I
  • 15. 16 beg of you, whatever I say, - Marina thought to herself and looked for a second into his eyes, before trying to concentrate on the map on the sand. “We gave them that exact land in 2005,” he told her keeping her hand on the same point of the drawing, “The Gaza Strip. It was to become a first attempt of a Palestinian state, the first land all to themselves that they could govern alone in order to live in peace, and instead they turned it into a launching pad to bomb us. And to think that in 1967 we had conquered it with our blood, defending ourselves from the Egyptian aggression. Did you know that in 2005, in order to give it to the Palestinians, all the 10,000 Jews who lived there had to leave? The Gaza Strip is an apartheid state because it doesn’t tolerate religious minorities, in fact it didn’t leave a single Jew on its land, whereas in Israel there are more than one million Muslims. How could we have hoped that by giving the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians we would have obtained peace, on this basis? And yet we gave it to them, and those who lived there had to leave, they were desperate ... you can imagine, Marina ... leaving your home, and to those who hate you! But they left them all in order, ready to re-lived in. And what did the Palestinians do? They immediately razed them to the ground, and we’re not talking about a population swimming in gold, at least not to have to rebuild them from scratch, they could have kept them! But they hate us, unfortunately this is the truth. Any concessions we may make, it’s all for nothing, only to weaken us. They hate us, Marina. Everywhere so many people hate us and do everything possible to discredit us, inventing lies or concealing truths. For example, did you know that this boundary is a wall?” he asked slightly moving her hand, always on the Gaza Strip but on the border with Egypt, no longer with Israel. “No ... but, Yaron, I thought you had said it was a mesh.” “The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip is only a wire mesh, yes! But at its border with the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians built a concrete wall. I'm talking about this border here.” Marina looked at their hands on the map, she observed Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and said to him, “What? Sorry, maybe I didn't follow well. A wall between the Egyptians and the Palestinians?” “That's right. The Egyptians don’t want to let the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip enter freely into Egypt, because they are afraid of these brothers of theirs and consider them illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists. Nobody knows it, nobody says it, because nobody wants to offend the Arabs. It doesn’t matter about the Jews, go ahead and offend us, in any case even if you call us terrorists you know very well that we aren’t going to come and cut your throats.” He let her hand go and broke the spell. Now she was following him carefully, their eyes locked, but also vigilant, on the defensive. “Meanwhile anti-Semitism rises, Marina. Two birds with one stone, maybe someone will finally exterminate us completely and we’ll disappear forever from the face of the earth.” “Oh God, Yaron, I’ve never thought things like that, I’ve never hated anybody.”
  • 16. 17 “But you came all the way here to film a wall, you just looked at the part you were interested in and ...” “But I thought it was all like that!” “Then tell everybody when you return to Italy, tell them what you’ve seen. Tell them about the mesh that we’ll follow here in Samaria, about the short stretches of wall that we’ll come across, and explain why we built them. If you learn about the wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, you'll see that what I’m telling you is true: it follows the entire 12 kilometers of the border, it’s 8 meters high and goes 30 meters underground to block the tunnels. Tell everybody all these things, tell your friends when you get back home.” “Forget it, Yaron, they won’t want to know.” “But you must open their eyes!” “Look, I don’t want to argue with them. They have their own ideas, and maybe I can change my mind a bit, but I definitely won’t be able to change theirs.” “At least tell them these things. Inform them!” “Well, but first, as you said, I’d like to verify the things you told me.” “But of course!” “Because it’s not that I don’t believe you. I’m sure that you are sincere, I can see that. Yet, I can’t believe that everything you told me is true. You grew up hearing only your propaganda and obviously, listening to you, you all seem to be pure and innocent angels! But you also do many bad things, and they are really bad, hey Yaron!” “Many bad things that we do ... come with me then, there are plenty of bad things, and we don’t do them.” He led her back towards the road. The olive-green colour of his uniform and that of the military jacket she was still wearing was almost phosphorescent, under the light of the beacon that lit up the road. They leant against the parapet and looked at the plateau below, but he couldn’t find what he was looking for, then he took her hand and guided her to the next darker corner and, leaning over the parapet, he pointed to a cluster of lights in a valley and said, “That’s Itamar.” “Itamar?” “Doesn’t it mean anything to you, Marina?” “Maybe, I don’t know. I may have heard of that name.” “Six months ago. At this time, two Palestinian terrorists left,” he said and moved his index finger towards another light that was just a little further away, and added, “From the Arab village of Awarta. Two youngsters.” “Oh! My God, that massacre of children ... My God, Yaron, I saw the photos, all that blood!” “They slaughtered a family in their sleep: Hadas Fogel, 3 months old; Elad Fogel, 4 years old; Yoav Fogel, 11 years old; and the mother, Ruth Fogel, 35 years old; and the father, Ehud Fogel, known as Udi, 36 years old.” “Yes but, Yaron, they were colonists, they had stolen their land and so of course ...”
  • 17. 18 “Yes but? Colonists? Stolen? And even if that were true, would you justify a massacre of children, entering into their bedrooms to slit their throats? No, Marina, there’s no hope if you also find an excuse for the deaths of those innocent people ... it’s all over if even you think that, if you’ve also lost all compassion ... You don’t know history? Never mind! But you cannot lose your humanity! You are a kind, sweet person, I’m sure you’d cry for a little bird with a broken wing ... but for little Hadas who was almost decapitated, hey? A little baby of three months ... No, Marina, no. You have been brainwashed but most of all your heart has been washed out, and if they’ve done this to a good person like you, they can really do that to everybody.” Yaron leant on the railing and put his head in his hands, he looked at the lights in the distance and then turned around. He sat down on the road with his legs stretched out and now he was the attacked one and she was the one who leant over him and stroked his shoulder with her hand, but he moved away, he got up again, and walked away saying, “Let's get back to the car, enough now. Let’s just forget it. There’s nothing more to do, enough, it's useless.” She took his arms, she pushed him towards the railing until his back was pressing against it, she stood in front of him and looked him straight in his eyes that were two slits filled with tears, and she said, “Yaron, please, I’m not justifying them at all, that’s not true! But also the Palestinian children, you also ...” “We what? We what?” he shouted moving away from the railing and turned around to go back to the jeep, but then he stopped and stood in front of her, blocking her way. “Can you imagine me? Can you imagine me going into a room to cut the throat of a child? Chasing a child in a school, grabbing him by the hair and shooting him in the head? Choosing the fullest bus of kids, so I can get on and blow myself up in it? And if by chance I survive, without eyes, without arms, without legs, then living with the only regret of not having killed enough kids? That’s happened, you know, watch the interviews with these monsters! Then tell me if you can imagine me! Me, Eyal, or any other Jew you’ve met in this Land of Israel that you insist on calling Palestine!” He returned to the jeep and Marina followed him in silence. They all climbed back into the car and he got behind the wheel. Eyal sat beside him and the girls were all in the back together, mute. Paola and Lucia looked at Marina who was pressing her forehead against the window, pretending to watch the road, the hills of clear stones covered with bushes, the small isolated woods, the moon, the ever thinning clouds, the lights approaching along the road. Yaron pulled over after a few minutes, he turned around and said to her, “Marina, I wanted to bring you here. We’re in Itamar. Will you come with me for a moment?” “Okay, yes.” The others also got out, and they all went silently towards the village entrance to the male and female soldiers on guard, and there, without going beyond the sign with Latin, Arabic and Hebrew characters, they divided themselves into two
  • 18. 19 groups as before. Eyal, Paola and Lucia talked to the soldiers who tried to explain the Hebrew alphabet to the girls, while Marina and Yaron walked slowly alone. “Have you ever heard about the Shabo family, Marina?” Yaron asked her. “No.” “They also used to live here. They were massacred by a Palestinian terrorist nine years ago.” “Oh God, them as well ...” “That night the father and three children were out, the mother and the other five children were sleeping. That beast entered throwing grenades and shooting uncontrollably. He killed the mother Rachel, who was 40 years old, and her three sons: Neria, 15 years old; Zvika, 12; and Avishai, 5.” “My God, Yaron, another small child.” “He didn’t kill the other brother, Asael, 10 years old, and the sister Avia, 13, because he had injured them so badly that he thought they were dead. Avia landed under the bed, but Asael was on the floor in a pool of blood. The terrorist kicked him in the head to understand if he was dead, and Asael managed not to move, not to even open his eyes.” “Good Lord, how can anybody do that to a family, to a 10 year old boy? Are he and his sister ok now? At least physically, I mean.” “Avia is ok, the bullets didn’t cause her any permanent damage. Whereas Asael lost a leg, but now that he is 19 years old, he is one of the strongest disabled swimmers in the world.” “Really? My God, what a beautiful person! He must have an incredible inner strength.” “That strength comes from here, from this remote village. They are surrounded by hate yet filled with love, you can see it from how they look after their things so well, with such incredible care.” “That’s true. You know, while you were driving, looking at these tidy little lights was like entering into a fairytale place.” “That’s right, that’s the exact same impression it gives me. You should see it during the day, Itamar is really the gem of the hills, as we call it. It’s amazing. Plus all the flowers of the season are in blossom, but everything is always so tidy, every vegetable garden, every little vineyard. So much care, so much patience, it’s something you can’t imagine.” “It’s incredible. They have experienced two such ghastly tragedies, and it’s such a small village that surely everybody knew each other, and yet they’ve never lost their love for these little details.” “And for people. Do you know that here I’ve never heard a word of hatred against the Arabs? Not one, even if they’d have every right, because here everybody has gone through a ghastly tragedy. Every family mourns the death of a loved one, killed by a Palestinian terrorist.” “What?” “For example, Yosef Twito, a thirty-year-old neighbour of the Shabos’, he tried to defend them and he was also killed. Neria, the Shabos’ fifteen-year-old boy, three
  • 19. 20 weeks before had escaped a night assault at the school where he studied and slept. A Palestinian gunman killed three of his school mates, and Neria had brought home his pillow with a bullet hole.” “My God, and then he was also killed ... Yaron, tell me the truth, I beg of you! Are you exaggerating? Are you trying to convince me and so you exaggerate? Because it’s not possible that every family has been hit!” “Sadly yes, Marina. Here in Itamar you can’t build a fence, as you can’t build one either around all the other Jewish villages of Judea and Samaria surrounded by Palestinian villages. It would mean imprisoning half of Israel in a tangle of wire mesh. This is why every Jewish village is well guarded by soldiers, only they can defend them. But obviously something every now and then escapes them, and the Arab villages around take advantage. That's why it’s impossible, now, to think of two states for two peoples. Judea and Samaria are in the centre of Israel and make up 30% of Israeli territory, if they became a Palestinian state under all effect, their army would attack us immediately and it would be virtually impossible for us to defend ourselves.” “But if you give them their land, why should they attack you?” “Because they hate the Jews, they even hate our children, whether we give them our land or not. Do you remember what I was telling you before, about the Gaza Strip, that in 2005 10,000 Jews were exiled to leave the land to the Palestinians?” “Yes, I remember.” “Some Jewish families exiled from Gaza had come to live here. One of these was the Fogel family, the first family of Itamar that I told you about, the one that was exterminated six months ago by two Palestinian terrorists who slaughtered the mother, father and three children. Do you remember I told you about little Hadas, who was only three months old ...” “Oh God, they had been exiled for the Palestinians, and they were killed by them?” “Yes. And in Gaza, once news had spread about the massacre, they celebrated in the streets by giving sweets to children, because usurper colonists had been killed, the thieves of their Palestinian lands.” “Oh God Yaron, the same words that I used!” Marina hid her face in her hands and then started crying. “You were right, Yaron, I should have at least continued to have compassion ...” He tried to say something to her yet she moved away alone, because she didn’t want to be consoled. Yaron looked at her, sitting on the floor not far away, embracing her legs and crying with her face on her knees. After a few minutes Marina calmed down and went back to him. “Yaron, I want to do something, I don’t know what, a gesture, anything ... I want to leave something here, a flower, a stone, I don’t know, something of mine that shows I was here and I understood.” “Do you want us to pick a flower? You can leave it there, at that sign. Is that ok?” “But then it‘ll wither. In Italy I want to think of something that’s mine that will always remain here, a reminder, to show I’ll never be so nasty again.”
  • 20. 21 “You’ve never been nasty. After always hearing the same lies being repeated you began to believe them, that’s normal.” “Oh no, you were right. I should never have lost my compassion.” “Little one, you found it again. You should be happy. You mustn’t cry.” “Well ...” she dried her eyes with her hands. Yaron gave her a tissue but didn’t dare even caress her shoulder. “My watch, Yaron. I can leave my watch here.” “Of course, that’s a beautiful idea.” “And what’s more, when I want to look at the time – a thousand times a day – when I don’t see it anymore I’ll remember Itamar.” “That’s true, it’s a wonderful idea, you know. You’ll leave a memory of yourself in Itamar and you’ll take its memory with you.” They both went to the sign, where the other three were still chatting with the soldiers because nobody had dared to enter the village, so as not to cause any bother or fear. Eyal had only mentioned the massacres because the two girls were so carefree that he had preferred not to sadden them. Maybe when they got back home Marina would explain to them what Yaron must have told her, judging from how serious she was as she approached the sign, shrugging her shoulders with downcast eyes. Marina knelt below the sign and, while Yaron explained in Hebrew to the soldiers what she was doing, she unlatched her watch. A beautiful little watch with a very small round metal dial, and a slightly worn leather strap. But she immediately got up with tears in her eyes and said, “Yaron! The strap is too short, I can’t tie it!” “Come, in the jeep there are strings, ropes and chains of all types. Come and choose what you want to attach to it so you can tie it up.” Behind the rear seats there was anything and everything: sleeping bags, a compressor, a ball, a battery charger, a large tool box with screwdrivers, wrenches, nails, padlocks, bolts, twine, pieces of wire, and chains of all types, from thin like necklaces to large and covered with transparent plastic. “No, Yaron. Twine isn’t good, it’ll get ruined.” “A piece of wire?” “Well, but it’s really ugly, it’ll seem as if we hadn’t made a great effort.” “These little chains?” “I don’t know, it almost seems as if I’m putting there something really pretty. Even the watch, I was looking at it earlier, it looks far too beautiful, too perfect. How can I match it to a tragedy? At least the strap is ruined ... what do you think?” Yaron watched her carefully: she really cares about this, this choice is important for her. In the compartment next to the steering wheel there were keys, gate remote controls, flashlights, compasses. “Look here, Marina. I think this is perfect.” He took a black compass attached as a pendant to an olive-green oilcloth strap. “It’s my compass. I also think that the meaning is nice: you can leave it here and you’ll never lose the way to come back.”
  • 21. 22 “Yes, that’s wonderful. And it’s yours, is it really yours? It’s not Eyal’s, or do you both use it?” “No no, it’s only mine.” “Then we have to absolutely put it with my watch, because you explained all these things to me with all your patience for the whole night, you wasted all your time and rest for me, and without you I’d never have come to Itamar and I’d never have found the good things that I’d lost.” “Marina, I’m glad you found everything you were looking for. And I often pass by here, this is the area that was assigned to me, and when I see your watch with the compass I’ll think about this night and I’ll always remember, every time, how beautiful it is to speak to you.” Marina took his hand to give him the watch and to grasp his hand between hers. Then they went back to the sign, they snapped together the buckles of the watch and compass, and attached them to one of the two poles. They left them on the grass and stood watching them in silence. Their heads were bowed, their arms were folded, they were side by side. When they returned to the jeep, Eyal got behind the wheel and Lucia got in next to him. Paola, Marina and Yaron sat at the back, as in the first stretch of the road. Paola and Lucia didn’t understand why Yaron and Marina had attached the compass and the watch to the sign, they thought it was some superstitious habit, like throwing coins into a fountain, and seeing them sitting quietly they thought they were still angry as before, when Yaron was driving. So Lucia tried to liven up the atmosphere and asked Eyal if she could try and drive, “Come on, let me try! A military jeep, that’s cool! I’m the only one with a driver’s license here, the nineteen-year old granny! You two little seventeen-year old girls ...” “She is still sixteen. She’ll turn seventeen in the middle of the month. Isn’t that true, Marina?” Paola interrupted her indicating Marina, who didn’t answer. “But sorry, shouldn’t the two of you be going into the fifth year?” Lucia asked. “Yes, but Marina went to school a year before,” Paola explained to her. “And how old are you two?” Lucia asked Eyal, and the discussion continued between the two of them. “Yaron turned twenty in July, he only has one year left in the army. I’m like you, I’ve just turned nineteen. My birthday was in August.” “Me too! What day is your birthday?” “The 23rd, and you?” “Mine’s on the 17th, so you can leave the jeep in my hands without any problems! I’m older than you!” “And how much experience do you have behind the wheel?” “I’m an excellent driver, Eyal, trust me ... Come on, please. Only for two minutes. We’re not going to find a traffic cop around ...” “Ok, two minutes. Go Lucia, the timer’s on.” The jeep nearly reared at the start, then went to the centre of the road and continued with a series of jerks, tremors and jolts.
  • 22. 23 Yaron spoke to his friend in Hebrew, “Eyal, they’ve got a point in Saudi Arabia, don’t they?” “They certainly have!” Eyal answered in their language laughing. “Huh? What?” Lucia asked. “Nothing,” Eyal replied in English, and the conversation between him and Lucia continued in this language. “Come on, I want to know in English why you were laughing before, otherwise it looks as if you are criticizing me!” “Never, Lucia!” Eyal exclaimed seriously. “I want to know what you said, otherwise I won’t let go of the steering wheel until the airport!” “Ok, Lucia, relax! We were only saying that in Saudi Arabia they’ve got a point.” “Meaning, Eyal?” “Well, you know Saudi Arabia?” “Yes ...” “That they discriminate against women ...” “Huh?” “But don’t you know these things in Italy? What type of an emancipated feminist are you, Lucia? Have you never paraded for the poor women oppressed by Islamic regimes?” “Go on with what you were saying, Eyal, don’t lose track. Come on, we’ll sort out the other things later.” “Well, maybe you don’t know, Lucia, but in Saudi Arabia there’s actually a law ...” “Hmmm?” “A ban.” “Yes?” “Lucia, in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive!” The explosion of protests by Lucia jeopardizes further the grip of the jeep until, as the second minute ended, Eyal moved her bodily away, got hold of the steering wheel and started driving again. After a few kilometers he looked at Yaron and Marina in the rear-view mirror and said in Hebrew, “What a pity.” “What?” Yaron asked him in their language. “That you won’t see each other anymore,” Eyal replied and, even if they had spoken in Hebrew, Lucia didn’t protest because she understood that they weren’t speaking about her. Yaron nodded, he sighed sadly and closed his eyes, then he looked at Marina and they smiled at each other. Eyal saw them in the rear-view mirror and said in Hebrew, “Who knows, maybe ...”, and then silence fell over the jeep. After a few kilometers, Eyal had an idea and said to everybody, “Listen, we’ll be arriving at the airport in three quarters of an hour. There’s nothing to do there. Let’s stop and stay here for an hour. All clouds have disappeared, at least we can do something.”
  • 23. 24 But Paola didn’t want to and said, “And what are we going to do here? There’s nothing! Let’s go back to Itamar!” “I’ve got an idea, Paola. We’ve got a ball,” Eyal told her pointing to the back of the car. “For goodness sake, Eyal! Absolutely not!” “But why, Paola? You are girls, but you’re still Italian!” “Oh yes, ah! In fact you are boys, but how many world cups did you win, eh? Lucia, Marina, let’s go give them a lesson!” “Italy-Palestine, four-zero!” Lucia shouted. “Israel-Italy, eight-zero!” replied Eyal and guessed well. In fact, as long as they played alone against the two boys, the girls didn’t even see the ball. So they split into the two usual groups: Eyal with Lucia and Paola, and Yaron with Marina. After a while it ended as always: two girls at the goal posts, one girl refereeing, and the two boys playing. Yet after half an hour, feeling compassion, they put an end to the game. “Wow, you’re really good, eh?” Yaron said to Marina. “Yeah sure! I caught the ball only when he kicked really softly!” “Well, it could’ve gone in all the same.” “Are you pulling my leg?” “A bit.” “But now I’ll show you a cartwheel that not even in your dreams ... And then I want to see if you’re able, you great athlete!” “Great! Well done! No, I won’t even try, I know my limits. Not like some people who claim to play football while being completely unable!” Marina laughed and pushed him away. Yaron went towards the car and said to her, “Let’s go to the jeep. There are binoculars, let’s see if the sky is the same as in Italy. Here we are a little more to the east but maybe we aren’t much lower.” “Great! Maybe we’ll also see some shooting stars!” “But it’s already the beginning of September, it won’t be easy.” “Did you see them, on August 10th?” “Yes. Many went past, especially the slow and not very bright ones. Do you know what I mean?” “No ... In Italy we only see those sort of bright points, that drop quickly and switch off immediately. Maybe what you saw were airplanes?” “No, I’m sure. I managed to focus on one with the binoculars, and I followed it for the whole time that it was travelling. It was like a smaller, more grey moon, it was round and you could see the craters. It was the first and only time in my life that I managed to see what the slow shooting stars are like. I think it was a meteorite, with that shape and those craters.” “I wonder what special wish you expressed with that star ...” “Oh yes ...” “And what was that wish?” “I can’t tell you, otherwise it won’t come true,” he replied mysteriously with the hint of a smile, while they arrived at the jeep and took the binoculars.
  • 24. 25 Then they chose a sandy area where to lie down. Yaron tried to indicate some constellations to her and some reference stars, but Marina was unable to locate them and said, “The moon is too bright! What a pity!” “A real pity. It’s beautiful when there’s no moon, it’s full of stars. But we can see the North Star very well, look,” Yaron told her, sitting up to look at the horizon. “But is it so low?” Marina asked him, sitting up as well. “Yes, here in Israel it’s almost at the bottom, on the horizon.” “In Italy it’s much higher. Well not in the middle of the sky, eh!” “Oh well, you can see it in the middle only in the North Pole!” “Oh come on ... but of course! I’d never thought of that, you’re right, Yaron! It points to the north, but you’re a genius!” “The Genie.” “What an idiot! And what star is that over there?” “Oh, no, that’s a planet. It’s Jupiter.” “How do you know?” “Well, we have to study stars to orient ourselves ... as soldiers, one never knows.” “And do you really use them?” “Yes, to stay trained. Yet I hope I’ll never need them, ’cause if you have to orient yourself with the stars, it means you’re really in trouble.” They put the binoculars back into their case and continued to speak about constellations, carefully avoiding the discussion of military risks, each one embracing their knees. After a few minutes they heard a jingling that was getting stronger and they saw a flock passing. “Yaron! Lambs! A donkey! Look, there are also hairy sheep! Look at those, with horns and beards! They are goats! And the dogs, look how they run around them, it’s amazing, they send them back into the flock slowly, look!” “You really are a city girl ...” “Oh yes, you’re right, Yaron. You don’t find sheep in Bergamo!” “Maybe you can find them where you live, seeing that there are places that look like this, like the Upper City you were speaking about. Maybe you don’t see them because they go past very early, like now.” “I don’t know, maybe. But they are so beautiful! You must have seen so many animals in this area!” “Well, apart from sheep, little animals. Mice, frogs, the other day I rescued a toad from the road.” “Eww!” “But you know how beautiful it was Marina? It looked like an alien, you know, with that face without a nose. Look, I’ll show it to you on the cell phone because I took a photo of it.” “My God, it really has that face! The little face of an alien! It looks like a little person. This is how the fairytale of the toad that became a prince after being kissed must have come about!” “And one day, last week, I saw an enormous porcupine. It was as big as a cat.” “And have you ever seen a hedgehog?”
  • 25. 26 “Yes, I saw a whole family, right here in this area, on the road to Itamar. They were magnificent, really, a thousand times more beautiful than the porcupine. All round, trotting around, the two big ones in front with the row of little ones behind. They also looked so soft.” “Did you try to touch them?” “No, I think they really prick.” “I once took one in my hand and it didn’t prick me, maybe because it was small, it must have been a young one. Poor thing, it finished up on the bicycle path just outside Bergamo, so I took it to the little woods nearby, attached to the bicycle path. I hope it’s ok now!” “Of course, Marina. They seem to be intelligent little animals and, if the bicycles frightened it, it won’t leave the woods anymore.” “I hope so. I really care about it, you know? Because I always consider myself as a hedgehog, so it consoles me because I tell myself that it’s true that I have a bad temper, I’m closed, but also a hedgehog can live well, and others may also be happy to come across one. There’s nothing wrong with being a hedgehog.” “Of course not. Apart from the fact that you have a lovely character, Marina. A hedgehog? Well, maybe everybody sees himself in a way that others don’t.” “Yes, maybe that’s true.” “We also get obsessed with our faults and they seem unforgivable to us, and yet so many times the others don’t even see them.” A plane flew past at a very low altitude and its roar made them tremble within, and perhaps that was the plane that in a few hours’ time would take Marina back home. “It’s true, you know, Yaron? My mom always tells me that, when I have a pimple and no foundation makeup can cover it.” “A pimple? So you also give in sometimes to Nutella, eh?” “Do you also have it in Palestine?” “Palestine? Here we go again, eh?” “Ok. Do you have Nutella, here, in the imperialist power that occupies Palestine?” “Of course, Mrs Arafat! Don’t tell me that you didn’t notice, and that you’ve gone without it for the whole time you’ve spent in our charming occupying power!” “As a matter of fact, my dear occupation soldier, I’m in withdrawal and I’d love to taste some as soon as possible.” “I will definitely serve you some at the airport, my queen.” “Hmmm, as soon as we arrive I’m going to gobble down a whole jar!” “You’ll get more than a pimple, then.” “You’re right, I have to resist! Just a teaspoon then!” “I wonder why you girls eat Nutella with a teaspoon and not on bread.” “That’s true. It’s a strict rule that nobody breaks, neither boys nor girls!” “We have to carry out a scientific research.” “We’ll be famous, Yaron!” “Well then, if we see a shooting star we’ll know what wish to make: that our research on Nutella wins the Nobel Prize for medicine.”
  • 26. 27 “Oh, but there aren’t any shooting stars, you were right, Yaron!” “Well, we can pretend that that plane that just passed was a shooting star. What do you say, Marina?” “Cheating superstition?” “Yes, just a bit.” “Oh yes! What do we care, Yaron? If a star can make our wish come true, why can’t a plane?” “Certainly! Just two little nonsenses.” “Come on, then. Dear plane that has just gone past, even if you know that we’re cheating, I Marina ...” “And I Yaron ...” “We ask you to make our wish come true!” “Perfect!” “It’s done!” In the meanwhile, the sky had become lighter and the plateau filled up with rays of sunlight among the hills, as between small black silhouettes of cardboard on a transparent background. The bells and bleating gave way to chirping, and among these sounds Marina recognized the notes of a birdsong that she usually heard at home in the early morning, in summer. “So will you take home a beautiful memory of Israel?” “Oh yes. You, Eyal, of course, but the nation ... don’t take it personally, but until yesterday I couldn’t even pronounce that name.” “Come on, I want to hear you say it.” “I-sra-el.” “Very good.” “Anyway, it’s not that I don’t believe you. I can see that you are a sincere person, I told you that ... and the things that you told me, even the worst ones, I’ll never ever forget them, I promise you. Yet I cannot overturn everything that I’ve always thought, give me some time. It’s not that I don’t trust you, don’t take it personally.” “Ok, I understand, nothing personal. But if you look back on these things we can speak about it, is that ok? I’ll give you my e-mail address and we can speak to each other on messenger, ok?” “That’s wonderful, yes, certainly.” “Well, here you are ... Ok, nothing personal, then.” “I mean, it’s obvious that it’s a bit personal. You’re Israeli.” “Indeed.” “But it’s not personal like many other things.” “Such as?” “Things that are only yours and not of the nation!” “That is?” “Hey, are we playing a game of two syllables?” “What?”
  • 27. 28 “Ugh, Yaron! I’m racking my brains to find thousands of words for a complex question, also in English, and you answer me using two syllables at the most?” “Ok.” “Ah, so ... personally speaking, what team do you root for?” “Beitar.” “Two syllables. How is it, is there the name of the city after Beitar?” “Yes.” “And what is it?” “Mine!” “Great, you didn’t fall for it, one syllable! I hoped you’d say Jerusalem, four syllables. Doesn’t matter, now let’s see ... what’s your favourite ice cream flavour?” “Coffee.” “Two syllables. And ... are you engaged?” “No.” “One syllable! Hmmm ... me too!” “What about you?” “Ha-ha, you fell for it, four syllables! You’re curious, hey ... what would I answer like you?” “Do you root for Beitar?” “Absolutely not! And those are six syllables. Ouch, Yaron, another mistake! Come on, what will I answer the same as you?” “Coffee?” “Chocolate.” “Marina, I’m sorry, three syllables.” “You’re right, three! How did I let myself get fooled?” “Alright then.” “What’s alright?” “The answer to the question.” “What question?” “The one we answered no to.” “Hey, soldier! Don’t tell me you don’t have the courage to ex-pli-ci-tly ask me that question!” “Ok, then, my general. I’ll ask you the question. Are you engaged?” “No.” “Great.” “Good.” “Perfect.” “Yaron, do we want to carry on indefinitely looking for words with a maximum of two syllables?” “Willingly.” “Ha-ha, you made a mistake, three syllables!” Yaron put his hand on her head to ruffle her hair, but his fingers got caught in the knots.
  • 28. 29 “Ouch!” “Sorry, Marina! But these things are terrible ... what are they? Medusa’s snakes? Do you also have your protection fence? It’s an anti-endearment barrier, though!” “Exactly, I’d never thought of that! That’s the exact definition of my hair, an anti- endearment barrier.” Yaron put his face close to hers and Marina saw how his eyes lit up and became defenceless while he asked her why without speaking. So she pronounced, pretending to joke, “Endearment is the first step towards the illusion of love, I stay far from it and I’ll never get disappointed.” “You’re right, sacred words.” Marina saw him becoming serious and moving his face away. Now it was her turn to mutely ask him an explanation, tilting her head to the side. “My girlfriend has just left me. Almost two months ago, actually.” “I’m sorry. Really, you don’t seem like someone who deserves that.” “Well, I’ll make those things grow on me as well!” “Go for it! It’s so easy, maybe you’ll find it difficult at the beginning because your hair is very straight, but once it starts getting knotting, it’s done!” “Is your hair wavy?” “A bit ... incredibly curly, we can say! But at least it got all knotty almost immediately and in about a month I had my wall ... oops barrier, not fence, how must I call it?” “Fence.” “One syllable! ... No, it doesn’t make you laugh anymore! Please, I want to see your dimples ... There you go, bravo! Come on, say other three syllables ...” “You say them.” “No, I asked first!” “You say them.” “No, Yaron! It was my idea, you say them first.” “You say them.” “Ugh, what are you, a parr ... ha ha ha! You-say-them! I didn’t get it at first, you’re great! Now it’s my turn, uh, let’s see ... Cir-cum-spect.” “Circumspect? What word is that?” “Circumspect, careful, what you’ve seemed to be the whole time. Now I’ve understood, you’ve got a broken heart, you poor thing, wham right in half.” “So I’m circumspect. And where did you find that word? Did you make a mistake with the translation or do you use words from the 1800s?” “But it exists and people use it a lot!” “Circumspect! Just look at the words I have to listen to.” “But Yaron, you are amazingly ignorant!” “In any case, don’t say I’m circumspect, dear Marina, you can say that to your brother.” “And you are also impolite!” “Impolite! Straight from the Middle Ages, only for you ... Marina!” “Im-po-lite! Impolite and circumspect!”
  • 29. 30 “The word circumspect is fantastic, I have to mark it down.” “Yes, when someone pisses you really off ...” “Circumspect shit-head!” “Use it when someone really makes you mad ... your ex, circumspect bitch!” “But how did this word come to your mind?” “Nothing, I told you. You’ve given me this impression the whole time. With whatever word you want to say it, it seemed to me as if you were afraid of getting hurt once again.” “That’s very true. Those are the exact words I would use to say it.” “Well then, do like I do, with or without knots in your hair, be very careful to avoid falling in love.” “I can’t believe that you manage.” “I assure you.” “Obviously you’ve never met anyone with whom you get on really well.” “Or maybe that someone will soon be so far that he won’t be dangerous any longer.” “It’s four hours away by plane, isn’t it? I’m not that far away ...” “Then you are dangerous. I don’t want to have a broken heart as well.” “I would never break it.” They remained silent, sitting on the ground next to each other and Marina’s eyes filled with tears. She pushed them back with the fists and she stayed like that, with her elbows on her knees and her fists on her eyes. Yaron put his hand on her head and caressed her slowly so as not to hurt her with her knots. “As soon as I can I’ll come to Italy. I don’t know when I can go overseas being in the army. I’ll find out and I’ll come and visit you as soon as I can.” She turned her head to look at him, leaning her chin and cheek on her fists, “Well ... in a week’s time you won’t even remember me.” “Won’t I? Try me.” He caressed her other cheek, the one which wasn’t leaning on her fist, which was still a bit wet from her tears, and yet it was burning, “You’ll see that I’ll always remember you.” Marina removed her hand from under her chin and caressed his cheek as well, “And me? I could break your heart.” “We’ll put you to the test as well then.” Marina smiled at him and nodded, and her face lit up as she repeated, “Ok. Let’s put ourselves to the test. Ok.” “Yes? Really? Truly?” In the meantime, on the other side, Paola had been complaining for the past half hour with Eyal. “Listen, it’s very late, we’re leaving from Megiddo at 7, we haven’t slept a wink for two days and we’ve got so many things to do in Bergamo. If we don’t get some sleep, we’ll pass out. Let’s go and call them, come on, also Marina will be in need of some sleep.” “Sleep? Did you see how they were looking at each other?”
  • 30. 31 “Ugh, Marina looks at everyone like that. I hope your friend doesn’t get any illusions. Come on, let’s go and look for them and go to the airport to sleep for two hours,” Paola insisted. “Well, she didn’t look at me like that.” “Are you jealous, Eyal?” “A bit.” “Oh thanks!” Lucia shot up and continued, “And what about us? You’ve had two of us hanging around you all night.” “Exactly, two of us!” Paola exclaimed and went on, “How come we didn’t think about it, Lucia? We should’ve got another soldier! We could’ve got one at Itamar! There was really a stunning one!” “What is this? A supermarket? Plus those don’t move, they’re really on the front line,” Eyal explained. “Anyway, Eyal, if you’d had the occasion, you obviously would’ve chosen me, wouldn’t you?” “Come on, Paola! With me there’s affinity ...” “Stop! Let’s change subject, girls. Let’s explore the Marina-Yaron story. Which one of you knows Marina better?” “Me, we’re in the same class!” said Paola. “And why isn’t there hope, according to you?” Eyal asked her, and the conversation continued between him and Paola. “Because she never falls in love!” “Never say never.” “No no, Eyal, it’s a strict rule.” “But maybe ...” “Impossible! I know her really well and it’s never happened. And it will never happen.” “Amen. Then I’ll go and call them. It’s a pity though.” When Eyal’s voice reached them, “Yaron! Marina! We have to go!”, the two of them had been there embracing strongly only for five minutes. But when they got up, they looked at each other and smiled and they felt really well, in peace, safe, complete. “Wait, here,” Marina unlatched a thin bracelet and tied it onto his wrist, “The string is made of leather, I found the little key on the floor near the cycling path. I don’t know what it is, it must be the lock key of a bike. I’m sorry, it doesn’t mean anything, but I don’t have anything else to leave you.” “Wait, I’ll give you my dog tag,” Yaron took a small black string from his neck with a little green bag with Velcro attached to it, from which he pulled a chain with the military tag, and put it around her neck carefully moving away her hair and keffiyeh. “There’s my name in our alphabet, and my serial number.” “But can you give it to me without any problems?” “I’ll tell them I’ve lost it.” “You’ll be in trouble.” “Doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you keep it.”
  • 31. 32 They reached Eyal hugging and they followed him to the jeep without detaching themselves. They sat in the same places as the first time and her two friends looked at them. Paola out the corner of her eye next to Marina, and Lucia turned slightly on the front seat. Marina was wrapped in Yaron’s arms and was resting her face on his heart, Yaron hid his face in Marina’s hair and was caressing her back. Eyal glanced at the two girls, at Lucia from the side and at Paola from the rear view mirror, and the girls locked gazes, shrugging. He winked, and a giggle ran through the jeep as it turned towards the checkpoint, where the soldiers on guard recognized Eyal and allowed them to pass. Thus they started coasting the thirty kilometers of fence that Eyal was speaking about when they had just met. “Here is the famous fence, girls. Now’s the time to make your documentary.” “And with what, Eyal? Our cell phones are all wrecked,” Lucia told him. “I’ll give you mine, it takes beautiful pictures and the videos are quite long. Then I’ll send you everything by e-mail.” “Ok, thanks Eyal. Paola, will you do it?” “No, Lucia, it’s right on your side. You film it!” “But I’m a disaster with small keys, maybe nothing will come out.” “Yes, but between me and the wa ... fence! Well, whatever it is ... I have, let’s say an obstacle in the middle, Lucia.” “Oh, yes. Romeo and Juliet, you may be beautiful but you’re not invisible,” said Lucia turning toward Marina and Yaron, who burst out laughing and pressed themselves back against the seats, so Paola could move past them and start her report on the fence. But first with a professional voice she introduced a half- minute clip on the Promessi Sposi, the Betrothed, who greeted the camera and spoke to each other in Hebrew and Italian, yet even an Eskimo would have understood them from how telling their looks and gestures were. Paola started filming the fence and Lucia commented, “As a matter of fact this is a wire mesh, you were right, guys.” Yet after five kilometers they went past Qalqiliya, where the fence became a cement structure, and Paola shouted into the cell phone, “Here is the wall!” and started underlining all the hardships that it caused to the Palestinians. However, very soon, after a kilometer, the wall ended and the mesh started again. So Paola, always documenting everything with the cell phone, asked, “Eyal, what you told us doesn’t make sense. Do the kamikazes try to get out only from that kilometer of wall? It’s so short. Don’t they try to get around it and out of the mesh, from this one and the one we saw before?” “No, Paola, the problem here are the snipers. In that kilometer, the Palestinians’ homes are very close to the road, and bullets rain down from the balconies, only onto the cars with yellow Israeli license plates, of course, not the ones with the green Palestinian license plates. We had to build the wall in front of their houses so that even you, my dears, didn’t get a bullet in the head.” “Oh ...”
  • 32. 33 Paola continued filming the fence, and began excitedly recounting in Italian how they had spent the past few hours, “Guys, brace yourselves! We were saved by two Israeli soldiers!” “Paola, I don’t know how much that could interest them.” “Of course, Lucia, that won’t interest them. But you, girls from Montelungo, prepare yourselves spiritually, take a deep breath, sit down, because I’m about to film exclusively for you the two coolest guys on the planet! Eyal, sorry, if you can just turn around for a moment ... and Yaron, if you can break away from your sweetheart for just a second ...” “Look, if you tell them in Italian, it’s going to be hard.” “Ooh, we’re a little a sour, Lucia!” and the two friends continued their conversation in Italian, without changing language. “Hey, dear Paola, having this guy next to me all this time and seeing that he takes absolutely no notice of me is not very gratifying.” “Well, it’s not that it went much better with me, Lucia.” “We’re becoming two sour spinsters.” “Calm down hey, Lucia. I’m just under pH7, but you are already at pH2 my dear!” “Miss delightful just spoke.” “Oops, maybe it’s not nice to continue speaking in Italian, Lucia, it looks like we’re laughing at them, if they don’t understand.” “Come on, Paola, wake up. How can you say that he didn’t understand from the beginning that we were dying for him? It’s just that he’s not interested at all. Doesn’t matter.” “It went well for Marina.” “Well, I don’t know.” “But how, Lucia? Lucky her!” “Come on, Paola, can you imagine her tomorrow? Anyway let’s change subject, she can hear us.” “It seems as if she’s listening to something else ... a good looking guy and wham, your best friends disappear, as if we had never existed.” “Come on, stop it, Paola, imagine in the plane, poor thing.” “That way she’ll learn not to fall in love. How many times did she piss us off with this story that it could never happen to her!” “Well, who knows, maybe she’ll forget him immediately.” “I don’t think so, Lucia.” “Neither do I ... Another wall! Eyal, what’s going on here? The wall again?” “You must ask him in English, Lucia ...” Lucia asked him in English why there was another wall and he repeated that it was a protection against the snipers, because also here in Tulkarem the Palestinians’ homes were very near the road. “Oh, but do they shoot every time they are near the road?” Lucia asked. “It seems so,” replied Eyal, impassive as always. They continued to travel for another half an hour coasting only a mesh and it was about 5.30 a.m. when they arrived at the airport.
  • 33. 34 The girls were surprised because the airport, that only until a short time ago was a military one, was very similar to the airport of Orio al Serio, in Bergamo. As a matter of fact Paola exclaimed, “It’s just like Orio, with such a flat entrance, like a big glass box!” Lucia tried to involve Marina, “Let’s hope there’s a nice shopping mall next to it like ours, hey Marina? The Megiddocenter!” Yet Marina, embracing Yaron, shuddered because entering into the airport was really a step toward leaving. “Well, I don’t think so, I don’t know, it’s just that I remember Orio being so small, so little.” “A little fraaaaagiiile!” Paola and Lucia sang in a chorus the romantic song by Delta Goodrem. “You two are so stupid,” said Marina to her friends as she hugged Yaron. “Aren’t you going to consume this poor boy by hugging him so tightly?” “Come on, Lucia, in any case, in an hour,” Marina told her lowering her head. “Oh God Marina, don’t cry! I’m sorry ... come on, you’ll see him again.” “And when, Lucia?” “But soon, you’ll see. It’s so obvious how much he likes you.” The two soldiers hadn’t understood a single word of Italian, but it didn’t take much to guess why Marina was crying. Yaron stood in front of her, he took her cheeks in his hands, he lifted her face and smiled at her. “Marina, we’ll see each other soon, I promise you! Today I’ll find out immediately about coming to Italy, ok?” “Yes.” “Come, there’s a nice little bar in here. Let’s all sit down and eat something, so you can leave with a full stomach because maybe there isn’t even breakfast on the charter flight.” They entered into the airport, and from the glass window in front they could see the planes waiting to leave. Marina and Yaron stopped to look at them and Marina said, “I wonder if one of these is the one we tried to pass off as a shooting star.” “Maybe it is, let’s hope it brings us luck.” “What was the wish that you made to the shooting star, the real one, Yaron? The slow one that you had followed with the binoculars and that you saw was a meteorite.” “The wish that has just come true,” he answered her while continuing to look at the planes, because he was sure he would cry if he looked at her in the eyes, now that he was already about to lose her. Next to the glass window there was a little bar, and Paola and Lucia asked Eyal if they could all sit together at a table, but Eyal would have liked to sit somewhere else with the two girls and leave the two sweethearts alone. He said this to Yaron and Marina, who were still standing in silence in front of the glass window, but Yaron preferred them all to stay together because he had to leave Marina alone for a minute while he went to the airport shop. “No, Yaron, I always want to come!” Marina begged him, so as not to lose even a moment of the little time that
  • 34. 35 was left for them to be together. “Just a second, Marina, I’ll be right back. Order also for me in the meantime, ok? Pita and falafel.” “For breakfast?” asked the three girls. “We didn’t have dinner last night,” Eyal answered also for Yaron, who was entering the shop. Paola and Lucia got all excited and started speaking to each other in Italian, “They didn’t eat? They did it for us? How nice!” “Do you realize how incredibly nice these two boys are? Too wonderful!” “How sweet!” “Not only did they save us and escort us all the way here, but they didn’t even have dinner just to be our drivers!” After ordering, Marina, who had not opened her mouth since Yaron had gone, translated for Eyal the discussion on their kindness, the kindness that the girls were still commenting about with their How wonderful! How sweet! How nice! and Marina added, “What romantic girls, aren’t they, Eyal?” He replied, “Whoever would have thought that, with that hair?” and he winked at her. Marina burst out laughing and played with her dreadlocks while the two girls, who weren’t listening to them, carried on chirping. At that moment Yaron returned, and Eyal said to him in Hebrew, “Italian squeals, you’re going to have to get used to them.” “Cretin.” “Hey? What did you say? Was it in Hebrew?” asked Marina. “Nothing, my dear friend Yaron always has kind words for me.” Pita and falafel arrived for the boys, cappuccino and croissants for the girls. Lucia and Paola spoke in Italian, trying to involve Marina as well because they could see that she was becoming sad, but she was staring at her croissant to keep back the tears and didn’t take part in the speech. “Marina and Paola, I’m informing you that in Italy I never want to see a fried croquette!” “Lucia, Marina ... if I see even one single, miserable chickpea, I’m going to die.” “Choked on a chickpea!” Lucia exclaimed, always in Italian. “Let’s speak in English, come on, Lucia,” Paola told her. “Yes, you’re right. Sorry, we were making not very flattering comments on your food,” Lucia told the boys in English, but Yaron didn’t get involved in the conversation either, and he stayed silent like Marina staring at his plate. So the conversation continued in English among Lucia, Paola and Eyal, “Obviously, in Italy you are too well accustomed.” “Well, we eat better, Eyal, that’s true. But maybe also healthier food. I think that I’ll digest the food I ate here in a week’s time. What do you think, Lucia?” “Five days of chickpea croquettes and cream of chickpeas. Heavens above, Paola, how did we survive?” “And how can we forget the cream of eggplant, Lucia?” “Which is exactly the same as the one of chickpeas, Paola!”
  • 35. 36 “I absolutely agree with you, girls. I’ve been eating them for almost twenty years and I still haven’t managed to distinguish them,” Eyal said. “Anyway, in five days I threw out of the window three months of extreme Dukan,” Lucia said. “Extreme Dukan?” Eyal asked her and the discussion continued between the two of them. “The Dukan diet, Eyal, haven’t you ever heard of it? You practically eat only proteins, which don’t get transformed into fats as sugars do.” “And the extreme one?” “Only bresaola, a dried beef.” “And nails.” “Oops, Eyal , you noticed?” “How couldn’t I, Lucia? You look like a squirrel, always with those little hands.” “Well, I tried putting on those revolting nail polishes, but at the end I ate those as well.” “Try putting on the chickpea cream.” “Oh, yes, then I’ll really stop! Come on, let’s take some photos, otherwise we’ll just have the video with the wa ... fence, barrier, whatever it is! My cell phone takes terrible photos, can we use yours again, Eyal?” “And let’s ask those soldiers to take some of us altogether,” Paola said. A complete photo shoot took place in which each one of the five was photographed alone, in a group, and together with one of the others. Eyal started speaking to Lucia again, “Two by two, ten photos.” “Eyal, has your mathematic mind started?” she asked him. “If you want, I can calculate how many we’ll get if we all have a photo taken in different groups and not always with the same number of people, my dear Lucia.” “How sweet of you, Eyal! And above all very useful!” and she added in Italian, “If you want, I can calculate how much time we should have spent clinging to each other in the car so that you could have taken notice of me, hey, my dear intelligent one!” “What, Lucia?” “Come on, Eyal, you understood perfectly well!” “Uh, I’ll go and get the cards.” “What? What’s that got to do with it?” “With what you are saying, I don’t know, seeing that it was in an unknown language to me.” “In an unknown language to you ... wow, I really like you!” “I like you too.” “You wouldn’t say, you don’t show all this great enthusiasm.” “You’re wrong, it’s sky high.” “You should’ve been a comedian, did you know that? You’re too impassive! You really make me angry but you make me laugh so much! Come on, go and get the cards and we’ll have a match of briscola!” “Briscola?”
  • 36. 37 “You don’t have it here in Palest ... Israel, whatever it is?” “Briscola? Yaron, ever heard of briscola?” “Briscola? No.” “Well guys, let’s play poker then, no?” Paola asked. “Yes, that’s great,” said Eyal, and Marina asked, “I’ll play with you, Yaron, ok? I’m totally unable. And maybe, Eyal, if your cell phone still has some space we can film ourselves a bit more, so we can have something else to remember.” “Perfect, Marina. Of course it’s still got some space, here, do you know how to use it or shall I explain it to you?” “Oh, well then it depends on the girl sitting next to you!” Lucia teased him, and she and Eyal continued speaking to each other, “What, Lucia?” “Your degree of grumpiness ... grumpity, whatever it is! With beautiful Marina all very considerate, with poor Lucia a grumpy asshole!” “You’re not bad.” “What?” “I like you.” “Hey? And you say that now? With our plane taking off in less than an hour?” “Yes, if you come back to Israel give me a call.” “Lucia, your cheeks are burning!” Paola interrupted. “I realized, dear Paola, without you having to underline it!” “But I said it in Italian, Lucia.” “Yes yes, in Italian ... this one here understands everything, I tell you, Paola!” Eyal went to get the cards and they played some games and made some short videos, and at the end Lucia exclaimed, “Eyal, thank heavens we weren’t betting any money, otherwise you’d have ruined us all! Wow, he won all of them, guys, can you believe it? Eyal, you should go and play those professional games, the world championships, where they win millions. You’d definitely win!” “Don’t get offended Lucia, but you aren’t exactly dangerous opponents,” Eyal said to her. “No, of course not, but I’m not joking, you really are a statue, it’s impossible to understand what you have in your hands! Try and sign up for the Palesti ... Israeli championships ...” “Whatever it is,” Eyal said before she did. “Isn’t he nice, Marina? Nice and impassive,” Lucia asked Marina in Italian, and the two continued their discussion in that language. “And he’s also handsome and impossible, Lucia.” “What, Marina? Like the song of Gianna Nannini, of course! How come we didn’t think of it?” “I thought about it immediately ... for Yaron, ah! I would never dare to think about your Eyal.” “Don’t tell me that you’ve been aiming at him since last night! Just look at that little angel face, how mischievous ...”
  • 37. 38 “Translate,” Eyal came back into the discussion with his usual calmness, and Lucia answered him in English, “Oh, Eyal, you may be nice but it seems as if you order me about, like a dog! Sit! Stay! Bravo! Foot! Paw!” “I repeat, if you come back to Israel, give me a call.” “Maybe a please would be nice, yet you drive me crazy! Hey Marina, Paola, what do you think? Are we made for one another?” “Yes!” “No!” “Ah, Paola, you jealous thing! And then I’m the pH2 spinster, eh?” The bar radio was playing a beautiful, cheerful, choral song and Marina, who had put aside the idea of leaving thanks to Lucia’s conversation, was so enthusiastic and spoke about it to Yaron, “What a beautiful song, I’ve never heard it before! Yaron, do you know it?” “Yes, it’s Ma Rabu by Maccabeats.” “Maccabees?” “Almost, Macca-beats.” “It’s lovely with the chorus, it fills you with happiness, and they make their voices sound like instruments! Would it be on iTunes?” “Yes, there’s the whole album, Voices from the Heights. Get all the songs, Marina, because they’re all so beautiful.” “This one is really incredible, do you like it, girls?” Marina asked her two friends. “Yes, it’s really nice, so cheerful ... is it in your language?” Lucia asked Eyal. “Yes, it’s in Hebrew.” “And what does it talk about?” Marina asked. “It brings to my mind a reindeer running in the Grand Canyon with Kilimanjaro in the background!” “You are unique, Marina ... how can it make you think of a reindeer?” Yaron asked her, and the discussion continued between them. “It’s a kind of marabou, isn’t it Yaron?” “No, that’s an ostrich, the reindeer looks like a caribou.” “Oh, yes, then I should imagine an ostrich running.” “Well, more than an ostrich or a reindeer, it’s Kilimanjaro in the background of the Grand Canyon that I have difficulty in imagining.” “Oh yes, when it says like Kenyon ever, it sounds like Canyon and Kenya ... You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you? You’re terrible, Yaron! You know very well the meaning of these words, and the reindeer, the ostrich and the canyon have absolutely nothing to do with them, eh?” “As a matter of fact ...” “And what does it say?” “They are two separate words, ma-rabu. They are a prayer, a psalm, that speaks about how great the marvellous things that the Lord does are.” “A prayer, how beautiful, but I’m sorry to abandon my running reindeer.” “No, why? Maybe it’s running and praying at the same time, with its ostrich friend, in the Grand Canyon with Kilimanjaro in the background.”
  • 38. 39 “Sure! They definitely sing about the Lord’s marvels, with all that beautiful nature around, happy, together ... my God, Yaron, I can’t believe that I’m already about to lose you.” “No, that’s not true, Marina, we’ll see each other soon, I promise you.” “Very soon?” “Very soon!” “At least, we’ll be on skype all day, won’t we?” “Uh, no, unfortunately the only way we can speak to each other, at the military base, is by writing. We’ll use messenger, ok?” “But we’ll whisper!” “But there are many of us in the dormitory, we really can’t.” “Then, we’ll always keep in contact on messenger?” “At night, ok? I can’t during the day. I’m sorry, I’m already disappointing you ... We’ll sort out the time differences and then we’ll speak to each other every night, ok?” “Ok. And you’re not disappointing me, I waste my time at home all day, but you’ve got more important things to do, I see that. Help, Yaron, how am I going to manage without you, now?” “Marina, we’ll see each other soon, believe me.” “Yes.” “So, Marina, I got you a little present. There isn’t much of a choice there, but I found just what I was looking for.” “A bracelet! Thank you, it’s stunning! The pendant is just how I like it: flat on the wrist, attached to the chain in two points! And how beautiful, it’s a sprig. I love looking at the panorama through the sprigs, how did you know?” “The little pendant is in the shape of a sprig, but it’s really a sentence written in Hebrew letters.” “What’s written?” “Ani ledodi vedodi li, it’s a phrase from the Song of Songs.” “Is this also a prayer?” “Yes, it means I’m my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Marina started crying again and Yaron went for a stroll with her alone, he embraced her and didn’t know how else to console her, “Listen, my little star, I also got you these two things, a t-shirt and a sweater. Because I need to take back my military jacket, seeing that I lost my dog tag.” “Oh, sure, sorry ... How lovely, they are really wonderful.” “There was no choice for the sweater, but in any case anything looks lovely on you, even this poor grey sweater. I hope I got the size right. The others were really terrible, shocking yellow and green, they were ok if you need to change a wheel on the highway.” Marina dried her eyes and cheeks with the tissue that Yaron had given her in Itamar, and concentrated on the new t-shirt so as not to cry. “Thank you, it’s beautiful, and this is my favourite colour, halfway between light pink and orange, how did you know?”
  • 39. 40 “Wow! There was a lot of choice for the t-shirt, and I chose this one because I thought you may have liked the colour.” “And also the sweater is stunning, so necked, with buttons. And it’s so beautiful, so fitted at the waist.” “Meaning?” “That it’s made like this, it doesn’t come straight down.” “Oh, I didn’t even notice. Then I chose the right one, luckily. But I definitely got this gift right ... enjoy your meal!” and he gave her a little jar of Nutella, one of those little plastic packages with a tiny teaspoon attached. Marina was so happy and ate it all with the teaspoon without leaving a trace of Nutella. “Wow! What a technique, Marina! You didn’t leave a single molecule!” “Now let me study the package ... that’s not possible, I hadn’t noticed, Nutella is written like in Italy, exactly the same, with the normal alphabet!” “Here at the top right however, it’s written in small Hebrew letters.” “And how is it pronounced, Yaron?” “The same, Nu-tel-la. Three syllables!” Marina embraced him happily, remembering their discussion before on syllables, “What an absolutely stupid discussion we had before on syllables, eh, Yaron?” “Why, absolutely stupid? It was the most serious discussion I’ve ever had in my life!” “Oh yes, of course! An hour earlier you made a treaty of history and politics!” “But I was aiming at the syllables.” “But it was me who started the game of syllables, Yaron!” “Doesn’t matter. I was hoping that the treaty finished soon, to start the discussion I had at heart.” “And you needed the syllables to do that?” “Yes.” “And why?” “I don’t know, Marina. Maybe because something that’s mine, only mine, I’m not able to say it with words.” “I think you’re a bit of a hedgehog as well, Yaron.” “We’re the two hedgehogs that I met.” “And how many were the little cubs?” “Oh, many!” They laughed and hugged each other even more while they continued walking, then Marina went to the bathroom to change and when she came back she clung to Yaron’s jacket. Her eyes were red because removing the military jacket was another step towards her departure. She gave it back to him and he told her that the t-shirt and sweater looked great on her, and he attached her new bracelet onto her left wrist, “In place of your watch that you left in Itamar.” He hugged her just for a moment so as not to make her cry again, like when he translated the phrase on the bracelet, he linked his arm with hers and said, “Miss, how about making a tour of the big Megiddo airport? A specialized guide will show it to you in detail for a few euros.”
  • 40. 41 “Oh, I also have to pay? ... Listen, can you hear the music, Yaron? There’s another song by those Macca ... beats ... it’s them singing again, isn’t it?” “Very good, you recognized them ... yes, it’s them again. Maybe they are playing the whole CD.” “They’re singing in English.” “Yes, there are two or three songs in English on this album. This is entitled One day.” “Yaron, oh God ... did you hear what they said?” “Yes, little one, they are speaking about us ... don’t be sad, I beg of you. I also feel terrible. We’ll see each other soon, very soon, ok?” “Oh God, they said, Sometimes I lay under the moon and thank God I’m breathing, and I pray don’t take me soon ’cause I am here for a reason.” She started crying again, hugging Yaron tightly, and among her sobs she said, “I’m also here for a reason ... oh God, don’t take me away ...” Yaron held her tightly and said, “Let’s go and tell Him. There’s a little synagogue here at the back, let’s ask Him to at least make us meet again soon.” And he accompanied her for a few steps to an anonymous door which opened up onto a beautiful, white, red and golden, extremely bright room. It was empty at that moment and before entering, Yaron took a little military green kippah from his pocket and put it on his head. Marina stood on her tiptoes, because she was almost one meter seventy and Yaron was almost one meter ninety, she put out her arm and tenderly moved the kippah slightly, “How lovely, you look good you know?” “Irresistible,” and he also caressed her on the head. They sat down on a wooden bench and prayed silently for a few minutes. Yaron closed his eyes and gently bent his head and back forwards, while Marina put her hands on her eyes and her elbows on her knees. When they left, Eyal came up to them and sadly told them, “Yaron, Marina, I’m sorry, it’s already the third time that they’ve called the flight. And you still have to do the controls.” “Oh no, Yaron ...” “Marina, come, I’ll accompany you,” Yaron told her, embracing her and accompanying her to the controls, but she turned and said to Eyal, “One last photo, Eyal! I beg of you, take one more photo of us!” and she held Yaron tightly, raising up on tiptoe to be as near to him as possible. “But of course, Romeo and Juliet, a beautiful smile ... come on, at least a little smile ... no ... doesn’t matter, you look good all the same, guys.” Eyal took a photo and put his cell phone away. Yaron put his kippah back in his pocket and linked arms with Marina. The soldiers that controlled the three backpacks were meticulous, kind and fast, so the goodbyes were only postponed by a few minutes. “Marina, we’ll speak to each other this night on messenger, ok?” “Yes, Yaron ...” “Have a good trip, Marina ... see you soon.” “Please be careful! Don’t do anything dangerous, I beg of you, promise me ok?”
  • 41. 42 “Of course ... I won’t run any risk at all, believe me, ok?” “Promise me Yaron! That you won’t do anything dangerous, that you’ll stay very far from any type of risk!” “Sure, Marina, don’t worry.” “Promise me!” “I promise you, Marina, definitely.” Until they were looking at each other Yaron managed to smile at her, but when he turned away there were tears in his eyes, and Marina was crying in Lucia’s arms.
  • 42. 43 Chapter 2 The three girls boarded the plane and allowed Marina to go near the window so she could get distracted by the landscape, Lucia sat next to her and Paola sat on the aisle. Marina embraced Lucia once again and told her crying, “Lucia, I didn’t even say goodbye to Eyal ...” “It doesn’t matter, Marina, you’ll greet him when you come back and see your Yaron!” “Ah, Lucia ...” and she burst out crying again. Lucia tried to distract her, “Eyal is also nice, isn’t he?” and Marina answered her, drying her tears with Yaron’s tissue, “Yes, he was also nice.” “Is nice, Marina, not was! And your Yaron is nice, and you’ll see again soon how nice he is!” “At least I have the pictures, the videos, Eyal will send them to us,” Marina whispered and rested her forehead on the window, she gazed down on the landing strip under the plane and the hills of the plateau in the background. She remained in silence and cried, with her tears wetting the grey sweater that Yaron had bought her. Lucia caressed her back, but Paola sat forward looking at Marina and quite annoyed said to her, “Come on, Marina, after all you are taking home a beautiful recollection with you, you should be happy!” Marina shook her head in silence and Lucia shot Paola a bad look. But Paola insisted, “You saw one another for a few hours, if you never see him again, you’ll forget him fast! Come on!” Lucia immediately intervened, “Of course not, they’ll see each other soon!” So Paola sarcastically asked her, “What, Lucia, a great love blossomed in ten hours?” Lucia gave her another bad look and said, “Yes, Paola, love at first sight, why not?” Paola burst out laughing and said, “You must have been struck on the head, Lucia. Yaron was a handsome boy, ok, but it’s not that she’ll die if she never sees him again! Even you, without seeing your good looking Eyal, you’ll soon get over him.” Marina put on her headphones so as not to hear them argue, and to close up like a hedgehog and think only of Yaron. She would have given anything to have the songs by the Maccabeats already! Instead, she only had songs by Italian rappers, and so she put on the album of Mondo Marcio because she wanted to hear something true, full of anger and sadness. Yet when her friends started to raise their voices, the music wasn’t enough to cover their argument, so Marina held tightly in her hand Yaron’s tag, and in the other the bracelet with the phrase of the Song of Songs. She looked at the inscription in the shape of a sprig and thought of its meaning, and of the watch she left behind in Itamar together with Yaron’s compass. From the plane window she saw the Land of Israel passing by as if it were a plastic model: the little hills on the plateau, fields of all geometrical
  • 43. 44 shapes and of all shades of brown and green, a tip of land full of houses protruding into the sea, with two strips of beach on the sides. Then, a few moments later, below the plane there remained only the Mediterranean. In the meantime, Lucia was losing her patience, “Paola, explain to me what Eyal has to do with this? We only spoke to each other, we liked each other, ok, but something happened between Marina and Yaron.” “Yes, something that’s going to die soon.” “But why, Paola?” “Come on, Lucia, for a handsome boy that she saw for ten hours at the most!” “Stop it! Eyal and Yaron aren’t only two handsome boys, you also noticed how kind they are!” “Like other millions of boys around the world!” “Oh yes? Tell me the name of one that you know, Paola, that could only be remotely comparable to those two.” “When you know somebody well you also learn his or her faults, Lucia.” Lucia started listing the boys of the Montelungo ex barrack, the social centre that they go to in Bergamo, “Emilio? Tano? Mauro?” “Ok, Lucia, they may not be incredibly nice, but they are our friends.” “Tommaso? Nicola? Jacopo?” “Ok, Lucia, but they are real assholes!” “They are the guys that we see every day, Paola, the ones that we know best.” “Exactly, Lucia, we also know their faults, because we stay with them every single day.” “Ten hours were enough for me to find out that they are pieces of shit. Weren’t they enough for you, Paola?” “Come on, Lucia! They are our friends, they act like that because they are familiar with us.” “Yes, sure, they are so familiar with us that if by chance we say something wrong they eat us alive!” “Well then why do you come to Montelungo every day?” “Good question, Paola! I’m beginning to honestly ask myself that. I’m starting to think that I’m a masochist.” “You’ve lost your mind, Lucia! You see two good looking guys and you go into a vigil coma, totally flat electroencephalogram, beeeeep.” “Ok then, Paola, we’ll make a test. As soon as we return to Montelungo, we’ll show them the pictures and videos. We’ll see how they’ll treat us with kindness, when they see that we became friends with two Israeli soldiers!” “And what do you think they’ll do to us, eat us alive? Dear Lucia, they’ll take the piss out of us as usual, and who cares!” “But in the meantime, with our keffiyehs, our dreads, Palestine and all the rest, Eyal and Yaron didn’t take the piss out of us, nor did they eat us alive, nor insult us nor exclude us, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
  • 44. 45 Then Lucia turned towards Marina and saw that she was crying once again, so she whispered to Paola, “Poor thing, you were a real bitch to tell her that she’ll never see him again.” “But it’s true, Lucia, what do you think they’ll do? Commuters by plane?” “Is it such an impossible thing, Paola? He doesn’t exactly live on Mars! Look down below, the plane has just taken off and we’re already above the sea! One month her and one month him, they could also take low cost flights, couldn’t they?” “Yes, of course, Lucia. Because they saw one another’s lovely faces for one night, now they can’t live without each other.” “Still on with this story, Paola? Their lovely faces? Don’t you see the absolutely cool guys buzzing around Marina, who come to Montelungo only for her and we don’t even know who the fuck they are? And also Yaron, I don’t honestly think that he needs to go looking for girls around the world. But did you see him?” “Anyway, Lucia, it’s not possible that those two will see each other again.” “And what the fuck do you know?” “What the fuck do you want? You act as such a caring friend, but you are the bitch, Lucia. It would be better if Marina resigned herself immediately, instead of having a broken heart after months of illusions!” *** In the meantime, in Megiddo, Yaron and Eyal had left the airport and were returning to their base in Samaria with the jeep. Yaron was driving and he had his jacket on his knees, Eyal put his hand on Yaron’s shoulder and said, “You’re never going to wash that jacket again, are you?” “Yeah.” “She’s really pretty, isn’t she, wise guy?” “Oh, yes.” “I understood immediately that you were made for each other.” “Yes, uh.” “Yaron? If you’re there, knock once! Come on, in a year you’ll finish the army and you’ll move to Italy to play briskila ... bruscola ... what’s it called?” “Briscola.” “Whatever it is.” Yaron laughed and looked at him, “Lucia was also pretty!” “Is pretty, not was! Just like your Marina. Don’t start speaking in the past, if for nothing else than melancholy.” “Yes, you’re right, Eyal. But I think I’ve screwed up.” “Oh yes, am I mistaken or did I see your dog tag around her neck?” “No, you’re not mistaken.” “Then you’ve screwed up, my friend. But who cares, right?” “Yes. But I think the major screw up is something else.” “That is?” “I promised her that I’d go and see her soon.”
  • 45. 46 “You really did screw up.” “I was thinking of Ilan, who’s planning his trip to France.” “But he’s a lone soldier. He came to defend Israel but he’s French.” “Yes, I’ve just realized that. But maybe there’ll be a way, eh, Eyal?” “No, it’s impossible. Only the lone soldiers can go overseas during the three years of army, to see their family.” “Maybe if I don’t ask for any more leaves ...” “No no, it’s forbidden to go overseas. Doesn’t matter, tell her, of course Marina will understand.” “Starting off with a lie ...” “But you didn’t want to lie to her, you forgot, it happens.” Yaron drove in silence biting his lip, so Eyal tried to distract him by speaking about Lucia, “So, what do you think about my brunette?” “She’s really pretty, and very nice.” “And if we were made for each other?” “Ah, you still have two years to go. If we can’t go overseas, then that’s it.” “Come on, don’t think only about that. Maybe you’re right, perhaps there is a way and we don’t know about it.” They arrived at the base and their platoon had to leave at once, not to train unfortunately, but to defend about ten factory workers in an Israeli company, who had been repairing a TV repeater when they were attacked by six Palestinian terrorists armed with machine guns, rockets and grenades. Eyal and Yaron’s platoon was the closest in the area of the attack, and all the soldiers, about twenty boys, were involved until late at night to eliminate the terrorists and protect everybody, both the workers and themselves, from the risk of being hit or kidnapped. When he returned to the base, Yaron ate his dinner in a hurry and threw himself onto the bed. He was happy to have done his part in defending the factory workers and his friends, but he was dead tired and disappointed, because in the canteen everyone had confirmed that only the lone soldiers could go overseas. Even the commander had told him that he had no possibility as going as a tourist, but not even as an escort for any politician, from the Head of State to one of the most insignificant vice presidents, because they are all escorted by professionals and not by conscript soldiers. He switched on his cell phone, he opened messenger and found a message from Marina, “Hi Yaron, I miss you! Answer me as soon as you can! I’ve just arrived at the airport, the trip went well but I miss you so much! Here it’s ten in the morning, as soon as you can contact me tonight because, as I think I’ve already told you, I-miss-you! Three syllables! Your Marina” “Hi Marina, honey, are you there?” “Yes!!! Finally! How are you? Do you miss me at least a little bit?” “I miss you a lot, you don’t know what I’d give to see you again.” “Me too, I’m already dying from loneliness! When are you coming to visit me?” “I’m afraid that I’ll have to wait until the end of the army service. I’ve asked everybody and only the lone soldiers can go overseas during the call-up, the guys
  • 46. 47 who come from other countries and they join up voluntarily. I’m sorry, I miss you so much and this news is a blow for me. And also for you, I’m sure, and also because I had promised you something else.” “When do you finish the army?” “In a year, next September.” “I’ll ask my parents to let me come back to you soon.” “I wish ...” “I’ll tell them tomorrow, I must find the right moment, they’re arguing right now and it’s not the moment.” “Poor little one, you don’t like hearing people arguing, do you?” “Not at all. Did you notice this thing in the little time that we spent together?” “Of course, I’m careful about my Marina.” “Ah, obviously my parents aren’t so caring, otherwise in these almost seventeen years they would have understood how much they hurt me, don’t you think?” “Do they often argue?” “Always.” “How horrible, little one, and what do you do? Do you close up like a hedgehog?” “Yes, I do, you know me so well already, eh? Me too, you know? I’ve thought about you all day and it feels as if I’ve always known you. You’re such a beautiful person, the best person I’ve ever met in my life.” “Marina, it seems a miracle to me that we met each other. Let’s resist a year, and then we can always be together.” “Yaron, I miss you so much. I miss hearing you say my name, with the French “r”. Do I pronounce your name properly?” “We should use the French “r” for my name as well, because we don’t say the “r” like you do. So continue with your Italian “r”. I hear my name being pronounced so well only by you.” “So you really are mine a little bit? Yaron, what a beautiful name, I didn’t even tell you but it sounds a bit like “eroe” in Italian, my hero! If tears could pass through the cell phone, now I’d be flooding your barracks.” “Don’t be sad, I beg of you. This year will pass sooner or later. And if you manage to return to Israel we can see each other soon. What did you do today, Marina? Tell me everything, so it seems like I still have you near me.” “Honestly, I slept all day, I didn’t even leave the house. I’ve just spoken to Lucia and Paola. They’ve only just got up as well. We haven’t even gone to Montelungo.” “What is this Montelungo?” “The social centre here in Bergamo. There we meet up with our group of friends, there are about a dozen of us, but counting also the ones who come every now and then, we must be about eighty, there’s so much space because it’s an old disused barrack.” “Well then it’s like we’re together, we’re both in a barrack!” “That’s true, I hadn’t thought of that, how beautiful! I’ll tell the girls tomorrow!” “Say hello to them for me. They’re very nice, especially Lucia in my opinion.” “And Eyal’s ... did he say something to you about her?”
  • 47. 48 “He called her his brunette.” “Then I’ll phone her later and give her this thrilling news!” “She likes Eyal, doesn’t she?” “Certainly, she was also melancholic in the plane. She was also sorry not to hear anymore how you pronounce her name, we say Lucia, you say Lutchia!” “That’s also a sound that we don’t have, maybe Eyal should have chosen Paola who has a name that we can pronounce properly!” “Oh no, poor Eyal! Paola is a bitch! She kept on saying that it can’t last between you and me.” “We’ll prove her wrong!” “Bravo, yes! And what did you do today?” “Nothing, drills, as always. It’s two years now that we’ve been doing drills from morning to night. Ours is a lucky division, but also quite boring,” Yaron preferred not to tell her about the attack of that day and of the risks he ran every day, so as not to worry her, and in fact Marina immediately added, “Thanks heavens, boring but not dangerous!” “What time is it there, Marina? Here it’s 11.” “And here it’s 10 p.m.” “We would really be far away from one another if it were 10 in the morning there, eh?” “You’re right, how stupid of me!” “No, it’s love!” “Oh, yes? Then why don’t you ever get confused, eh?” “Not to have remembered that thing of the lone soldiers, I must really have lost it.” “You’re burned out, you’ve blown your fuses, like my parents’ car. In fact they wanted to come at all costs to fetch us from the airport and they had to ask the car electrician to come to my house to repair the engine.” “Then, they also care about you. I’m glad, you’re in good hands.” “Yes, poor things, that’s true. The only ugly thing is that they argue all the time, and it’s the one thing that I can’t stand. I’d prefer a thousand times over that they didn’t help me in the other ways. I just wish they wouldn’t argue, at least not all the time!” “Maybe they try their best but they can’t stop. Do they argue about important things?” “Ah! Nonsense such as he asks her for the salt in a low voice, she pretends not to hear, he says she’s rude, she doesn’t hear him because he mumbles, they raise their voices and at the end the plates start flying. I don’t think they try their best.” “I have a friend who also has parents like that, he’s resigned himself, he says they’ll never change, that it depends on how their two brains are made. I don’t want to make you lose hope, but he’s put his heart at rest.” “And he manages to rest while they are arguing?” “No, he always goes out.”
  • 48. 49 “Maybe he’s not completely wrong, it must be an inborn thing, that we can’t change. Because also my parents are suffering tremendously for this situation, they spend their time in this horrendous manner! And this thing must really be inborn, because you can see immediately if you can stay with a person or if he or she will torture you continuously. I’ve almost never made a mistake with this first impression.” “The two of us will always be at peace together, I have no doubt.” “Really, neither do I! And not because one or the other always has to say yes. We spoke about things that we didn’t agree on and we fought because we really cared about those things, but we didn’t yell at each other about crap! We didn’t exasperate one another last night and I’m sure we never will. Oh God, last night, can you believe it? It seems as if a year has gone past.” “Yes, you’re right, Marina, and I honestly hope that this call-up year will pass quickly.” “Now you mustn’t get sad, hey Yaron? We’ve just focused on such a beautiful thing, that the two of us we’ll always be together in peace, we won’t ruin each other's lives!” “On the contrary, we’ll make our lives more beautiful, Marina.” “That’s true, Yaron!” “You know, now that you’ve told me about your parents, you made me think about the game of syllables. We told each other beautiful things, that made us feel well, and yet at the end we were speaking about nonsense.” “You see that I was right, Yaron, we had an absolutely stupid discussion?” “Yes, but it was like a pastime that made us stay well together, wasn’t it? Don’t you think it was the complete opposite of pass me the salt, I pretend I can’t hear, you’re rude, you mumble, let’s raise our voice and throw plates at each other?” “You’re an absolute genius, Yaron. Pass me the salt and let’s throw plates at each other is a pastime that makes you feel awful. You understood an incredible thing, do you realize that? Whoever would have thought of this thing? I, who’s been living with this situation for a lifetime, never ever thought of such a thing.” “Maybe we focus better on things that are far from us. My parents never argue, they don’t play the game of syllables, but for me peace in my home is a certainty. When I think of my family I have absolute peace in my head, but all those arguments must have filled your beautiful head with anger and sadness, eh, little one?” “You really are a u-nique person.” “Two syllables.” “And I found you! You said it correctly before, it’s a miracle that we met. You’re exactly what I needed, more, even more!” “Good.” “But I’ll have to teach you to express your emotions better!” “Ok, I’m waiting for the instructions.” “You’re terrible! If I tell you that you’re much more than what I need, what will you answer me? Certainly not “good”, as if I had told you that it was sunny in
  • 49. 50 Bergamo today! You’ll tell me a sentence which will make me understand that me too I’m ex-tre-mely im-por-tant for you ... even something simple, like “so are you” but with your own words.” “Look what is best, that best I wish in thee; this wish I have, then ten times happy me!” “But these are not your own words, Yaron, it’s Harry Potter!” “It’s Shakespeare.” “Whatever.” “Three syllables.” “Ok, I give up! I’d like to see the positive side, though. Shakespeare or Harry Potter, you chose beautiful words. Come on, let’s fall asleep with the three syllables of wha-te-ver. I’ll call Lucia tomorrow to tell her that Eyal said she was his brunette, now I just want to think of you.” “Say hello to her for me. And now unfortunately I must go. Sleep well, Marina.” “Sleep well, sweet dreams, but aren’t there any words with more than one syllable, Yaron? What a disaster!” “The disaster, Marina, is that I really have to go now.” “Over and out, commander.” *** In the meantime, that night, while Marina and Yaron spoke to each other for the first time on messenger, Eyal e-mailed the photos and videos to Lucia, who printed the photos and immediately forwarded everything to Paola and Marina. The next afternoon, the three friends entered Montelungo. It was not exactly a triumphant entrance, despite the enthusiasm of Paola, the reporter, because Lucia and Marina didn’t feel like staying near her, seeing she had treated them so badly on the plane. Furthermore, Marina and Lucia were sad, especially Marina, and they were also afraid of their friends’ reaction, who they didn’t think would take their meeting with the Israeli soldiers well. The boys and girls of Montelungo welcomed them in a chorus, “Hey, girls! How did it go in Palestine? And the documentary on the wall, did you do it?” “Calm down, calm down, we have everything! Switch a PC on, Jacopo!” Paola told them and she put in the USB key with the videos. She hadn’t put the photos on the key because she didn’t want to show them to her friends of Montelungo. In the meantime, Lucia had taken the prints to Marina, and if she liked she would show them to whomever she wanted. Marina and Lucia still remained aloof, to stay away from her, for melancholy and for that bad feeling. So, Paola showed her reportage on the wall alone, “Here, guys, it’s not exactly a perfect video because it was taken with a cell phone ...” “And the video camera? We made a collection to buy it!” Jacopo asked her already getting angry, even before seeing a frame, and the discussion continued between him and Paola. “Uh, Jacopo ... they confiscated our video camera.”
  • 50. 51 “Bastards!” “I mean, the Palestinians took it from us, actually.” “What the fuck are you saying?” “Uh ... it’s true, isn’t it Lucia, Marina?” The two girls nodded but they didn’t open their mouths. Paola continued, “Jacopo, what can I tell you? The Palestinians took it from us, when they saw we were filming the wall in Bethlehem, and evidently they didn’t like the fact that we were filming it. Anyway we then filmed another part, around Samaria.” “Samaria? But what the fuck are you saying?” “I mean, around Occupied Palestine, it’s just that that’s how they call it there.” “Those bastards, that’s how they call it there!” “But, Jacopo, it’s also its name,” Marina replied shrugging. “Oh yes? And who says so?” “Come on Jacopo, we haven’t slept for three days in a row, don’t stress us if we get a word wrong,” Paola tried to calm him down, and she continued saying, “Quiet everyone now, the video is starting. The Wall Around Occupied Palestine, directed by Paola, Marina and Lucia. Quality of the film a bit poor, as our beautiful video camera was replaced by a cell phone.” “Your cell phones all suck!” intervened Nicola. “Yes, but a friend of ours, a guy we met there, lent us a better one ... come on, let’s start!” The night before, with the doubt that they may have got pissed off instead of taking it as a joke, Paola had marked the precise seconds in which she finished presenting Marina and Yaron who spoke in their languages, so she started the video from that exact moment and nobody, at Montelungo, saw the film of the Betrothed. The images of the wire mesh started, and after a minute of interwoven metal wires Jacopo shot up, followed by Tano, Emilio, Tommaso, Nicola and Mauro, “What the fuck did you film?” Whereas Carla, Erika, Greta and Nancy (the other girls of Montelungo) remained in silence because they saw that Marina and Lucia were sad and frightened. Paola glanced at her two friends, as if to tell them to keep quiet so she could explain, and in fact she started speaking alone, “So, as a matter of fact, for some parts it is a metal net. It’s not always a wall.” “And why didn’t you film the wall?” Tano asked. “Afterwards we did film it. If you wait a minute you’ll see two parts of the wall, one in Qalqiliya and one in Tulkarem.” “And what are you saying in the video?” Tommaso asked. “Uh, basically I’m explaining the inconvenience that the fence has created for the Palestinians.” “The fence? What the fuck are you saying, Paola?” Jacopo shouted and went towards her. “Listen, calm down, ok? They also call it like that, get over it!”
  • 51. 52 “Fuck off!” Jacopo shouted at her, pushing one of her shoulders. “Stop it, Jacopo!” the other girls of Montelungo shouted at him, “Let us see this fucking video in peace!” At that moment the wall appeared on the screen and everybody fell quiet. “And now who’s talking?” asked Nicola after a moment, because they could hear Eyal explaining that the wall helped to protect them from the Palestinian snipers on the balconies of the houses nearby. “Nothing, it’s that friend of ours who lent us his cell phone,” explained Paola. “Palestinian snipers? But what the fuck is he saying? Who the fuck is that?” Emilio asked raising his voice. “It’s nothing, it’s just the guy of the cell phone,” Paola repeated. “Tell me why he says Palestinian snipers,” Emilio insisted. “Because that’s what they are,” Paola answered shrugging. “And why the fuck is he saying We had to build this wall? We who? Who the fuck is that?” Mauro shouted. “It’s the guy of the cell phone, he gave us a lift and he lent us his cell phone. Do you think we should have gone on foot to the airport?” and while she was talking, Paola hurried to try and switch off the video before the part arrived where she said that they had met two Israeli soldiers, but in her panic she only managed to pause it. The night before she should have made a copy without the beginning and the end, to be sure that today nobody saw the two soldiers, but she had imagined that at Montelungo they would have taken things as a joke, instead it was turning out badly. “So? You didn’t even film five minutes,” said Nicola to the three girls, but still only Paola answered, “We had little time, we had a plane to catch.” “You said you had filmed two parts of the wall,” Jacopo intervened. “Exactly, this one and in Bethlehem,” replied Paola. “No, you said two parts in this video!” Mauro shouted. “She must have made a mistake!” Erika shouted at him. Jacopo pressed the key of the computer and made the video go ahead. “What the fuck are you saying about two Israeli soldiers?” he asked her as soon as he heard her cheerful voice in the video. “It’s nothing, Jacopo, stop it!” Paola shouted frightened and tried to take out the key, but Tommaso grabbed her wrist and yanked her away. Marina, Lucia and Carla tried to stop him because he was hurting her arm and twisting it, and in the meantime the video went ahead and they saw Eyal’s profile while he was driving, and a second later Yaron and Marina embracing, and immediately afterwards, they saw the shots of the fence. The two soldiers have been filmed very little, because Paola had spoken to them in Italian and so they hadn’t turned around, and immediately after Paola and Lucia started bickering about being sour spinsters. As a matter of fact the video continued with the images of the wire mesh and their bickering in the background. Jacopo stopped the video and rewound it, then he stopped it on the image where they could see Eyal driving.
  • 52. 53 “And who the fuck is this asshole?” Jacopo asked her. “He’s the one who lent us the cell phone,” replied Paola. “And how the fuck do you know if he’s an asshole or not?” shouted Lucia, who until that moment had remained silent. Jacopo didn’t even answer her, he let the video go ahead and stopped it immediately afterwards, where they could see Marina and Yaron embracing. “And who the fuck is this other asshole, Marina?” Jacopo asked her. “He’s not an asshole. None of those two are,” Marina answered him trying to remain calm. “With those uniforms they can’t be anything else but two assholes,” Jacopo retorted. “Just fuck off! You are an asshole!” Marina screamed at him, keeping back the tears. Jacopo pushed her and she fell against the wall, so all the other girls put themselves between the two of them to prevent him from hurting her, and also the boys understood that it was better to stop Jacopo before he went too far with Marina, “Come on Jacopo, what the fuck do you care about those two faggots?” “Their fucking army is the only one that recruits them!” Tommaso and Mauro told him to make him laugh, and as a matter of fact Jacopo forgot about Marina and added, “And the mongoloids, damn it! What a shitty army!” Marina was trembling like a leaf but, even if her friends told her to keep quiet and to thank God that he had got distracted, she put herself in front of him and screamed at him, “Now you’re against the gays? Against the persons with Down syndrome? You make me sick, you’re a real asshole, shame on you!” Jacopo squeezed her arms so strongly that Marina would have bruises for weeks, and told her angrily, “I don’t want to fucking smash your face now. The right time will come. Now get lost.” All the girls accompanied her outside before Marina could reply, and as soon as they were outside they tried to distract all three of them because also Paola and Lucia were trembling. They took them to the park in front of Montelungo and they sat on the lawn under a group of oak trees, and seeing that it was a beautiful day and the park was full of children playing and parents keeping an eye on them, it seemed to the girls as if they were almost safe, so much that Paola felt like joking, “You know Marina, you’re always the one that ends up worse ...” and then she added winking at her, “But you’re also the one who came home with the war prize, eh?” Marina sighed and answered, “Well, Paola, how long will it last? You know he’s afraid that he won’t be able to come and see me? And do you think my parents will allow me to make another trip? Deep down, I’m afraid you were right ... that we’ll never manage to see one another again, that it would be better if I just got over him.” “Come one, Marina ... sorry for yesterday, I was a bit cross ... you know I was the only that wasn’t taken into consideration ...” “You’re too thin, Paola, men like some curves!” Lucia joked with her.
  • 53. 54 “That’s real bullshit, Lucia! I weigh the exact same as Marina, and yet I only have one hundredth of her success!” “Because Marina’s kilos are distributed a hundred times better than yours!” Lucia replied laughing. Nancy removed from her pocket the key with the video, which she took from the computer just before leaving without being seen by the guys. She gave it to Paola and said, “But Paola, Lucia, from your bickering in the video, I had understood that that stunning guy driving snubbed both of you! Also you, Lucia, despite your irresistible curves!” “Uh, Nancy ... at that point of the trip that’s how things were, as a matter of fact, but then the situation changed ...” Lucia told her lighting up. “Come on, Lucia! Tell us everything!” her friends told her in a chorus. “No, nothing ... but maybe, who knows, if I go back there ... half a promise was made to me!” she laughed and Marina interrupted her, heartened by the complicity of her friends and the memory of the conversation with Yaron the night before, “Lucia, I forgot to tell you. Last night I spoke to Yaron, and he told me that Eyal called you his brunette!” “And you didn’t tell me such a thing? You should have phoned me immediately, at once, Marina!” The other friends flooded Marina with questions, “You spoke to him last night?” “The one who was hugging you in the video?” “It’s a pity we couldn’t see his face!” “What did you say his name was?” “And what’s the name of the other one, Lucia’s guy?” Marina removed the photos from her backpack and made them sigh, like a poker player who was about to show the others if he had a royal flush, just like she saw Yaron doing at the airport of Megiddo. “So ... do you want to see my stunning soldier?” “Yessss!” “Well well, let’s see ... which photo should I start with, Paola? No Lucia, be good because I want to start with Yaron, they’ve just seen your Eyal! So ... what do you say, Paola? This one with all five of us together no, neither this one of him alone ... which one first, one of these of us two together? Ah, this one, definitely. The last one we took together, when we were about to take the plane, just as we had come out of the synagogue.” “Did you get married?!” Carla asked her, honestly distraught. “Carla, come on!” Marina burst out laughing and could not stop because she saw that Carla was really disappointed, she honestly thought that something like that could have happened. “Carla you’re such a little star, don’t ever change! Always stay like this, you’re too sweet!” she hugged her and showed her first the photo she has chosen. “Wow, Marina, he’s stunning! What a lovely couple ... You poor things, you really like each other. You can see you were about to leave, you two are so sad and worried ... and how the two of you look at each other with love! You’re so lucky!
  • 54. 55 You definitely have to see each other soon, Marina. And he’s so good looking. If I had been you, I really would have married him at once.” “So you’ll be my bridesmaid of honour, eh, Carla?” “Thanks, Marina! But it’s a pity that his name is unpronounceable, and also the other one, Lucia’s guy.” “Yaròn is mine, Eyàl is Lucia’s.” “Ramòn and Neyàl?” “Come on, Carla, he’s not Spanish! His name is Ya-ròn! And Lucia’s is called E- yàl. Lucia and Eyàl, not Lucia and Neyàl!” In the meantime, the other girls were protesting because they also wanted to see the photos. So, Marina, after having played hard to get a little more, showed them. The enthusiasm was sky high, and the seven girls spent the afternoon commenting on the photos, the faces, the smiles, the hugs, the names, the eyes, the hair and nobody remembered the wall, the mesh, the fence and definitely not Jacopo. *** That night, when they spoke on messenger, Marina told Yaron about the afternoon at Montelungo, but she didn’t want to frighten him with the threats and so she tried to downplay everything by laughing about it. “Marina, are you there?” “Of course, Yaron!” “So, how did it go today?” “Let’s forget about school, this year started badly and it’s my final year.” “What school are you attending, Marina?” “The scientific high school, the worst one I could have chosen. Or better the worst one my parents could have chosen, seeing that until three years ago they took all the decisions regarding my life.” “How horrible, Marina.” “It’s not even their fault, Yaron, it’s just the Italian mentality.” “It’s different here. The parents never get involved with their grown children, not even teenagers. Unless they suspect that they are drugging themselves, or they steal ... serious things. But not for their studies or friends.” “I should have rebelled sooner, you know? Now I would have been at art school, and in the morning I wouldn’t have to daydream while the teachers blabber on about maths and Latin. And what do you study, Yaron?” “We can’t study during the military service, unless it’s a school with a specific function for the army.” “What a pain your army is, Yaron!” “I know you don’t like it, Marina. But we are proud to be part of it, even if we have to make sacrifices. Come on, tell me about your day, what did you do after school? Did you go to Montelungo?”
  • 55. 56 “What a drag today at Montelungo, Yaron! You should have seen them. And the video wasn’t ok, and we didn’t have the video camera anymore, and there was also a mesh and not only the wall, and heaven help you if you said the wrong word! What assholes, what bastards!” “And don’t forget circumspect and impolite!” “Of course, bravo! Circumspect assholes, impolite bastards!” “They went overboard, didn’t they?” “Sure! They also took the piss out of the two of you! Instead of keeping quiet, there are some that are actually so ugly they are scary, when they saw the two of you they had the courage to call you faggots!” “It’s all envy.” “Yes! Circumspect assholes, impolite bastards! And you should see the one who thinks he’s the coolest of the lot, Jacopo, he’s an unsightly fatso! But all the guys follow him like puppies. All wagging their tails, shitty ass-lickers, just because he’s double their size and he scares them!” “Ok, come on, I thought it would have been worse. I thought they’d have got pissed off with you because of our uniform.” “No, they just took the piss out of us. I told you on the jeep not to worry, that they are assholes but they aren’t nasty.” “Thank heavens, I’ve been worried all day at the thought of you showing them that video and those photos.” “No, we showed the photos only to the girls. After the video, the three of us went away with the other girls because we couldn’t stand the boys anymore, and we all sat down on a lawn to look at the photos. Our friends went crazy! You are really good looking! You must send me other photos of yourself. For me obviously, but also for them, because they were in a total tizzy! And also Eyal made a really great impression, ah ... but Lucia will ask him!” “You were also a great hit, here ...” “Really? Did you show my photos to the other soldiers?” “Of course, we printed them before going to dinner, and then they were passed around the canteen.” “And did they take the piss out of you for my hair, for the keffiyeh?” “Of course not! Maximum respect for a fellow soldier who makes such a conquest!” “What do you mean? Because usually you don’t manage to conquer a girl with dreadlocks and the keffiyeh, or because they thought I was pretty?” “Pretty? I can’t repeat the adjectives they used to describe you! And if you send me other photos, something that I would like very much my dear, I’ll carefully avoid showing them to those ravenous wolves!” “Ravenous wolves? Instead the ones at Montelungo are mangy dogs! I really don’t feel like seeing them tomorrow, I think I’ll stay home all afternoon.” “No, you’ll get melancholic. Get together with Lucia and Paola and with the other girls, go out with just the girls ... so I don’t have to worry and I don’t get jealous either.”
  • 56. 57 “You cannot absolutely get jealous of those assholes, you’re on a completely different planet in all senses! Me on other hand ... you only spoke to me about the reaction of your friends, but the female soldiers? Is there someone who got pissed off because she was after you? Hey, smart guy, you wouldn’t want to start already with secrets, would you!” “Oh yes, you can’t believe the fight that broke out in the canteen.” “Really?” “Come on! The girls said that you are extremely beautiful, sweet, lucky ...” “Extremely lucky, eh?” “No, that’s what I say ...” “Don’t make me jealous, Yaron, otherwise I’ll die of a heart attack just thinking of it!” “Come on, don’t even think of it, Marina! And now do excuse me, because I have to go. There’s a beautiful female soldier calling me.” “You’re a monster! A circumspect and impolite monster!” “No, Marina, honestly, I really have to go, they’re calling me for an unplanned shift.” “Now they call it unplanned shift, eh?” “Yes, it’s the literal translation from Hebrew, I don’t know what expression you use in Italian.” “The expression that if you go fooling around with another girl, I’ll disintegrate you!” “Bye little one, I’m going to do my guard shift. Don’t worry, only you exist for me.” “Ok ... don’t run any risks out there, eh? Don’t make me worried, I was joking before.” “No, they are formalities of the military service, don’t worry!” “Ok, good night and have a good shift, then.” “Sleep well, Marina. Talk to you tomorrow.” While dozing off, Marina prayed for him. She imagined him all alone in the dark plateau and held on tightly to his identification tag. It was made of two equal parts, on each one his name and serial number had been engraved, and in the middle of the two parts there was a kind of groove, a line where the metal thinned so the tag could be broken into two. Marina shuddered thinking of the meaning of that tag, of the boys like Yaron whose lives had been shattered, and she thanked God for having assigned him such a tranquil division, where the days were all a succession of harmless drills. Whereas Yaron was leaving the base, with three other soldiers, going towards an area from which two rockets had been launched. After having established that the rockets had been fired from the woods, they all returned back safe and sound, but it definitely was not the formality that he was telling her about before. On the other hand, Marina, in a small way, had also just protected him from anxiety, pretending that the afternoon spent at Montelungo had just been a nuisance. ***
  • 57. 58 The next morning other rockets were launched towards the military base, and Yaron spent the morning with other five soldiers trying to identify the terrorists’ position in the woods. It was difficult to find them because the rockets were of a smaller type, that could have easily been transported on foot, but the soldiers were used to moving fast in these woods that they knew so well after several drills, and they split up into three pairs to divide the territory. They attached leaves to their uniforms, and they painted their faces with black and light green stripes to camouflage themselves with the effects created by the sunrays in the woods during the brightest hours of the day. When one of the pairs had identified the terrorists, eight people sitting next to about thirty rockets, they warned the other pairs with a military cell phone that also informed the base of their discovery and position. The other four soldiers in the woods, among whom there was Yaron, reached the pair that had reported the terrorists, they lay down in the grass in order to keep the terrorists at gunpoint and they waited for orders from the base that was sending reinforcements to arrest them. The terrorists approached the rockets and each one loaded three or four onto their backs with the obvious intention of leaving once again. Hitting out at moving targets when outnumbered was more risky, yet the soldiers hoped to avoid killing them by waiting for the reinforcements. They reported the change in plan to the base and they followed the terrorists, maintaining a formation that allowed them to remain invisible among the trees without losing sight of them. The terrorists headed towards the barrack, it was a matter of a few hundred meters and the woods would finish, leaving the six soldiers uncovered and removing every obstacle from the rockets that could easily strike the base. If the terrorists reached the open space before the reinforcements arrived, the soldiers would have to necessarily eliminate them so as not to endanger themselves and their fellow soldiers in the barrack. However, during the drills they had learnt to reach any place in the woods in not more than twelve minutes from the report, and the six soldiers based themselves on this number with total trust in their fellow soldiers. They knew that they would not let themselves get distracted by unexpected events because they were all well trained, and they knew that they would do their utmost for the brotherly bond that had been created amongst themselves in these past months. The pair of soldiers who had identified the terrorists sent the first report to the base eight minutes before, therefore by within four minutes maximum the reinforcements were going to arrive. There was a point nearby where the woods ended sooner, but obviously the terrorists didn’t know about it because they didn’t go in that direction, so with the rockets on their shoulders, they shouldn’t have been able to exit the woods in less than ten minutes. The soldiers continued to follow them without making themselves heard or seen - they had trained for weeks in camouflaging themselves and moving silently - and the reinforcements arrived on time, as expected, before the terrorists left the woods. About ten soldiers surrounded them and, together with the six who had already been in the woods, they unarmed them and arrested them. Then they were joined
  • 58. 59 by two jeeps to transport the rockets to the base. Now Hamas had thirty rockets less, it was only a drop in the Palestinian arsenal, however they were thirty possibilities less to strike Israeli soldiers or civilians. That night, Yaron and Marina spoke to each other on messenger and they explained how their day had gone. “Hi Marina, I’m exhausted! We had a drill in the woods today, they make us get used to carrying weights while we move as fast as possible, and the forest floor is full of brambles with certain thorns that no uniform can avoid them, hidden areas of mud even if it hasn’t rained for a month, stones that shoot out from underneath your boots and you have to be especially careful not to hit your fellow soldiers ... well, I don’t want to bore you! Tell me what you did today!” “Yaron, I can’t believe it, I was also in the woods today! I went for a walk alone, do you remember when I told you that I like it very much? I reached the top of a hill overlooking the plain, with the houses and mountains in the distance.” “And did you see the landscape through the sprigs?” “How did you remember that?” “Ah, I always think back to the time we spent together, by now I’ve learnt it by heart!” “Yaron, one day we’ll go for a nice walk together in the woods, won’t we?” “I can’t wait, Marina. There are fantastic places around Jerusalem, we definitely have to go there together. You walk among olive trees, on paths of white stones, above you just see little silver leaves, black branches and the light from the sky, while making a climb that shatters you. But every now and then it’s as if a curtain rises, and all of a sudden you see the whole plain spread out in front of you, with the dark land and white houses, and in the background there’s the Dead Sea sparkling so brightly that you can’t even look at it. It’s an incredible sight, we absolutely have to go together.” “And when you’ve finished your military service you’ll come here, to my hills! Because also here we are surrounded by little leaves, sprigs and pieces of sky that sparkle, and you can see the landscape through the trees. It’s not like lifting a curtain, except when you reach the top, but along the entire route, in winter or at the end of autumn or at the beginning of spring, when there are no leaves or they are very small, through the sprigs and little leaves you can see the plain, with the mountains in the background which often have snow on them. I love seeing the landscape through the sprigs, if I look at it while I’m walking it seems like a caress on my eyes, it’s beautiful! And you remembered that I had told you, Yaron!” “You told me when I gave you the bracelet. You see how I guard our memories so closely?” “Oh God, Yaron, I miss you so much!” “Me too ... cheer up, sooner or later we’ll manage to see each other, Marina! And you were so good to go into the woods, today. I feel calmer if I know that you’re not always with those guys of Montelungo. The woods are safer, unless you get lost.”
  • 59. 60 “Did you know that the very first time I went for a walk in the woods I got lost?” “I don’t believe it!” “Honestly, Yaron! Paola had to study for a test, and I told her that I would have taken her Rocky for a walk. She had made me believe that he was a very intelligent dog, that knew the woods inside out, able to bring me back home with his eyes closed and probably also able to resuscitate me if necessary. Well, there was a magnificent path, extremely wide, impossible to miss, it just needed to be tarred. Rocky was without a leash because Paola said that otherwise the poor thing didn’t have fun, and at a certain point some kind of mouse ran in front of us. Rocky ran after it like lightning, I lost my voice calling him but he didn’t even turn around. So I ran after the dog so as not to lose him, I ran through the brambles without even noticing them, only later did I see all the scratches on my legs, and when that cretin finally stopped we were among the trees, surrounded by leaves and rock walls, I slipped and got pricked everywhere I turned, and above all that moron of a dog looked at me dazed and didn’t move an inch. Well I started walking around at random, with that cretin following me, so much for guiding me home! And at a certain point I saw a stream. I followed it, at least to be sure not to go around in circles, and after a while I heard the sound of a tractor. Following it I found myself in a field, and the farmer explained to me how to reach the road. It sounds like the story of Tom Thumb, but I was scared to death!” “However, at the end you managed, maybe you have some hope of joining our army to patrol the woods ... but I think the Canine Unit would discard Rocky without any regrets.” “Oh yes, heaven alone knows where he would take you!” “And even if the first impact was traumatic, did you become fond of walking around the woods?” “Yes, but without Rocky! No, actually I had some nightmares for a while. During the night I woke up surrounded by leaves and rock walls and I didn’t know where to go, but then the nightmares subsided and I was left with a beautiful memory out in the open.” “Well then tonight dream of the beautiful walk that you did today, ok?” “Yes, and I’ll dream of having done it with you, that you were in my woods and not in yours, so far away.” “Good night Marina, honey. I really must go now.” “Good night Yaron. Over and out, commander.” *** While Marina was strolling in the woods, neither Paola nor Lucia showed up at Montelungo. So, the next afternoon, the three friends phoned the other girls to see if they could already go back to the ex-barrack, or if it was better to wait seeing that only one day had passed since Jacopo had attacked Marina.
  • 60. 61 The other girls told them that the day before Jacopo had totally ignored them, while they were afraid that he would have maltreated them since they had stood in the way to protect Marina, and so they believed that he was no longer angry or that he thought of punishing them by excluding them. So Marina, Lucia and Paola decided to go past the social centre, agreeing with the others so as not to run too many risks. Therefore Nancy undertook to phone Marina to warn her when all the boys were present, because it was better to have them nearby seeing that, in their own way, they had tried to help Marina by distracting Jacopo. After Nancy’s call, the three friends arrived at Montelungo, where indeed everyone was present: the girls, the boys and also Jacopo. Only the girls welcomed them and they all started chatting together, whereas the boys ignored them and didn’t even look at them all afternoon. Jacopo also carefully avoided coming across them, and acted as if they didn’t exist, including Marina. So when that night she spoke to Yaron on messenger, she told him that he had absolutely nothing to worry about because nobody had bothered her. “Not even that asshole of Jacopo! I think he believes that he can punish me by ignoring me, can you imagine, Yaron, if he disappears from my life he’ll only be doing me a favour!” “Disappear from his! Stay with your friends, visit each other at your houses, change your social centre ...” “No, I told you, he’s not dangerous! And besides us girls decorated Montelungo. It’s too beautiful, I could never give it up!” “But wasn’t everything solved yesterday with you being taken for a ride, Marina? How come today he’s ignoring you to punish you, that asshole?” “Well, Yaron ... he obviously didn’t like you. After all, an Israeli soldier ... there’s nothing worse for Jacopo and the others. It’ll take them some time to get over it.” “Marina, I beg of you, if you notice that something’s wrong, go away from that place, ok?” “Yessir, yessir!” “Come on, it’s important, don’t play around. Will you promise me?” “Yes, really, but it’s as if I don’t exist for the boys, don’t worry. Anyway I promise you.” “Thank you, Marina. Listen, did you remember that today’s the anniversary of the Twin Towers?” “Yes, the tenth. What a horrific thing, Yaron. Imagine the hell inside there, if the people were throwing themselves out of the windows of the skyscrapers ... the Towers, the Pentagon, the planes, 3000 dead, my God ...” “I can’t think about it, Marina. And that day the West saw how us Israelis live, us Jews: with the terror of attacks. You Westerners should support us, if not for anything else but that we fight your same enemy: Islamic terrorism.” “Today I’m missing you so much that I’m letting you say anything, Yaron.” “But how can you not see these things, Marina? On September 11th, 2001, a series of Islamist attacks started on the West: in 2004 in Madrid the Islamic terrorists blew up commuter trains, killing almost 200 people and injuring more than 2000; in 2004 again, in a school in Beslan the Islamic terrorists slaughtered
  • 61. 62 more than 300 people, among which almost 200 were children; in 2005 in London the Islamic terrorists blew up the buses and metros, causing more than 50 deaths and 700 injured. It was July 7th, I remember it well because I turned fourteen the day before. I was very upset for the English, because I had always imagined them as being carefree, with their picturesque Queen, and instead, that day they also plunged into the nightmare of Islamic terrorism. And a few days later, other bombs were put on more buses and metros, which luckily didn’t explode. I thought that all of you, Europeans and Americans, felt like us Israelis, or better still, like us Jews, without a safe shelter, hunted everywhere. You know, that’s why nobody escaped from Israel when there was an attack every day on a bus, in a bar, in a market. The families remained here with their children, they didn’t take them to a safer place, because a safer place doesn’t exist. Because in any case, anywhere we go, we are a target for the terrorists. And at least in Israel we have an army that protects us.” “Those are terrible things, Yaron, but I believe there’s something behind this. These attacks wouldn’t exist, it there were no injustice.” “Injustice? Hate, Marina! There wouldn’t be any attacks if there were no hate!” “Listen, Yaron, you carry on telling me this thing but I can’t have the same opinion as you. Please, let’s change subject. I miss you so much and we speak to each other so little. I don’t want to argue with you during our little time together on messenger, and I don’t want to think of attacks, terrorism, injustice.” “Ok, Marina, let’s change subject. I miss you as well, you know?” “Yaron, you don’t know what I’d give to be near you. This afternoon a strange thing happened to me. Feeling totally excluded from all the guys was embarrassing, I felt uneasy, I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be with you in a way that you can’t imagine, with my whole being. I was thinking this also while I was chatting to the girls, “What am I doing here? I must be near my Yaron, I’m fine only there!” And do you know that that thought helped me? I focused on you, on the time we spent together, on the fact that yesterday we could have been strolling together in the woods, and I didn’t feel excluded anymore. While Lucia was recounting what she and Eyal had spoken about on messenger, I remembered your face perfectly, it was as if you were there, or more. It seemed as if I had your face! It’s absurd, but this thing gave me peace.” “Marina, thank you. What you told me is beautiful, don’t lose it, so the time that we have to stay apart will pass quicker. I can imagine you there, in your social centre, isolated from the guys who were once your friends, bearing being isolated from what had once been your group. That means that you really are a special person, do you know that? Do you realize how rare it is to allow oneself to be excluded from a group because of one’s ideas, at your age?” “At my age? Hey, big man, in exactly four days I’m going to turn seventeen ... and besides, I don’t allow myself to be excluded because of my ideas, but for you! My ideas are still the same as those of the guys at Montelungo, more or less. I still haven’t read up anything about the things that you told me, I’ll do that later, now I’m too confused. But the absurd thing is that the girls understood me
  • 62. 63 immediately, instead the boys think that I’ve changed totally, just because they saw us embracing for a microsecond in a video! The most beautiful microsecond of my life, by the way ... however, I don’t feel like telling them that they’re wrong. I don’t feel like speaking to them at all! What do I care about their friendship, if a picture frame is enough to wipe it out?” “Seventeen years old! You’re going to be a teenager for another three years, whereas I got out of the tunnel in July, on the 6th like I told you.” “And what’s it like to be twenty?” “Still sprightly.” “Ha ha ha, my old man! Anyway, I’m also about to get out of a tunnel. Before going to Palestine, I heard a very old song on the radio, with the singer singing at the top of his voice you’ll never be sixteeeen again, and I can’t get it out of my head. Can you believe it, getting nearer to the age of seventeen, I feel distressed at the fact that I’ll never be sixteen again?” “Well then next year I’ll avoid singing to you at the top of my voice you’ll never be seventeeeen again!” “That’s true, we can say it for any age! I hadn’t thought of that ... that way it’s less scary, thanks Yaron!” “I have to go now, I’m sorry. Good night Marina.” “Good night, Yaron, over and out.” They fell asleep serenely. Yaron had had a quiet day, and Marina was only a little upset for having been excluded by her friends. She didn’t know that the night before, after the other girls had left Montelungo, Jacopo had told all the boys to exclude the girls but to leave them alone, because he had just had an idea. As a matter of fact, the girls, with naive Carla in the forefront, had spent the afternoon at the social centre repeating the adventures that the three absent friends had had, and Jacopo had heard that Marina and Yaron wanted to see each other again. Thus, he didn’t want to lose contact with Marina, because through her, he wanted to get at the soldier. *** Every night, Marina and Yaron spoke to each other for nearly an hour on messenger. That day was Marina’s birthday, and Yaron contacted her that night to wish her happy birthday. “Buon compleanno Marina!” “Yaron, thank you. You wrote it in Italian, bravo! And look how many photos you sent me, thank you!” “Auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri auguri!” “Seventeen Italian greetings! And seventeen times thank you, grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie grazie! But is it an unlucky number? Will I spend an unlucky year?”
  • 63. 64 “As a matter of fact it is an ugly number ... however, there is a way of avoiding all the bad luck in the world from falling upon you, my dear Marina ...” “Oh really, mister astrologer? Let’s hear it ...” “It’s simple: you must never leave me.” “Oh, are you my talisman now?” “Your talisman? Wasn’t I your circumspect and impolite one?” “My lucky charm, Yaron! As the key that you are showing off in that stunning picture that you sent me!” “I always keep your bracelet with me.” “Thank you. It’s important for me, you know? That little key meant nothing, but since I left it with you I found a meaning for it. It’s as if it were the key to my heart ... and plus, have you seen yourself in that photo, Yaron? You’re so handsome. If that were the only thing that attracted me to you, it would have been worth it! No, I’m joking, it wasn’t the only thing. Now I’m looking at the photo that you sent me of the sign of Itamar, and I remember your compassion and your patience, thank you. I’m glad that my watch and your compass are still there, tied to each other. Poor people, I can still see that village from the top, so well looked after and peaceful, and my heart aches at the thought of the cruelty that they’ve suffered. Thank heavens there are all those soldiers to defend them.” “Marina, from tomorrow I’ll also be there for a week, at night, so we’re going to have to change the times when we can speak on messenger.” “But it’s dangerous! I beg of you, ask them to assign another place to you.” “No, Marina, don’t worry. There are many of us and this is a good period, they haven’t attacked them for months.” “Excuse me Yaron, you only carry out drills and all of a sudden they send you to such a place? You’re not able to defend yourselves!” “It’s not like that. In these past two years we’ve also done many garrisons at the checkpoints, so we know what to do.” “But you told that you only carry out drills.” “But garrisons at the checkpoints are like drills, nothing ever happens, we never really meet the enemies. Don’t worry, they are only boring checks.” Yaron didn’t want to frighten Marina, and so he didn’t speak about the tens of armed terrorists or those packed with explosives, hiding in the ambulances or covered by burqas as if they were Arab women, that he and his comrades had blocked during the past two years outside the fence. Lately the Palestinian terrorists had changed tactics, and they approached the fence crossings dressed normally, but with backpacks filled with cans of Coke turned into Molotov bombs, or with a dog on a leash with explosives tucked into its belly. The controls at the checkpoints were always so meticulous and therefore slow, because the soldiers could not trust anyone and certainly could not work in an approximate way. Their survival was at stake and that of the people beyond the fence. “Yaron, honey, I want to believe you so as not to die of fear ... and then obviously I can’t make you change destination, unfortunately. Anyway, be careful, I beg of you, never get distracted!”
  • 64. 65 “No, I won’t get distracted, don’t worry, Marina.” “Always pay attention to everything!” “Certainly. Instead you weren’t exactly paying attention to everything, were you?” “What was I meant to pay attention to?” “To the photo of the Itamar sign. There’s a bracelet that wasn’t there when we put the compass and the watch.” “Let me see ... you’re right, Yaron! Look, somebody left that little black bracelet there, with all those charms, what are they? Hearts?” “Yes, I looked at it well when I took the photo.” “How lovely, Yaron, just think about it. Somebody else wanted to leave a part of him or herself in Itamar. It must have been a girl, with that bracelet ... maybe she liked my idea. I’m so happy, a beautiful thing that I started and that went ahead with another person!” “And you chose the watch and compass with such care. Leaving something really meant a lot to you, Marina. Not only your idea, but also your passion passed onto that girl.” “That’s true, Yaron. So I’m not so much of a hedgehog after all, if I passed this thing onto someone I don’t even know. Maybe the important thing is to stay at a safety distance from me, so as not to get pricked by my quills.” “I didn’t get pricked.” “But you are my hedgehog, and hedgehogs don’t prick each other even if they stay near each other. Yaron, I would so love to hug you again!” “Me too, Marina, I miss you so much. Who knows when we’ll be able to see each other again.” “Real hedgehogs are luckier, when they meet they can stay together forever, they don’t have to take planes, go to other countries, ask permission ...” “But only hedgehogs that live near each other meet up together. Maybe there’s a hedgehog in Israel whose sweetheart lives in Italy, and he’ll never be able to meet her.” “Maybe it’s luck, Yaron. The Israeli hedgehog will settle for a little female Israeli hedgehog, that he’ll be able to see everyday easily and without nostalgia, and they’ll live happily ever after.” “But if the two sweethearts who live far from each other meet, they’ll live even more happily forever. And a little hard work and a little nostalgia will all be worth it.” “Oh yes, if the two sweethearts who live far from each other meet, that’s the problem, Yaron! But if they don’t meet, each one will settle for the burrow neighbour!” “The two of us have already met, Marina.” “And neither of us will settle for the burrow neighbour, will we?” “Oh no, never.” “Like it or not.” “Until death do us part.”
  • 65. 66 “You’re funny, my very far away hedgehog, I’m glad I met you! By the way, the photo of the hedgehog is wonderful, how did you take it? You must have been a centimeter away from it.” “That was taken by my fellow soldier, who came across it a few days ago. Then he showed the photo to everyone in the canteen and I asked him to send it to me. He also wishes you happy birthday, and he said that the next hedgehogs he sees he’ll photograph just for you.” “How nice of him, thank him so much for me! Have you seen any other little animals these days?” “I’ll tell you after you’ve looked at the photo of the canteen ...” “Oh God ... it’s some disgusting insect, isn’t it? Well, I don’t want to think about it and I’ll look at your canteen ... oh no, I can’t believe it, pita and falafel! Is that all you people over there where you live ever eat?” “A bit like polenta over there where you live.” “Polenta! How do you know that?” “I googled typical dishes of Bergamo and I’ve found this cornmeal mush.” “Just think what you went and discovered, Yaron, polenta! Actually I don’t often eat it. But the one made with cheese is exquisite, polenta taragna. Give the recipe to your chef, all he needs is flour and cheese to make it! And after eating it ... no drills! It’s a dish that leaves you stone dead! You must sink into your bunk bed, the one at the top with the window next to it that has that stunning view over the hills. I’ve always dreamt of that landscape! Thank you for sending me that photo, you don’t know how happy I am thinking of you next to a panorama like that! And the photos of the woods, Yaron, they’re fantastic! You were really a honey to photograph the panorama among the sprigs, did you know that you took such marvellous photos? You took a stunning one under the oak tree, where I can see the black branches and the clear sky among the leaves, with some still green and others already turning red.” “That tree reminds me of you. Some leaves have the same colour as your eyes, and others the same as your hair. It’s not like I’m not always thinking of you, but when I pass under it it’s as if I’m looking at you.” “I miss you, Yaron!” “Marina, we’ll manage to see each other soon, you’ll see. It’s not possible that the One who made us meet, wants us to be separated for a long time.” “I hope so ... I always ask Him to let us meet soon, do you as well?” “Of course.” “We also asked Him together at the airport, in that little synagogue, He’ll listen to us won’t He?” “I’m sure He will, my little star.” “Come on, Yaron, tell me about those disgusting little animals that you saw, so I can distract myself and the nostalgia will leave me.” “Well, Marina, brace yourself. Here there was an invasion of cockroaches, especially on the streets, they were full of them! They crunched under the car wheels, a horrible thing! Luckily they disappeared in two days.”
  • 66. 67 “How disgusting, that happened here in Bergamo as well a few years ago with ants with wings! But cockroaches ... yuck! They are the most disgusting creatures in the world!” “Second only to stag beetles.” “Stag beetles?” “They are enormous cockroaches that fly.” “That’s sickening! Cockroaches that fly ... and yet, Yaron, some people think that cockroaches are beautiful!” “To each is own ...” “As a matter of fact, I wanted to tell you a proverb, my favourite, ogni scarrafone è bello a mamma soja!” “Huh?” “It means every cockroach is beautiful for his mom.” “It’s a nice proverb, you’re right.” “No, it isn’t! But it makes me laugh!” “Yet the meaning is really beautiful, a mother’s love ... we have a similar one, A mother understands what a child doesn’t say.” “Slightly deeper, Yaron ...” “Why, Marina? It’s not true, it’s funny to think of the two cockroaches, but the meaning is really beautiful ...” “Two?” “Well ... also the mom.” “Ha ha ha, you’re right, Yaron! I’d never thought of that! It’s obvious that she thinks he’s beautiful, then! She’s also a cockroach, it’s not only love! So much for a deep meaning!” “No, it’s not true, Marina. Did you read The Metamorphosis by Kafka?” “Yes, last year ... how sad! That tale is so depressing ...” “Really! But if his mother had looked at him like that, if that cockroach had seemed beautiful to his mother ...” “Yes, you’re right, it could have become a marvellous tale, Yaron! He who became a cockroach, everybody looking at him horrified, yet his mother sees him as being beautiful! It’s wonderful!” “So she defends him, nobody can harm him.” “She doesn’t allow anybody to throw the apple! Nobody can strike her dear, beautiful son! But Yaron, how can we say that she considers him beautiful even if she sees that he’s a cockroach?” “Has she also become a cockroach?” “The mother cockroach of the proverb?” “Yes.” “No, I don’t like it, Yaron. She’s beautiful, normal, and she sees something beautiful in him, something so beautiful that it disguises the ugliness of being a cockroach.” “As if he were not really a cockroach, but one of those things that then become butterflies, Marina?”
  • 67. 68 “A chrysalis ...” “No, the insect before, because otherwise it’s like a mummy, without a face, it can’t even move.” “A caterpillar.” “Yes, Marina, perfect! That’s also an ugly insect, just like the cockroach.” “So all the others took Greg ... Grog?” “Gregor.” “Right, Yaron, everybody took Gregor for a cockroach, but she understood that he was a caterpillar. No, they are too different, we can’t mistake a caterpillar for a cockroach.” “So, Marina, let’s say that they don’t take him for a cockroach. Let’s say he looks like a worm, that’s actually similar to a caterpillar.” “Yes, sure, Yaron! We’ll rewrite the whole tale saying that he looks like a worm and not a cockroach, and we’ll say that his mother knows he’s a caterpillar, and therefore she knows that he’s destined to become a butterfly!” “And she defends him until he changes.” “And on that, when they open the room, he will already have flown out of the window!” “The others will be happy that he’s no longer there, and his mother will be happy because he’ll be free.” “Do you know that it’s wonderful, Yaron? We have to write it! The Metamorphosis revised and corrected by Marina and Yaron!” “It really is beautiful, Marina, we needed a happy end.” “Then again it’s not all plain sailing, Yaron, because the poor mother doesn’t even see how beautiful he becomes.” “Well then, we’ll say that she opens the door, he’s a butterfly on the window and he flies away after she’s seen him.” “Yes! That’s perfect, Yaron! With a beautiful happy ending! So you really are happy at the end, you’re happy to have read it!” “That’s it, Marina.” “What done is done, Yaron!” “Huh?” “It’s one of my mom’s proverbs!” “And don’t you have a proverb to say good night, Marina?” “Is it raining where you are, Yaron?” “No. Why, is it raining where you are?” “No, because otherwise there was this Italian proverb to say good night: It’s raining, it’s raining, the cat’s not moving, we’ll light a candle and say good night.” “It’s not raining, but the proverb’s fine, this evening we lit the two candles of Shabbat, because it’s Friday.” “Help, Yaron, I don’t know anything about how you celebrate your Saturday, I just know that it’s your day of rest.”
  • 68. 69 “We also rest, but above all it’s the day of light. We light the candles to remind us that the Lord created the light, and that the world, even when it seems dark and lost, is lit up and guided by this light.” “What a beautiful thing. Jesus also spoke about the light of the world, He said that He is the light, and so are we.” “In fact Jesus was Jewish, that’s why we have so many things in common, besides what you call the Old Testament.” “What are you saying, Yaron? Jesus was Palestinian!” “Marina, I don’t want to make you angry on your birthday. But how can it be possible that a person who was born into a family of observant Jews, who was the son of a descendant of the lineage of David, who was consecrated by his mother since conception to the God of Israel, who in fact grew his hair in the typical manner of the Nazarites (the Jews consecrated to God as Samson), who was circumcised as an infant, who went since he was a child to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the holy days, who usually went to the synagogue and there explained the psalms and the prophets before them all, who spoke Hebrew, who used to be called rabbi, who reiterated many teachings of the Torah (from forgiving others to trusting in God), who celebrated the Passover accurately in every detail. How is it possible that he was not a Jew?” “Continue talking to me about the candles, Yaron, because I also don’t want to get angry with you today.” “Ok, but I hope that you’ll think about these things one day, because they’re important. A lie today, one tomorrow, and at the end the Jewish people will no longer exist. So Marina, let’s go back to the candles. We light them to remind ourselves of what you just said, that we have a soul that illuminates us and that this light illuminates the world. The soul is like a candle that God has put in every person to illuminate him and to illuminate the world surrounding him.” “You know, you say really beautiful things, Yaron, so I forgive you for what you said earlier on.” “I’m the one who should forgive you for what you said earlier on, seeing that it was a way of unfairly discrediting my people.” “Listen, I promise you that one day I’ll start researching, studying and thinking about these things, Yaron. About all the things that you contest me when we speak about Palestine. I promise you, really, I want to do it, I’ll do it for you, to get closer to you, to know you better. In the meantime, keep me as I am.” “I’ll keep you really close, Chuck.” “Chuck?” “You reminded me of a line by Peppermint Patty to Charlie Brown on the phone, where he says, Do you mind if I keep you on the phone? and she says, Keep me close, Chuck.” “I don’t remember that one, but I read all the comic strips of Charlie Brown, they’re great!” “My brother and I made a collection, we have more than two hundred!” “We have to definitely put our collections together, I have about fifty!”
  • 69. 70 “Come on then, the first time we go out to dinner we’ll exchange our comics.” “It’s just that I won’t understand anything, with your alphabet!” “I won’t understand anything either in Italian! But we’ll look at the drawings and we’ll translate them into English, ok?” “How did you come up with the idea that we’ll go out for dinner, Yaron? When will we ever manage to see each other again? It’s impossible, it’s like a daydream that will never come true.” “No, Marina, let’s resist a little longer and it’ll happen. And then I’ll take you to a lovely place, for a candle lit dinner.” “The candle of Saturday!” “Well then there are two, so we can look at each other properly in the face.” “You don’t know what I’d give to see your face again now, not only in photos ... will it happen, sooner or later? Yaron, it’s terribly late, you should have switched off an hour ago, you’ll get into trouble!” “No, Marina, I told them it was your birthday. They let me stay another hour.” “I can’t believe it, they let you go over for an hour for my birthday? How nice, I’m happy that you have people like that around you. You seem to be safe. Good night, Yaron, sleep well.” “Ciao, little one, buon compleanno. I’ll see you soon, you’ll see.” *** The days went by and October arrived. The last period had been quiet for Yaron, because in the week in which he was on guard in Itamar no terrorist had tried to enter the village, and after that he had been assigned to a checkpoint of the fence where in those days nobody had tried to enter with knives or firearms, or wearing explosive belts. They can never get distracted, obviously, but arriving at the end of the day without having run any real risks, is already a good thing. A month had passed since the two of them had met, and Marina began to feel the distance, also because at Montelungo she had to bear the silence of the guys, even if she was surrounded by the affection of the girls. Moreover, she had asked her parents if she could repeat the trip of the month before, and they had imposed some conditions. “I’m really sad this night. Sorry, Yaron.” “Why, Marina?” “Today finally, after a month of continuous fighting, the right moment had arrived. Miraculously, my parents weren’t arguing, and this morning I got C in maths and C+ in Latin. So I gathered all my courage and I asked my parents to let me come back to your country. They said yes, but only if I have good marks in all the subjects in my first report, which is in February. Apart from the fact that it’s going to be hard this year with my report, but we’re only in October, Yaron, will we manage to wait another four months?” “Of course, Marina. And plus this morning you got good marks, well done! You’ll see that you’ll have a good report in February.”
  • 70. 71 “February ... in four months! I can’ wait any longer, and only a month has gone by.” “I can wait, Marina. I’ll carry on like I’ve done in this month, I’ll think of you continuously. Every instant I think of having you near me, and so I get by, day by day.” “Instead I don’t know if I can get by, Yaron, honestly speaking. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I’m thinking of someone else, absolutely not, but another four months like this and I’ll die of sadness.” “Marina, now you are sad because your parents have just told you this thing, but in a few days you’ll see you’ll be able to get by and you’ll be happy, you were happy these past nights, this past month ... and anyway it’s lovely news, we’ll see each other in February! We were risking seeing each other only in September, when I finish the military service.” “You always manage to see the bright side of things. But I don’t, and I’m sure I won’t be able to stand another four months like this. I die of sadness just thinking about it.” “Wait, maybe there’s some hope that we can see each other sooner. Tomorrow the new commander is arriving, I’ll ask him. Maybe he knows if I have a possibility of going abroad.” “But the old commander said that you didn’t.” “And if this new one has already solved a problem like this, maybe for himself? Who knows? Come on, don’t feel down in the dumps, maybe tomorrow I’ll have some good news.” “Let’s not delude ourselves, it’s impossible. The only possibility we have is if I falsify my parents’ signatures, seeing that they are essential because I’m under age. I imitate them perfectly for school, but if I do it to go abroad, when I get back I’m sure they’ll kill me.” “Don’t even think about it! Don’t get yourself into such trouble. And don’t cause such pain to your parents, can you imagine? Maybe tomorrow I’ll have some good news, I think it’s possible, but even if it doesn’t turn out like that don’t do such a thing, I beg of you, because it’s also a crime and here the checks are stricter than in your country.” “But I can’t carry on like this, I can’t stand it anymore! I can’t just keep on writing to you, I’m too sad to continue thinking of the two of us.” “We need a good movie, eh? It would be so nice to be able to go out tonight, to come and fetch you and take you to see a movie together.” “You’re really trying to kill me? I’ve just told you that I’m too sad to think of us, and you start speaking about a beautiful and impossible thing? I understood it immediately that you were handsome and impossible, I should have given up on you at once and avoided myself this melancholy.” “What melancholy! I’d take you to see something that would make you kill yourself laughing, like Zohan, have you seen it?” “Zohan? Never heard of it.” “It’s an American movie with Adam Sandler.”
  • 71. 72 “And who’s that?” “Jason Biggs’s twin whom they separated at birth!” “And who’s that now?” “The one of American Pie.” “Ah no, I don’t watch demented movies!” “But it would make your melancholy pass, you should try! Then again Zohan could also give you some ideas for political reflection, like a movie forum, you know?” “I can imagine, if we are on the level of American Pie ...” “Look, on YouTube you should look at the piece where Palestinian kids throw stones at him, it’ s a lesson in politics!” “But what is this Zohan?” “A Mossad agent, the Israeli secret service, who does impossible things as if he had super powers, and who wants to be a hairdresser in New York. I’ll give you the links to the videos on YouTube. Here, go and see this piece on the stones, and also this one when he’s swimming that would make the melancholy pass from a weeping willow.” “Now I’m a weeping willow? Thanks for being so sensitive!” “Come on, I wanted to make you laugh.” “Ha. Ha. Ha.” “Help ... I hope you like the two videos, otherwise things are going to get bad ...” “Come on, Yaron, at least you made some of my sadness pass. Let’s see the first video, the one about the stones, here it is ... it’s not really that funny, with that political idea in the background.” “Wow, it’s getting bad then ... I thought it was irresistible, with the Palestinian kids throwing stones at him and him who transforms them into a puppy, like those clowns in the streets with the balloons.” “Look, I understood very well what they are referring to, but I really can’t see you Israeli soldiers, in the role of good-natured street clowns.” “But, the Palestinian kids who throw stones, can you see them in the role of Palestinian kids throwing stones?” “Listen, can’t you understand when it’s not the right moment? I’m already sad, do you also want to piss me off?” “I thought the two things were incompatible. If I piss you off, you can’t remain sad because we’re far.” “I really should have given up on you immediately.” “Come on, go and see when he swims, it’s the best scene in the history of cinema!” “Well, let’s see. Well this is funny ... he’s not swimming the dolphin style, he really swims like a dolphin, he looks like a killer whale, very beautiful!” “You should also see when he does push-up with no hands! Here, this is the link.”
  • 72. 73 “Ha ha ha! He’s great! But, these aren’t the best scenes in the history of cinema, come on ... don’t exaggerate. However, thank God he doesn’t send any political message in these two scenes.” “Have you forgiven me, then?” “Well ... I don’t know. First you called me a weeping willow, then you criticized the legitimate protest of an oppressed population ...” “Maybe, if you had given up on me immediately, it would have been better for me as well.” “Are you kidding?” “Of course! You’re my little star, a little too pro-Palestinian for my taste, but nobody is perfect. Here’s a nice movie we should see together, Some Like It Hot, the one which ends with the phrase “nobody is perfect”. Maybe you’ve already seen it, with Marylin Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.” “Wonderful, yes! Those are the movies that I like, I’d watch them a hundred times, the old movies with those actors! My favourite are Grace Kelly and Clark Gable, I could fall for somebody who gives me a Clark Gable smile!” “I’ll learn.” “But it’s so difficult, with a raised eyebrow and the other one slanted, his lips stretched a bit higher up on the side of the slanted eyebrow, with dimples but without seeing his teeth, it's not something that can be improvised!” “I’ll practice. The easy part will be growing the moustache.” “No, please! The expression’s enough for me!” “Oh, it’s getting late, I must say good bye. It’s a pity, it’s so nice speaking to you.” “Yes, also to you, thank you for having made my sadness pass.” “Ciao, Marina, sleep well, because maybe tomorrow I’ll have some good news for us.” “Good night, Yaron, I hope so.” *** The next evening, when the presentation of the new commander had finished about half an hour before, Yaron knocked on his office door but nobody answered. So he walked up and down the corridor for a few minutes biting his nails, when the commander came up behind him and said to him, “Soldier?” Yaron turned and saluted him, “Commander sir.” “Let’s see if I’ve already learnt your name ... Yaron?” “Yes, sir.” “So, Yaron, how are you? You seem a bit worried, what’s the matter?” “I need some information.” “Tell me.” “Do I have any possibility of going abroad, even if I’m not a lone soldier? It would be a very short trip.” “No, the rule is clear, only lone soldiers can go abroad.” “And can’t I ask to escort a politician?”
  • 73. 74 “No, no politician can be escorted by a conscript. The Prime Minister is escorted by the Secret Service, and the Head of State by professional soldiers.” “And the Foreign Minister?” “Him as well, all the ministers are escorted by professional soldiers.” “And a vice-minister?” “We don’t send vice-ministers overseas.” “But if the minister gets sick just before leaving ...” “If you're talking about the Foreign Minister, he’s as fit as a fiddle.” “Maybe a flu ...” “As a matter of fact, in some periods of the year there are good chances ... what month were you thinking about, Yaron?” “November, sir.” “Excellent possibilities for a flu, soldier. But also a vice-minister has a professional escort.” “I understand, sir. The other commander had already told me, but I hoped that you had different information. It doesn’t matter. Thank you for having removed all my doubts.” “And hopes.” “Yeah.” “Considering that the Foreign Minister is going to Paris this month and to Rome in November, your preoccupation must be Italian, is that right, Yaron?” “Yes ... in fact it is, commander.” “Wait a moment, let’s go into my office and sit down, son. I have to tell you something. I haven’t spoken about this to anybody yet, here at the base, so surely you don’t know yet. Here, let’s sit here ... Listen. What I want to tell you, and that certainly you don’t know, is that my son was killed during the Second Lebanon War.” “No ... I’m sorry ... that’s terrible sir. I didn’t know, I’m so sorry ...” “Efrem was your age. He was also in love with a foreign girl, he was a conscript when the war broke out and he did everything to go and see her. She couldn’t go and visit him because she was under age and her parents didn’t allow her to travel ... probably your girlfriend’s situation, Yaron?” “Yes, commander.” “Efrem couldn’t go and see her. I was already a commander but I made no exception for him.” “Sir ... if only I had known, I wouldn’t have spoken to you about this ... I would never have wanted to make you relive those memories ...” “I relive them anyway every day, Yaron.” “I cannot even begin to imagine your pain, commander ...” “But maybe you are here to alleviate it. Maybe you are my occasion to ask Efrem for forgiveness.” “But you did it for the good of our country, for all of us, and therefore also for your son ... don’t feel guilty, sir ...”
  • 74. 75 “He really wanted to see her, and it was his last wish ... I could have helped him and I didn’t. I didn’t make any preference for my son. Today you have this in common with him, and I want to make a preference for you. Come by tomorrow evening, son, and you’ll see that I’ll have organized everything.” “Sir, thank you, but I cannot take advantage of ... of this situation, I really can’t.” “Accept, Yaron, do it for me. This is my occasion, do you understand?” “Sir, you are giving me such a great present ...” “So, do you have a photo here of your beautiful Italian girl?” “Yes, here it is ... we were at the airport of Megiddo, a month ago, just before she left.” “Yaron, she’s very beautiful. And with that look, if she chose you, that means she’s really in love with you.” “I hope so ...” “Have you been together for a long time?” “No ... we just saw each other that night ... that’s why I really want to see her again in November, otherwise we have to wait for her to come back in February.” “Wait a minute ... a month ago, eh? I bet that was the night when you lost your identification tag ... I read it before on the military register.” “Yes ... I’m sorry for having invented an excuse.” “And that night you also lost your compass, totally ...” “That’s true ... another lie, I’m sorry.” “Well, say hello to her for me, when you get onto your cell phone tonight.” “Sir ... but how do you know that? That’s definitely not on the register, and this is your first evening here.” “I made the old commander tell me everything about you, I want to know you all well immediately, because now you are my sons.” Yaron embraced him and said, “Commander, we will all love you like a father. But don’t feel guilty ... maybe it was better that they didn’t see each other again, maybe they would have argued and your son would have left with this great pain ...” The commander looked at him closely in the eyes and said, “Thank you, Yaron, you are a dear boy, a good person. See you tomorrow at this time, before dinner.” They said goodbye and Yaron went back to his fellow soldiers in the canteen. He told everything only to Eyal, because he knew him well and he knew that he wouldn’t tell anybody about the death of the commander’s son. *** After dinner, Yaron immediately got onto messenger to give Marina the great news. “Marina, are you there? I’m coming to Italy on November 10th!” “Yesssssss!!! Exactly in one month!!! One has already passed, and now another one will pass, that’s wonderful, it’s impossible, how did you do it, Yaron???”
  • 75. 76 “The new commander ... he’s going to let me escort the Foreign Minister. Tomorrow he’s going to give me all the details. We’ll be able to stay together for a little time, though, only two or three hours ...” “That’s absolutely fine, let’s not complain. We saw each other for a few hours but they were the best hours of my life!” “Marina, it’s totally the same for me.” “Just think, you were right. The new commander has found a solution!” “Poor thing, though ... you know, he’s giving me this present because his son, Efrem, died during the Second Lebanon War, and our story is like his. His son had a foreign girlfriend and he wanted to go and see her before leaving for the war, but he didn’t let him go, even if he was already a commander, so as not to break the rules.” “Oh God, poor thing ...” “Do you remember when I was showing you our history on the sand?” “Yes.” “Did you see how many wars? Of course it’s not possible to make any preferences, poor thing, I tried to tell him, but he insisted that it was his occasion to make his son forgive him ... and I tried not to accept but I didn’t manage. I can’t wait to see you, it’s terrible for me as well not seeing you.” “Listen, for whatever it’s worth, thank him so much also for me, and tell him that I’m so sorry for his son.” “Certainly, he’ll be happy if I tell him that. He’s very paternal, and when he saw you in the photo he said you’re very beautiful, and that you must really be in love with me, if you chose me despite your look.” “How sweet of him! A commander who spoke to you like that? I imagine them being detached, who give orders and don’t even look at you in the face.” “No no, they’re not like that at all! They like us a lot, they’d bend over backwards for us, the old commander was like that as well ... yet this new one is incredible. Just think, he already knows all our names, and he’s just arrived today and there are twenty of us!” “And when he told you that thing ... what did you say to him, Yaron?” “That he’s letting me come to Italy?” “No, that I must really be in love with you.” “I said that I hope you are.” “Remove the two syllables I-hope.” “Fine.” “You really have difficulty in expressing your feelings, don’t you?” “Yes.” “But are you happy about what I’ve just tried to say to you?” “Ok.” “Yaron ... each answer you removed a letter, 4-3-2. If I ask you another question, you will answer me with only one letter!” “No, instead with three syllables. Even if you don’t ask me anything. I-love-you.”
  • 76. 77 “Yaron ... I miss you so much, I look forward to hugging you and telling you a thousand times I-love-you too, so very much.” “See you soon, Marina, sleep well.” “Good night, my darling.” *** The next day, Marina went to Montelungo radiant. “Girls, I’m going to see him in a month’s time! He’s coming to Rome escorting the Foreign Minister!” “And then in February after you’ve received your report you are going to see him! And then in July, after you’ve finished school, maybe you can return there on holiday, and from September he can come to Italy when he wants!” Carla told her enthusiastically, embracing her. “How lovely, Marina, you’re going to see him in a month! I also want to see him! I’m also going to the airport, we always do that ... Hey guys, we’re going to Ciampino airport in a month because the Israeli Foreign Minister is coming. You’ll make your usual scene, and I’m going to see Marina’s boyfriend who’s part of the escort!” Carla shouted to all the guys. “Carla, no ... Guys, what scene? For once, just leave it, come on ...” Marina implored them. “Sure, Marina dear, we’ll avoid making a scene for your little boyfriend, eh?” Mauro said to her. “Certainly! Indeed, we’ll go to Rome filled with rose petals!” Jacopo laughed. “I’ve got the perfect crowbar at home that would do wonders to your nice soldier’s head!” Nicola added, but Jacopo turned around and indicated that he should shut up. “Come on girls, I’ll show you the latest photos that he sent me, let’s go to the park, it’s such a beautiful day ...” and Marina took the girls out with the excuse of showing them the photos, but as soon as they were sitting on the grass she said to them, “Girls, I beg of you, let’s not speak about his visit to Rome anymore, ok? Did you see how the boys immediately perked up their ears?” “But Marina, we always go and make a scene in these occasions. We’ve already been to Ciampino twice to contest against an Israeli politician. The boys would have organized themselves with or without the arrival of Yaron, we can speak tranquilly about this at Montelungo,” Nancy objected. “That’s true Nancy, but this time he’s there, and I’m afraid they may hurt him,” Marina explained to her. “Come on, he’ll be armed to his teeth! Nicola’s sentence about using the crowbar is a joke, just imagine those chickens fighting against a soldier, they’re afraid even of the traffic cops!” Anyway, Marina decided deep down not to give any details to anybody about his visit to Rome, not even to the girls. Except Lucia, however, because she knew that she understood her totally seeing that she had also liked Yaron, as well as Eyal, even if she hadn’t heard from him lately.
  • 77. 78 In the meantime, at Montelungo, Jacopo started organizing the protest for the next month in Rome. “So, flags, banners, do we have everything? Obviously no crowbars or anything like that. We don’t want to cause problems in the airport, Nicola.” “I was joking, Jacopo, obviously. But I’d really like to smash his face, you can’t imagine.” “Nicola, the moment will come, but not in Rome with soldiers and police. We’ll just go there to make the usual scene with our slogans and that’s all.” “Anyway, it’ll already be a satisfaction shout in his face that he’s a bastard,” said Tano. “Sure, but we’ll have the greatest satisfaction after our little schoolgirl gets her report,” said Jacopo. “Meaning?” asked Nicola. “Don’t you hear the girls when they flutter?” “Jacopo, I don’t see them anymore, I don’t hear them, and I don’t speak to them!” “I hear them, instead, Nicola, and I heard that Marina’s parents will allow her to go to Israel in February, if she has no bad marks in her report.” “We’re going to see her change into a nerd, then,” said Mauro. “You can bet,” commented Jacopo. “And we’re not going to disturb her. We’ll let her study in peace, because we want her to go and visit her boyfriend. And we also want to go and visit him.” “Meaning? What the fuck do you want to do, Jacopo?” Tano asked him. “I want to cause real problems in Israel. Did you hear when Marina was telling the girls about how they met? They were in a Palestinian village. If we manage to meet him in a place like that, it’s done. Nobody will fuck with us there if we attack an Israeli soldier.” “Fuck it, Jacopo, you’re right! We’ll make that bastard pay, who’s also gone and taken one of our girls,” Mauro said. “We mustn’t go overboard though,” explained Jacopo. “We just have to make him react, not get ourselves killed. In any case, as soon as they avoid it, those people don’t have the balls to actually hurt us. So we just have to exasperate him, and one of us films his reaction. When we put it together, it won’t be too hard to make things look the other way round: the Israeli soldier who attacks disarmed pacifists. Then we’ll study it well. Don’t say a word to the girls.” “But Jacopo, do you think Marina will let us go to Israel with her? She already doesn’t want us in Rome but she can’t avoid it, but in February she won’t tell us when she’s leaving, where she’s going, where they are going to meet ...” “And here comes the worst part of the plan, Mauro. We have to get closer to Marina again. Although not now, I won’t even think about it until Rome. After Rome we have to find a way of becoming friends again, even if the idea makes me sick.” “You can say that again, Jacopo,” Nicola commented. “Come on, at least then we’ll make her pay for it, especially him, but she’ll also feel like shit,” said Tano.
  • 78. 79 “We’ll make her pay for everything, for that piece of shit soldier that she found herself, and for those fucking Jewish songs that she listens to all day,” added Mauro. “What a bitch! She also took the piss out of us, by saying they were Arab songs. Bastard! But we’ll make her pay for everything, guys, we must just stay calm and have patience,” said Jacopo ending the discussion. *** Some days had passed since Yaron and Marina found out that they could see each other in Rome on November 10th, and in these nights they tried to organize the details of their meeting, with the timetables and places where they could stay, seeing that Yaron would have been bound, even if only partially, to the Minister’s escort. “We can stay together only for two hours, Marina, not more ... and today I found out that we can’t even leave the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It’s a pity, Rome must be stunning and I would have liked to see it with you. Can you imagine going for a walk at the Coliseum together?” “Yaron, we’ll return there one day together, ok? And we’ll go for all the walks we want!” “We’ll go back for our honeymoon!” “A friend of mine, Carla, also said that to me. Our story drives her crazy, we are her favourite soap opera, and she wants to be my bridesmaid of honour! Just think that when she saw our photo, the most beautiful one, outside the synagogue, she thought we’d got married!!!” “But of course, how could I have not thought of that in Megiddo? Tell your friend she’s a genius! Since we were there, we could really have taken advantage ...” “Maybe, hey? But, you know, I keep on asking myself how it was possible for us to fall in love in such a short time?” “Whereas the more I think of it, the more it seems to me that I spent so much time with you, Marina. Just think, one whole night and we did so many things together and we said so many things to each other. There are some guys who were in class with me at the technical institute, with whom I didn’t do or to whom I didn’t say even a hundredth of what I did with or said to you, and I was in the same class as them for five years! Those hours in which you and I were together, we spent them getting to know one another, and not just simply sitting in the same place.” “You’re right, Yaron, this thing is so real. But something else also happened to me, that I can’t explain at all, because it was an absurdity for me: love at first sight! I keep on thinking about it, and I relive that sensation of having finally found peace, the right person for me. Yet it’s absurd. How is it possible to understand this thing in one minute?”
  • 79. 80 “You know that also happened to me, Marina? As a matter of fact, I immediately courted you in the car, with the story about the fusilipomodoro hair, do you remember? With what you had just gone through ... I really was a cretin!” “Indeed! One moment before you had seemed the right person, and then you touched my hair and made little jokes ... but you immediately apologized, you seemed so sorry, well then I reassessed you, and I did well. The first impression was totally confirmed!” “Thank heavens the second one hadn’t been totally confirmed!” “That was only partially confirmed ...” “You are terrible! However, that thing you said about the first impression is true. When I entered the class the first day of elementary school, I didn’t know any other child because we had just changed neighbourhood in Jerusalem. We all looked at each other for a while, and then another little boy and I, Avram, sat down next to each other. Today Avram is still my best friend. It’s incredible, on the first day of school we realized we could really get on, and we still hadn’t even spoken to one another. There must have been something in our attitude, in our eyes, in our smile. I don’t know, but something made us understand that we could trust one another, enjoy ourselves together, be in peace together. And that first impression was totally confirmed.” “The same thing happened to me and my friend Barbara! Even before you two, however, at the nursery school! She changed town two years ago, unfortunately she went to live very far away, but when she comes back to Bergamo and we see each other only for an hour, it’s as if we had continued seeing one another every day. I love staying with her, I can relax and tell her everything I have deep down, she really is my best friend. So it’s true, love at first sight does truly exist. I had always imagined it as a wave of a magic wand, instead it actually has a deep meaning.” “Who knows, maybe that’s what happens with certain songs, that you like immediately, as soon as you hear the first notes.” “Like with the Maccabeats! Do you know that I always listen to them?” “Don’t exaggerate, hey, if you don’t study we won’t see each other in February!” “But I always study with music! And I play the Maccabeats all afternoon and on I go: mathematics, Italian, chemistry ... everything gets into my head easier with their music, because I don’t get bored with the subjects if I listen to them in the meantime.” “So don’t you spend your afternoons anymore at Montelungo?” “No, I’m always there, yet instead of fooling around I study, I don’t want to risk getting bad marks in my report.” “And do you listen to Maccabeats at Montelungo?” “Yes, the girls also love them!” “But they almost always sing in Hebrew. Don’t the boys at Montelungo get pissed off?” “Oh no, I told them that they sing in Arabic!” “It doesn’t take much to go on YouTube and see them with the kippah.”
  • 80. 81 “But they don’t care about the music that we girls listen to. Imagine if they’re going to waste a second of their precious time to see who the Maccabeats are.” “Even though the name says it all, you also thought they were the Maccabees.” “But the guys at Montelungo are like goats! They’re too ignorant, they’d never recognize a biblical name!” “Marina, don’t get into trouble, listen to those songs only at home.” “No, Yaron, don’t worry. I already promised you that if I get even the slightest doubt that things are going to get out of hand, I’ll go away from Montelungo.” “Remove HaTikva at least!” “No, it’s so beautiful!” “Didn’t they recognize it?” “What could they ever recognize? I told you that they’re ignorant, and they are really harmless, they’re just excluding me. Even if unfortunately they’re also going to come to Rome.” “Those assholes in Rome? With us two?” “No no, not with the two of us! I’m not telling them anything about our timetables or where we’ll meet, but they’ll be at the airport to “welcome” you with the flags of Palestine, the banners saying death to Israel and so on.” “Shit! Don’t they have anything fucking well better to do?” “No, absolutely not, they live for these things. And I also used to live for make banners, Yaron, we’ve already made two “welcomes” for your politicians at the Ciampino airport. And anyway, I can’t prevent them from going to Rome.” “And are you going to have the flag or a banner?” “No, this time I’m not going to take anything. I don’t want to embarrass you. I’ll be there with them, however, I can’t stand alone on the landing strip. Or stand with those holding the flags of Israel, who are always there as well, I’m sorry but I don’t really feel like staying in the middle of the flags of the oppressor of the Palestinian people!” “Don’t even think about it, this time the guys of Montelungo will kill you!” “Well, anyway the girls promised me that they won’t wave anything offensive like Israel terrorist. Seeing that the banners that are ready are all offensive, Paola and Lucia have decided to prepare a long one with the words two states for two peoples written on it that they’ll hold together at the airport.” “A naive illusion, but at least not an offense. Thank them for me, really.” “A naive illusion ... I remember, you know, what you told me about two states for two peoples. But the memory is a bit vague, I wasn’t really concentrating ... were you concentrating instead?” “Yes, of course, why? You must have been tired, and then, with what had just happened to you ...” “Hadn’t it just happened to you as well?” “Actually, the Palestinians give me other types of attention.” “I was referring to another thing that had just happened to me, I had been struck by a bolt of lightning and it seemed to me that the same bolt of lightning had just struck you too ...”
  • 81. 82 “Yes, but I was still able to get a speech together.” “Whereas I wasn’t at all able to follow it.” “Well then in Rome I’ll have to tell it to you from the beginning!” “Ha ha ha! Only if there is a small stretch of sand at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” “My map came out well though, didn’t it?” “What map! You were holding my hand, Yaron! For the very first time! I didn’t understand anything, let alone two states for two peoples!” “You’re such a little star! Were you really distracted by this thing?” “Of course! I’m a romantic girl, notwithstandingme.” “Not-with-stan-ding-me? A great five syllable word!” “Only four syllables, sadly. I’ve written it wrong, it’s “notwithstanding me”.” “Notwithstanding me?” “Not you, me! Yaron, don’t drive me crazy!” “What a pity, I liked the idea of being your notwithstanding.” “Like my prince?” “Certainly.” “Well then, listen to this. Prince Notwithstandingyou, my prince notwithstanding you.” “You’ve lost me.” “Prince named Notwithstandingyou, you’re my prince in spite of yourself!” “Still lost.” “I mean, despite all your several and intolerable faults, you are my prince!” “Very kind, my princess notwithstanding you, I must now bid you goodnight and wish you sweet dreams.” “Goodnight to you too, Yaron. I’m now going to fall asleep with the lullaby of the Maccabeats, HaMalach HaGoel.” “The chorus they sing is very beautiful! It’s nice that you fall asleep with that song.” “One of the singers, the one you hear more than the others, has a voice that sounds like yours. So it’s a bit like falling asleep in your arms.” “Marina, it’ll happen sooner or later. I also miss you a lot, you know? I always think of you, whatever I’m doing I have your beautiful face in mind, as if you were here. Now I’ll think of you while you’re listening to that lullaby, and I’ll be there a little bit with you.” “I always imagine a really stupid thing, but it consoles me a lot. I imagine myself as being small like a little Fiammiferina, those little dolls that you find in a box of matches, and so I’m there in the little pocket of your jacket, how wonderful it would be if it could really be like that, can you imagine?” “You’re always in the pocket of my shirt, above my heart. I always keep the photo of us there, the one Eyal took of us outside the synagogue.” “Really? How beautiful, Yaron, I’m really inside your pocket!!! I always keep that photo in my wallet, and I always look at it. You’re gorgeous, you’re marvellous, you’re so handsome!”
  • 82. 83 “We are beautiful together, Fiammiferina, and we’ll see each other in a few days’ time, it will only be for two hours, but sooner or later we’ll be able to stay together for all the time that we want. Can you imagine? Still a few months, Marina, it doesn’t seem true, it’s too much of a beautiful thing, my love, it’s impossible.” “Don’t become melancholic, Yaron! It’s wonderful just to write to each other every night. Today is a positive day and I want to enjoy all the beautiful things, don’t let’s get sad!” “You’re right, Marina, goodnight and good lullaby.” “And after the lullaby I listen to that other beautiful song, I put them in sequence: HaTikva.” “Our anthem is cheerful when sung by them, isn’t it? And there’s also a wonderful version by Niro Knox, only musical, like Iron Maiden. If you like that kind of music, look for it on iTunes.” “HaTikva is your anthem? I didn’t know. But is it the anthem of Israel or of your battalion?” “It’s the anthem of Israel. Haven’t you ever heard the real one?” “Yes, but I never noticed. I’m not really happy to fall asleep with your anthem. I’ll have to remove it from the playlist. It’s a pity, it’s such a beautiful song.” “Don’t remove it if you like it. Listen to it just thinking of the music. But don’t listen to it anymore at Montelungo. Can you see that it’s not a good idea to make those people listen to it?” “I definitely won’t listen to it anymore at Montelungo, but not at home either, now that I know that it’s your anthem. How can I listen to it without thinking of your country?” “Think of it in another way. Think of it as the place where we met.” “But the words must all be Zionist, I can’t listen to them anymore.” “Just think of the title. HaTikva means The Hope, the hope of being able to see each other when we want. Will it happen sooner or later, Marina? Won’t it be impossible?” “Yaron, you’re becoming melancholic again!” “Marina, it’s the second word with four syllables that you’ve said to me, I’m touched!” “And now I’ll tell you the word with the most syllables in the world, pre-ci-pi-te- vo-lis-si-me-vol-men-te! It means very very very quickly.” “Eleven syllables? Thank you, Princess Notwithstandingyou, but I’m not worthy.” “And what do you fell worthy of, Prince Notwithstandingyou?” “Only to be your circumspect manservant, oh my impolite princess!” “How dare you?! You’re a toad, more than a prince! The toad with the little alien face that you took a photo of!” “Then I await a kiss from you, princess.” “I try and change you into a prince in Rome.” “It’ll be hard, I’m a very ugly toad.” “It’ll take a very big kiss.” “I’m afraid so.”
  • 83. 84 “I’ll bear with it.” “Me too.” “Did you notice, by any chance, that we didn’t even kiss?” “Are you sure? I don’t remember at all.” “Yes, absolutely! There were the stars, the panorama and all the rest ... but you, nothing!” “You as well, nothing.” “But you should have taken the initiative!” “I’ll take it in Rome. However taking the risk of changing you into a frog.” “Like Shrek and Fiona? Cool!” “Goodnight then, future little frog.” “Ciao, little toad, see you soon.” *** One night Yaron got onto messenger to speak to Marina about some good news. A twenty-four year old Israeli soldier had been freed that morning. He had been kidnapped five and a half years before by Palestinian terrorists, who had kept him imprisoned without giving anybody any news about him, except for a letter, a tape with his voice recorded on it, and a video taken two years before. “Marina, did you see that they’ve really freed Gilad?” “Yes, how wonderful! Good God, I can’t think of how her mother must have felt in these past five and a half years. Without her son, without any news, without even knowing if he was alive or dead or sick or tortured or invalid ... I can’t think about it! Just think of how his family must be celebrating with him! And I can just imagine the party you’re all having at the base!” “Yes, even if we didn’t dare prepare anything beforehand. Who can trust the Palestinians anymore? They tell us one thing, they promise, they swear, and then they do the exact opposite.” “Don’t start speaking badly about the Palestinians, Yaron, let’s just think of this beautiful thing, that that soldier has returned home.” “Ok, Marina. Finally a feast for the whole family. But at what a price. To have Gilad back alive we had to free 1027 criminals, many of whom were among the worst terrorists.” “He’s in such a bad shape, he’s so thin, and so pale ... but he still has such a sweet smile, he’s incredible! He has such a good face, how could they have locked him up in the dark in a small room, always on his own, for more than five years? Look, with all my solidarity for the Palestinian people, those who treated him like that must really be monsters ... they must be a group that went crazy, I don’t know.” “No comment, Marina, let’s just think of Gilad. Did you see the interview that the Egyptian journalist did with him, before he was handed over to us Israelis? Did you hear what she asked him?”
  • 84. 85 “An absurd interview, Yaron! He was so exhausted, did you see how he was breathing? And she continued insisting with her questions!” “And do you realize that she asked him why, in more than five years, he sent news to his family with only one video? What the fuck is she saying? As if he was the one who could choose whether to send them news or not! In fact Gilad kept on looking and looking at the interpreter, he thought he was translating the question in the wrong way, but did you hear her in English, Marina, that she was really asking him that?” “Yes, and it was the only question that Gilad didn’t answer, he didn’t even try!” “And did you see the Hamas terrorist that was behind?” “No, I just saw Gilad and the journalist, Yaron.” “They didn’t show him in the interview, but you can see him in the photos. He was hooded and had a machine gun, and at a certain point he put his hand on his shoulder. Look for them on Google, Marina. They give you the right idea of how free Gilad was to express his opinion in the interview, when he said that Hamas had treated him well! Very free, wasn’t he? As free as in that sole video of two years ago, when in front of the terrorists that were filming him he had to say the same thing over again, that the mujaheddin were treating him well!” “Here are the photos ... you’re right, Yaron. Gilad is sitting at the interview table, there’s also that plant that you see in the video, and behind him there is a Palestinian militant with a machine gun.” “Marina, how can you define one like that as a militant? He’s someone who spends his time planning attacks on buses, school buses, on workers doing their job in the street! And he would willingly do it in the shops, in the markets, in the pizzerias, if there weren’t the fence! He’s not a soldier, he’s a terrorist!” “Let’s drop this point, ok? However, on my part, for what it’s worth, full solidarity with Gilad, with all that he went through ...” “Buried alive for five and a half years, I can’t even think of it, Marina ... Did you hear the journalist, when she spoke about the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and she told him that they are treated the way he was treated? But if they’ve the lawyer, the canteen, the diet, the letters, the hour in the fresh air, the medical visits, visits with their relatives! And among them there are people who planned and carried out massacres on innocent people, and we didn’t even give them capital punishment!” “Now, Yaron, don’t exaggerate! The lawyer, the canteen, the doctor ... in which movie?” “I’m not exaggerating, Marina, I assure you. Didn’t you see the ones who were freed in exchange for Gilad? They were glowing with health, whereas Gilad looked like a ghost! You can’t tell me they were treated in the same way!” “You’re not all wrong there.” “Good, I’m glad that you know how to be objective, don’t allow yourself to be blinded by Palestinian propaganda that fill your head with hate.” “Let’s drop it, Yaron, because you are the one who is imbued with Zionist propaganda ... However at Montelungo they really do have their heads filled with
  • 85. 86 hate, if nothing else I must admit that you have no hate in your head. But, Yaron, you should see the guys at Montelungo! Not the girls, luckily enough, the fiercest ones are the three of us: Lucia, Paola and I. That’s why they chose us to do the trip in Palestine to film the wall. You still haven’t totally understood the guys at Montelungo because I don’t speak much about them, they’ve turned into real assholes, and since I came back from Palestine it’s been as if I’m not part of their group anymore. I go to Montelungo every day to stay with my friends, but I don’t even look at the boys anymore, I don’t even say a word to them. They’ve cancelled me from their lives, I thought they’d get over it sooner or later, instead they’ve been acting like this for over a month.” “Marina, I’m sorry. In what kind of an ugly atmosphere do you have to live every day? Try and do something else with your friends, don’t go to that barrack anymore!” “Ah, but one girl absolutely dies for one boy, another girl for another boy ... it doesn’t matter, I really suffered at the beginning, that yes ...” “I’m sorry, Marina. If you ever have the doubt that things are getting bad, go away from that place and don’t go back.” “Don’t worry, Yaron, there’s no danger. I ignore them and they ignore me, I don’t give a damn anymore because I’ve also cancelled them from my life, I bear up with their presence without even noticing it, and at least I can stay with my friends. Then at night I hear from you and I’m in paradise, in whatever type of atmosphere I had lived the day! However I wanted to tell you this thing: the guys at Montelungo are really filled with hate for you people. If they speak about the Jews or Israel, they become so violent, it’s frightening! Those guys need an exorcism! Well, Yaron, you should have seen them today, looking at Gilad the best they could do was make some harmless ironic comment. Do you know what this thing means to me? That Gilad managed to block their wickedness. He has such a good face that he exorcised the demons of those assholes.” “Maybe they were happy for the 1027 Palestinians with whom he was exchanged.” “You know, I don’t think so. They aren’t the type to say thank you when they receive a favour ... I think it was Gilad’s face that blew them away, with such a good smile. Did you see his expression when he made the military salute? Besides, seeing him with your uniform broke my heart, if I think that you also run the risk of being kidnapped ...” “Marina, you are the one running a risk! With what you’re telling me, the guys at Montelungo are dangerous for you ... and at this point I can’t believe that, when they found out about you and me, they just took you for a ride. I beg of you, if they have threatened you or worse, if they have treated you in a violent manner, break off all ties with them! Never enter Montelungo ever again, as from tomorrow!” “No, Yaron, they don’t even take me into consideration anymore, really. For them by now it’s as if I don’t exist anymore at Montelungo.” “Listen, Marina, you are an intelligent girl, and you certainly realize what is happening around you. So I beg of you, if you have even the minimum doubt that
  • 86. 87 things are going to get ugly, change your group of friends, don’t ever show your face again to those boys, in any case you can see your friends in any moment of the day.” “Ok Yaron, I’ll be careful.” “Promise me, my darling, please.” “Of course, I promise you, don’t worry, Yaron. Goodnight, my love, sleep well.” “Goodnight, my little one. Sweet dreams.” *** The next night, Marina and Yaron chatted like always on messenger. “Hi Marina, how’s it going?” “Everything is fine, honey, I got B- in physics!” “Oh, well then you really want to come to Israel in February ... well done, my little one, keep it up! and how did it go at Montelungo? Is everything ok?” “Yes, Yaron, it’s really out of the question that they want to harm me.” “Keep your eyes open, anyway, ok?” “Ok, commander!” “Marina, don’t make me worry because tomorrow is a very important day for me, I’m going home on leave!” “That’s great! You can’t wait, can you? Does it take you a long time to get home from your barrack?” “Yes, because to go to Jerusalem I have to take two buses that make so many stops.” “Can’t you get a lift from somebody?” “Some of my fellow soldiers do that, if I can I avoid it because you should see the faces of some of those who pick us up, Marina!” “A bit shady?” “No, terrorized! They’re all afraid of picking up an Arab disguised as a soldier. It’s already happened, and you can imagine how the driver ended up.” “And can’t your parents come and fetch you?” “They wanted to, but I know they’ll be taken up with the preparations for the Simchat Torah feast. It’s a lovely celebration, we drink, sing, dance. I can’t wait to go home tomorrow!” “Don’t drink too much, though, because if a pretty girl pitches up, I wouldn’t like you to fall into temptation ...” “Marina, for once that I’m going home, let me have fun!” “Huh?” “I’m joking! I’ll stay sober and concentrate on the meaning of the feast: celebrate the first five books of the Bible.” “Yeah sure! And you think I believe that?” “No! I really want to enjoy myself tomorrow! But I’ll resist any beautiful girl who comes my way, Marina ... Where I live we celebrate Simchat Torah in a grand way, even if it isn’t one of the main Jewish feasts. My mother immigrated to Israel
  • 87. 88 as a young girl in the ‘70s with her parents. They came from communist Russia, an inhospitable place for Jews, but at that time it had softened due to the strength shown by Israel to win all the wars that the Arab countries had waged against it. So the Russian Jews had started to gather in large groups spontaneously once a year, right on the day of Simchat Torah, to celebrate at least once a year what for the other 364 days was a risky characteristic, a source of continued persecution: being Jewish. On Simchat Torah they met, they sang, they danced, they read the letters sent from Israel, they exchanged information on how to emigrate to the Promised Land. And furthermore, they counted themselves, they saw how numerous they were, they felt strong. And they really remembered that they were Jewish, after having to hide it also from themselves for a whole year, and they were proud to be so. For the first time they felt like a population, a nation, and many, like my grandparents and my mom, decided to emigrate to Israel. It’s always a special feast at our house, but this time it’s also the day that will reunite us all after so many months. My brother is also going to be there, thank heavens this time they gave us the time off together. Until now we have always had it at alternate times, I haven’t seen him for months, Marina, you can’t imagine how much I miss him.” “Do you miss him as much as you miss me?” “It’s a bit different, but I miss him so much as well.” “How nice of you to say that to me, but I understand perfectly well that you must miss him much more than you miss me. You only saw me for a few hours and he is your brother! What’s his name? I don’t remember it any more, even if you said it when you told me that your parents used to put you on two different buses, because they hoped that at least one would survive in case of an attack. Poor things, imagine how they must have lived anxiously. Oh God, for them it’s the same now. They must be afraid that one of you won’t return home from the military service. I mean, sorry, I didn’t mean to say that your brother is in danger, I just thought that your parents must still be worried ... he’s also in a quiet battalion, isn’t he? A place like yours, where you only carry out drills or at the most boring controls at the checkpoints, isn’t that right, Yaron?” “Sure, we’ve both been lucky,” Yaron wrote to her. Instead that day Yaron’s battalion had had to demine an area next to a section of the fence, and his brother had caught a terrorist who was trying to cross the fence with explosives. The two brothers stand guard at two different sections of the fence: Yaron in the north, in Samaria, and his brother in the south, in Judea. “Anyway, Marina, my brother’s name is Nitzan, which is also the name of a village that is often bombarded by the kassam of the Gaza Strip. Have you ever heard about it?” “Nitzan? No, never heard of it.” “It’s a community of people coming from Gush Katif, one of the main Jewish villages evacuated from the Gaza Strip in 2005 to give it to the Palestinians.” “Like the Fogel family in Itamar.” “Yes, the Fogels also came from Gush Katif.”
  • 88. 89 “Oh God, wherever they have gone to live, the exiled Jews from the Gaza Strip are always under attack.” “With rockets or with knives. And by the people that they have sacrificed themselves for.” “At least by a part of those people, and you don’t know how much it costs me to admit this thing, Yaron ... Do tell me about this village that has your brother’s name.” “Really you don’t know about Nitzan in Italy?” “No, Yaron, before meeting you I had never heard of Gush Katif or Nitzan.” “In Nitzan they built two new nursery schools, because the population grew and many mothers work. But as soon as the nursery schools were built, the kassam rocket launches and missile attacks stepped up, and exactly in the morning, to be more likely to get the children. Whether they are made in series, or craft-made like the kassam, the missiles and rockets are still bombs that split the walls and kill people or hurt and leave them disabled forever. After the construction of the nursery school, the dropping of the bombs on Nitzan have become frequent almost like those on Sderot, the Israeli town closest to the border with the Gaza Strip. In fact, Sderot has the sad distinction of being the most bombed city in the world. In Sderot, each house by law has a fortified room where to take refuge when, more than three times a day, the red alert alarm sounds because the radar has detected a missile launch. And in the car a window must always be open to make sure people hear the alarm, and people never put on their seat belts so as not to waste any time when it rings and they have to immediately get out of the car and lie down on the floor. Well, the Palestinians are turning Nitzan into the same kind of place, especially the area of the two new nursery schools. By now they need two anti-missile shelters outside the nursery schools, but they hadn’t been put into the quote because that area, as long as there were no nursery schools, had been relatively ignored by Palestinian terrorists. These shelters are essentials, because there are only about fifteen seconds from when the red alarm sounds to when the missile falls on the target. So, it’s necessary to put a shelter a few meters away from each nursery school, not only to give the children a certain psychological security, but mainly to save their lives. However, the anti-missile shelters are very expensive, and in Nitzan they are trying to get them through charity donations from all over the world. Now there are enough donations to cover the cost of only one shelter, which has been bought. The children and teachers of the two nursery schools were asked to choose in front of which nursery school they should put the only shelter available. And they answered that they’ll wait for the second shelter to be bought, so that both can be installed at the same time, because they prefer to be attacked and die together rather than choose which nursery school to protect first, and consequently which one to leave unprotected.” “These children are incredible. At the age of four they’ve already made such a choice? Instead of scrambling to be protected and not care at all for the others, they prefer to remain in danger rather than deprive the others of the shelter?”
  • 89. 90 “Yes, exactly. And we hope that the money arrives soon for the second shelter, so that they can all be safe.” “Listen, Yaron, are you totally sure about this thing? It seems like pure anti- Palestinian propaganda: the wicked Palestinians who bombard a nursery school as soon as they see it, and the poor Jewish children with a selflessness that cannot be true. Maybe that’s why we’ve heard nothing about it in Italy, maybe it’s all invented.” “Marina, I assure you that it’s true. It’s a news that we hear from our military friends on the border with Gaza, and that we see on the newscasts. Look, I’ll give you the link so you can see the report on YouTube.” “Let’s see ... Shit, Yaron! If it’s not a photomontage, it's crazy! The nursery schools are really targeted by missiles!” “It’s not a photomontage, I assure you. Golan, a friend of mine, is a soldier there and he tells me that he sees with his very eyes the launches on the nursery schools.” “I’m shocked, Yaron. I can just hope that it’s a group of Palestinians that have gone crazy.” “Like the ones you were telling me about yesterday, who kept Gilad segregated all alone in the dark for five and a half years, and that according to you were a crazed group?” “Yes, exactly, crazed groups.” “But all the Palestinians have gone crazy! They all live to bomb us, to kidnap us, to make our lives impossible, to kill us! How can you be so blind, Marina?” “They can’t all be bad people! All the Palestinians? All the Arabs? All the Muslims? They can’t all be bad people, Yaron! You are the one who’s blind!” “Marina, try to understand me, there are definitely good people among them, I know. It’s just that here we are always under fire, when I reach the night, I find it hard not to lose heart.” “In what sense are you under fire, Yaron? Aren’t you in a tranquil battalion?” “Yes, I told you I am. We’re under fire as a country, as a people.” “Sorry, you’re right, it’s easy for me to fire judgements from here ... I’m sorry. I love you, Yaron. Come on, my love, don’t feel downhearted, just always think of your Marina who loves you.” “Of course I always think of you, little one.” “Me too, my darling ... Oh my God, Yaron, I’m looking at the rest of the video and I can see the children, poor little things ... this friend of yours, Golan, did he confirm that the children really decided to wait for the second shelter to arrive, so as to protect both nursery schools?” “Certainly. Golan is there to protect them, he fights the terrorists but he also goes to the nursery schools to explain what to do in case of an attack, and he speaks to the children and he heard this thing directly from them.” “To be like that at the age of four, it’s really incredible! What does your friend think, were the children repeating to him something that they were compelled to say, or were they being sincere?”
  • 90. 91 “They were sincere. Golan told me that they were all spontaneous, that each one used different words and that they wanted to cry when they thought about their little friends in the other nursery school, and they didn’t want to leave them without a shelter. In fact, it’s a small village, they all know one another. I was impressed by the words of a little girl, Moran, that Golan told me. He said that this little girl of three was speaking about her little friend called Amit, in the other nursery school, and she said, “I cry cry cry, Amit, if I have a shelter and you don’t”.” “Little one! But it’s incredible, really. Why do you think that they reason like this, being so small? Why do they also worry about their friends, and not only about themselves?” “It’s true, they are very small, and their words are impressive for their age. However, wouldn’t we adults all say the same thing?” “I wouldn’t, Yaron! Honestly, first I’d find safety for myself, and then, if possible, the others can do so!” “Come on, you say that because you’re not living a situation like this, but you would also make the choice of those children.” “No no, without a doubt, Yaron. Honestly, would you make the same choice as those children?” “Sure, and I know that you would too, Marina.” “No, not me, I’m certain. Are you so sure about yourself? Wouldn’t you try to save yourself first?” “No, I’m also sure about this thing, because when it happened to me to be in danger, I acted the same way.” “What danger do you come across, Yaron? Wasn’t your battalion a tranquil one?” “A few months ago there was an explosion in our deposit, but just because a fuel tank got too over-heated, we weren’t attacked by anyone. And then, from that time onwards, no one has forgotten to check the temperature,” Yaron told her to reassure her, whereas the explosion he was talking about had been caused by a missile launched by a small group of Palestinian terrorists. Then Yaron and his fellow soldiers had to follow them for days in a village, before managing to capture them. Those had been risky days, and in every situation of danger Yaron had chosen to protect first his fellow soldiers and then himself, as each one had decided to do. “Yaron, I really have to acknowledge that you are a beautiful person. Instead I’m selfish, I’m sorry but that’s the way I am.” “You can always change if you want to.” “Ah! It’s impossible!” “That’s not true, it’s also a question of thought, of educating your awareness. Why shouldn’t you be able to, if even the children at the nursery school are? And at that age, by nature we are totally not altruistic at all! Maybe the key is in Moran’s tears, the child who cried for little Amit, maybe if you get so attached you are prepared to save the other first. And if you use this attitude with all the
  • 91. 92 people you love, with the group you belong to, with your country, you become altruistic.” “Maybe instead the key lies in Moran’s group, in your group, Yaron. As Israelis, I cannot stand your people, despite all your historical explanations. But as Jews, I cannot help admiring you, the more I get to know you through your words. You have a love for others that is incredible, you really cultivate it, and I believe this comes from your religion.” “It’s not possible to admire the Jews and not stand the Israelis, because Israel is the state of Jewish people.” “Let’s leave it, Yaron, let’s not argue. One day I’ll make a study about all this and then we’ll talk.” “That day you’ll understand that I’m right.” “I don’t think so. Anyway let me go on with the video. Did you see that there’s a link where to give the money to build the second shelter?” “Yes, at the end of the video.” “Can we trust it?” “Yes, Golan told me that he knows those who handle the funds, and they are all honest people.” “Did you send some money?” “Yes.” “I could also send some. I’d be happy to help those children. What do you think?” “It would be lovely, a bit like the watch and compass in Itamar.” “That’s true. So I’ll do it ... there we go, I’m happy!” “Great. A good thing, and one that unites us.” “Even if there are several things that separate us ...” “It doesn’t matter, we’ll increase the things that unite us.” “And we’ll try not to talk about the things that separate us!” “That’s be hard, eh?” “Yeah, at the end we always land up talking about Israel! By the way, I wanted to talk to you about your names, but I don’t want to end up having an Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Will you promise to avoid making any comments about the Palestinians on this matter?” “Ok, no comments about the Palestinians, but only for this time.” “Well, it’s already something. So, I wanted to ask you this, what type of names do you all have? Yaron, Eyal, Gilad, your brother Nitzan, your best friend Avram, the soldier Golan that you’ve just spoken about, the little girls you’ve just mentioned, Moran and Amit ... never more than two syllables, it’s a strict rule.” “As a matter of fact yes, Marina, it’ s a rule but not a strict one.” “Huh? Is it a religious precept?” “No, it’s an indication of the government, for administrative reasons.” “Oh come on!” “Yes, so as not to create problems with the tax codes, imagine you guys with all those letters.” “But I don’t think it’s ever been a problem for our tax codes.”
  • 92. 93 “Instead here they carried out a statistic investigation, and it resulted that the tax codes overlap more easily if the proper names have more than two syllables.” “So it’s forbidden to give a three syllable name to your child?” “Not exactly forbidden, no, but it’s strongly discouraged.” “But we definitely have to give our child a name with three syllables!” “Of course, my love! However, it’s not that we can’t, we just have to pay a tax.” “Oh, that’s good.” “It’s very expensive though, practically the equivalent of 5000 euros for every extra syllable.” “Shit! Luckily we’ll just add one more, Yaron.” “So, how will we call our child, Marina?” “Uh ... tell me some Israeli names with three syllables.” “We can also give him or her an Italian name.” “Maybe if it’s a girl, but for a boy I prefer your sounds, Yaron. Of course, if we have six children and we want to call them each with a three syllable name, that’s 30,000 euros! It’s crazy! Perhaps they give discounts for the second and third child? Try to find out, I think they don’t make you pay anymore from the fourth child onwards.” “Marina ... I can’t believe you fell for it!!! A tax for three syllable names!!! I’m sorry my love, but I’m dying from laughter!!!” “Oh yes, eh? Well, you also fell totally for my joke.” “Oh, didn’t you really believe it? It seemed so, you know, you mischievous thing?” “No no, I must admit that I fell for your joke, I wasn’t faking. That wasn’t my joke ... it was the prospect of six children together. Forget it! Not even half!” “Oh no, how can you ever forgive me? Come on, at least consider the fact that I didn’t speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as you call it.” “As I call it? And how do you call it?” “Arab-Israeli conflict, because the Palestinians don’t exist as they are only a group of Arabs, and because they are the ones who attack us.” “Good heavens, we started speaking about it again, I can’t believe it! Stop, let’s close this discussion immediately, I don’t want to argue, also because in a few minutes’ time we have to end the conversation and I don’t want to fall asleep angry.” “Ok Marina, sleep well, I love you lots.” “Goodnight Yaron, ciao, I love you too, despite everything.” *** Every night, Marina and Yaron wrote to each other on messenger. Since they met, they had never missed one night, and it was always the most beautiful moment of the day, that both waited for all day in order to forget terrorist attacks or betraying friends, and to feel closer to each other. However that night, Marina would have preferred not to hear from Yaron. “Hi Marina, how are you?”
  • 93. 94 “Yaron, today’s not the right day, let’s leave everything, it’s better if we say goodbye now.” “Maybe if we chat a little bit you’ll feel happier. Let’s speak about something really stupid, like three syllables, ok?” “No, absolutely not! I don’t want stupid discussions, historical discussions, difficult discussions, discussions about love, nothing! Goodbye, we can speak to each other tomorrow, maybe I’ll have gotten over it.” “Ok, Marina. Speak to you tomorrow. Goodnight, I love you very much.” “Oh stop it!” “What did I say?” “I love you very much, just stop it! Stop with this shit! Today I re-read all of our messages, how much crap! A gigantic castle in the sky full of crap! Stop it! We must stop it! Have you ever looked at our story objectively? I haven’t, all taken up with that romantic crap about my handsome hero who saved me one dark, stormy night! Today I calculated the exact hours that we spent together. We met at 11 p.m. and we said goodbye at 7 a.m.. Eight hours! Do you realize it? A working day, a morning at school and an afternoon studying, any daytrip lasts eight hours! No, for us eight hours changed our lives, we fell madly in love with each other! And for what very deep reason? Because we’re good looking, that’s all! We’ve both got a pretty face, nothing else! Paola was right, she said it at once on the plane! But not me, I had found the love of my life! What a cretin, what an idiot!” “Marina, stop for just a second, please. Let me say something, because in a certain sense you’re right.” “Oh, what a relief! I’m glad you also think that! Let’s get this weight off our chests, because it’s so hard to carry on like this, without even remembering the sound of our voices.” “No, I don’t want to remove this weight at all. Being close to you from this distance it’s the best hardest moment of my life. We saw each other for a few hours, but we’ve spoken a lot to each other in these past two months. We know each other well, we don’t only know each other’s faces. However, you’re right when you say that beauty has an undeniable and unfair power. I assure you that I’ve never used it as a main criterion when choosing a person.” “Oh yeah sure! So why did you choose me then? What did I ever transmit of myself to you in eight hours?” “I’ve already told you, above all the fact that with you I could always feel in peace. Do you remember, when you were speaking to me about how your parents always argue about nothing? The way you are is totally different, arguing is not a part of you and neither is revenge nor sarcasm.” “And now? Am I so loving now that finally I’m having this discussion with you?” “But this is an important discussion, it’s something we must speak about, especially if it makes you suffer so much. You’re not teasing me, you don’t take my breath away with any nonsense.”
  • 94. 95 “Look, Yaron, I could stake my life on it, your life as well, everybody’s life on it ... that if I had had the same character, the same immune air to arguing, sarcasm or revenge, but if I had been fat, with pimples, a big nose and a double chin you would not at all have taken me into consideration!” “Marina, honestly I’ll tell you that you could be right. Beauty has its power, and ugliness has its own, and that is discarding a person only for his or her physical appearance. Probably if you had been like that I wouldn’t have taken you into consideration. I can’t know that, yet I imagine that things could have gone that way. However, I do know perfectly well, with absolute certainty, that if you were to become that way, I’d love you all the same, exactly the same way that I love you now, because now I know you and I know that you are the person that I am happy to be with and the person I want to make happy forever.” “I’d like to see that, if a beautiful girl soldier comes along and places her eyes on you!” “Are you jealous, my love?” “No! Stop it! I’m speaking about beauty, I’m saying that I’m convinced that that’s the only reason you got together with me, and now you’re dragging on a story based on nothing, on a beautiful face and nothing else, and the day you’ll find another beautiful face farewell to you, that’ll be the end of our story based on nothing!” “Did you choose me only for my looks?” “I think so. Also for that romantic thing, for the fact that you saved me. Anyway yes, above all for your looks, no doubt about it.” “Listen, Marina, I hope this is only a bad moment for you. I’m sorry that you’re going through it, but everybody goes through bad stages, and besides we are so far apart that it’s hard for us to console each other. I hope you’ll want to speak about it in the next few days. In the meantime, I assure you wholeheartedly that I love you for who you are, and that I have no intentions at all of cheating on you.” “Oh sure, just stop it! What total easy crap to say! I’d really like to see you, if it were to happen that another beautiful girl ran after you!” “As a matter of fact, it did happen to me.” “There’s a beautiful girl running after you?” “Above all before, when I was with my ex and then when she had just left me. Now it seems as if she’s calmed down.” “And you cheated on your ex with this girl?” “No, above all because I’m not one who cheats. But also because she has such a shit character, that even if she is really a beautiful girl, I couldn’t stand her for more than an hour ... let alone for our precious eight hours.” “And what kind of character has she got?” “She’s unbearable, she continuously criticizes everybody, she complains for every little thing, she hammers everybody with a sarcasm that ... I don’t know, it must be tiring to continuously find all those digs, and yet she uses her energy like that, it’s the opposite of the three syllables.” “Bah ... something tells me that she can’t be this great beauty.”
  • 95. 96 “Look for her on Facebook, she was Miss Tel Aviv last year, her profile is in Hebrew and you won’t understand what’s written, but she put photos of me framed with hearts and it’s unbearable. I don’t know what’s got into her. With all the boys that run after her, maybe she’s become obsessed with the only one who’s not interested in her great and empty beauty.” “I’ll look for her at once ... here she is ... oh God, Yaron, she’s stunning. And there you are amidst the hearts, and you’re so good looking ... oh God, let alone calm down. This marvellous creature from another planet, from another galaxy, from another universe is still running after you!” “I don’t know, at least I don’t hear from her anymore.” “For how long?” “About a month.” “In other words, let me understand. This girl, who may be a sarcastic bitch and all the rest of it, this girl ran after you also when we were already together?” “Yes, but I never gave her a chance. Maybe now she’s understood.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I didn’t want to worry you.” “Well ... yes, you’re right, I’d have died of fear.” “Marina, you are really beautiful ... I try not to give too much importance to your beauty, but you’re stunning, it’s undeniable!” “And after your ex left you, and before the two of us met, did you continue ignoring this absolute stunner?” “Yes, I’m not interested in her.” “Well, she may be a bitch, but maybe you could have changed your mind for those two or three hours ...” “Marina, it seemed as if I was throwing myself away.” “Wait a minute. Let me understand. You could have gone out with this girl and you didn’t. That’s how things are. Have I understood correctly?” “Yes, you’ve understood correctly.” “Well then I must apologize. I thought you were just saying it. Instead you really don’t choose a girl for her beauty.” “Good, Marina, I’m glad that you have no more doubts.” “No, now I have another one ... and I’m not saying it just to tease you or to nitpick. Let’s say that one day another girl starts running after you, pretty or beautiful or stunning it doesn’t matter anymore, but this is the sweetest, most affectionate, peaceful, pleasant and tender girl that you can imagine. A girl with whom you would definitely be in peace, absolute joy and serenity.” “I-would-not-cheat-on-you.” “But if those are the reasons why you chose me ...” “I chose you because I feel fine with you, because I’m in peace with you, to be loved by you. And above all I chose you to love you, because I hope you won’t prevent it, that you won’t send me back, that you’ll allow me to love you in peace. So, if it were to happen one day that I must make a sacrifice to love you, I’ll do it willingly.”
  • 96. 97 “Good.” “Are you happy?” “Yes.” “Who is it now that doesn’t know how to use more than one syllable?” “Me.” “Marina, I miss you. We get sad because we are far ... today is a bit of an ugly day for you, I’m sorry. Listen to the Maccabeats with their so cheerful “Bad Day”, eh? Much more than the original version by Daniel Powter! We’re going to see each other in a few days, and we’ll have another two hours to add to our treasure of time spent together. It’s beautiful though, in a certain sense, because when we are always together, we won’t give all this importance to every single hour.” “I’ll always give importance to every single second spent with you, also when we are eighty and surrounded by our great grandchildren. Because you are the most marvellous person in the universe, and I’m sorry for having said those horrible things about your looks. Sorry, my darling.” “Well, they weren’t that horrible. I’m happy that you like me.” “I like you?! I’m crazy about you! You drive me mad! You’re stunning! I can’t wait to see you again ... just another ten days!” “Nine, it’s already midnight here, Marina.” “So I’ll say goodnight because I want to fall asleep with these two thoughts: that there are only nine days left before I’ll see you again, and that when we’re old we’ll still be madly in love with each other! Good night, darling. ” “Marina, wait. I didn’t tell you something important! I’m sorry my love, I totally forgot. Can I tell you now?” “Of course, tell me, my love!” “In these past two months I’ve had metabolic and hormonal problems, nothing serious anyway.” “Oh my God, how are you?” “Very well, it’s just that I’m full of pimples and I’ve put on fifty kilos.” “My God, Yaron ... you almost gave me a heart attack! You’re crazy, I can never relax with you!” “Bye my love, goodnight. Sleep well and relax without me.” “I love you so much, Yaron, I miss you terribly. Sleep well.” *** Some nights later, Marina wrote to Yaron full of enthusiasm, after having spent the afternoon daydreaming with her friends. “Listen to this, Yaron, there was a great flurry today at Montelungo, because we spent the whole day on Google looking at pictures of you Israeli soldiers, and we all went crazy for that slightly perverted thing that you all have on your arm. Do you also have one?” “A perverted thing on our arm?” “Yes, that slightly sadomasochistic thing.”
  • 97. 98 “A tattoo?” “No no, that strip of black leather all wrapped around your arm, from the hand almost up to the shoulder.” “Marina, are you talking about the tefillin?” “I don’t know.” “There must be two little boxes in the picture, one on the arm and one on the forehead.” “Yes, that’s right!” “Marina, but those are sacred things, we use them to pray in the morning. Didn’t you see that they are praying in the picture?” “Uh, they’re reading a book. Yes, as a matter of fact they all seemed concentrated to me, but my friends went wild ...” “Wild for the tefillin ... Marina please, when your friends smoke, leave the barrack!” “Oh yes, I always stay far from those fumes ... and you too, I hope. Leave the barrack if your friends smoke something strange!” “Are you crazy? Here there are only cigarettes, nobody can afford to become a fool.” “Anyway, you, do you wear that super sexy black strip on your arm, or not?” “No, I don’t wear that black strip that is wrapped around the arm and helps you to direct your heart and actions towards God.” “What a pity! And doesn’t anyone there with you wear it?” “Yes, two of my friends wear it.” “Fantastic! Ask them to lend it to you, you have to absolutely send me a picture of you with that strip, my friends will go haywire!” “Absolutely not.” “Ugh, what a bigot ...” “Bigot?” “That’s what we call the Catholics who abide by the rules and never joke about them ... But why? What does it cost you to take a picture and send it to me, if you don’t even have that strip and you have to borrow it from your friends?” “Because those two friends of mine are the ones who keep the battalion standing.” “Are they your bosses?” “No, they don’t do anything different from me or Eyal or the other 16 without a tefillin. They simply have the tefillin.” “Sure, I understand, it’s your religion. Sorry Yaron, if I insisted with this extremely stupid thing ... Is that strip like something that brings a blessing, that makes God listen to them and protect you all?” “God also listens to those without the tefillin. But in the morning, when the commander gives them the permission to use it to pray, whether we are next to an armoured tank or in front of a field to demine, they wrap the tefillin around their arm and they pray out loud with the psalms and with our traditional prayers. And so all of us, whatever we are doing, we hear these words being
  • 98. 99 recited that call for peace, justice, love for our fellowman. Then, for the entire day, in whatever situation we shall find ourselves, none of us will forget those words, and thanks to them, all of us will remember our values and we’ll be able to stop ourselves before an injured enemy, a woman, a child used against us as a human shield, before any inhuman action that we may be tempted to carry out.” “My God, Yaron, you make me shiver. I can’t believe that you live such risky situations, you never told me. You always say that you do only drills ...” “Unfortunately we’ve been attacked. I never told you so as not to worry you. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you, I was wrong. Anyway, in over two years none of us has ever been injured, that means we know how to defend ourselves. Don’t worry, I beg of you.” “Oh my God Yaron, how can I not worry? However, deep down, I’ve always known. I repeat continuously to myself that you are safe, but I hear the news ... be careful, please. I’m sorry if I spoke so idiotically about those strips around the arm! I hope they can protect you, that they bring God’s blessings upon all of you, and they don’t only just make you all good! However, it’s incredible that you are like that, that you think those things, all of you, also the children at the nursery school who don’t want to take the shelter away from the other school! You all have this incredible respect within yourselves for the others, this love for other people! Judaism must really be wonderful, it’s no coincidence if you're so, Yaron! It's not just about you, and I’m not saying this to belittle you.” “Thanks, Marina. Your religion must also be wonderful, if it contributed to making you such a good person.” “Yes, Christianity is also wonderful. Last year I was in crisis, but now I'm happy to be Catholic. But it is monstrous that we persecuted you, that we used the Passion of Jesus against you! I mean, whatever is written in a book, however sacred, should never be used against people ... moreover in the Gospel there’s nothing written against you!” “We have always been accused of deicide.” “That’s absurd! Apart from the fact that we all took part. Some Jews may have also pronounced a sentence but the Jewish people loved Jesus, and the pagan Pilate had the power to annul the judgment and didn’t do it, and then the soldiers who scourged, crucified and killed Jesus were pagans too, and the Christians who were closest to Him sold, betrayed, denied and abandoned Him ... but above all, every Christian knows that it’s his fault that Jesus was reduced to such a state.” “Meaning? I don’t understand, Marina.” “I feel guilty firsthand for His suffering! The crisis I told you about was for this. I could not think of God who loves me, and me that I crucified Him! All of last year I set aside my religion, I just excluded if from my life. I tried to become a Buddhist, just imagine, but to do two minutes of om I had to get an IV of Valium. I can’t, it’s not for me ... but that face there of Buddha, so serene and blissful, I've always dreamed that it was the one I could contemplate, that it was the face of my God. But in June, just before the holidays, not even I know why, I realized
  • 99. 100 that if He had left me free to be so evil to Him it was to forgive me, to love me more, and He must also have been happy about this, to love me more, I mean.” “Marina, I’m happy that you’ve found peace about this thing. But you are so good, don’t think of yourself in that way. You don’t make anybody suffer.” “That’s not true, unfortunately.” “You just give me immense joy. If only you knew what joy I feel the whole day, because I think of the night, when I’ll hear from you ...” “You are also my joy, Yaron, really. Please avoid all the risks! Always be careful!” “Of course, and you know something? I think you take more risks than I do, when you go in the car with Lucia.” “No come on, my love, don’t joke around. Promise me that you’ll always be careful.” “Of course, my love.” “Oh my God, Yaron, what happens there every day? Do they attack you? Do they shoot?” “No no, don’t worry! And they have a terrible aim! Do you remember I told you that they bombard Israel every day from the Gaza Strip? You can’t believe how many times the rockets fall within the Strip! They have no aim, and what’s more they don’t give a damn about their people, they are just mercenaries. We give our very best and in fact we defend our people for free, instead they are all paid salaries! The day that Hamas will stop paying them handsomely, perhaps because the West will finally stop pouring rivers of money into the coffers of the Palestinian Authority, the terrorists will look for another job! So don’t worry, they are incapable and they are not motivated. We can eat them for breakfast.” “Ok, Yaron, I want to believe you, otherwise my heart will die.” “Now promise me that you’ll sleep well.” “Ok, sleep well too.” “Good night, my little star, speak to you tomorrow.” “Good night, my love, speak to you tomorrow.” *** Three days before the meeting in Rome, Marina spent the afternoon at Lucia’s getting prepared. “So, Marina, did you bring everything?” “Yes, look, Lucia. I got this white sheet, then I wanted to do the blue writing, but the style looked too much like the flag of Israel, so I got the red paint so the boys don’t start suspecting anything. I beg you, Lucia, don’t say anything! Not even to the girls!” “No, Marina, don’t worry. Will you tell Paola?” “No, Lucia, one less who knows is one less who let it slip out with the boys.” “Carla, at least? Poor thing, she lives for your story, Marina! When you tell us what Yaron writes to you, she doesn’t miss a word!”
  • 100. 101 “That’s true, she’s a darling, but that’s exactly why we won’t tell her anything, Lucia, can you imagine? It’s unthinkable that she can pretend nothing is going on. So please Lucia, only you know what’s written on my banner! Mum’s the word, and remain impassive in Rome!” “Ok, I’ll be a statue, Marina. So, did you find on Google how to write your sentence in Israeli?” “Yes, but their language is called Hebrew, eh! Look here, Lucia, I copied the sentence onto this sheet of paper. It’s a disaster because they have masculine and feminine verbs, so instead of writing “I love you” they write “I’m in love with you” but you understand from their alphabet that I’m a woman. We have to be very careful to recopy exactly the letters as on the paper, otherwise it’ll come out that I’m a man who’s in love with Yaron!” “Good heavens, no ... Marina, what an absurd alphabet! Come on, let’s start with the outline in pencil and then we’ll colour them.” The two friends remained in silence until they finished drawing the outline of the letters. Then they started colouring the inside of every letter with red paint, and since this was a job that didn’t require much attention, they began chatting again. “Marina, did you find his name on Google as well?” “I didn’t look for it because I have it here on his dog tag, look.” “Double as well!” “Don’t make me think of it, Lucia ...” “Why, Marina?” “In your opinion, why is it made up of two equal parts, with a groove in the middle?” “I don’t know. To divide it?” “Exactly, Lucia, to take proof to his family, in case ...” “Oh ... shit, Marina, I didn’t think of that, I’m sorry! Like in the films, half goes to the family and the other half stays in the dead soldier’s mouth ... oh God, Marina, sorry. What the fuck am I saying? I can’t even think of it ...” “Whereas I think of it, Lucia. I always think of it.” “But he’s in a tranquil battalion, you said so.” “Three days ago he told me they had been attacked. I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to worry you, even if you’ve broken all ties with Eyal. Anyway, the two of them are ok, and so are the other soldiers of their battalion ... Oh God, Lucia, my Yaron ... what could be happening to him now, Lucia?” Lucia hugged Marina until she stopped crying, and then Marina looked her in the eyes and said sadly, “At least, you stopped talking to Eyal, so you don’t have to worry too much about him. However I thought you were a lovely couple. Why don’t you talk to him anymore?” “Marina, it seemed absurd to me to remain in contact with him. At the beginning it seemed as if we were living in the same atmosphere in which we’d met. But then I couldn’t think of him anymore as a friend, let alone anything more. After not seeing him for two months, I just remember him as the soldier fighting on the
  • 101. 102 wrong side. The boys at Montelungo may be assholes but they’re right. Eyal and Yaron are against the Palestinian people, they’re against our own, Marina! They may be kind, they may have helped us, but they’re on the wrong side, and I can’t write to him anymore, I don’t even want to think of Eyal anymore. This obviously hasn’t happened to you, Marina.” “Instead, Lucia, deep down I’ve always had this problem in these past two months, and I’ve always tried to abandon this thought by concentrating on Yaron, who is really a wonderful person. But when he told me the other night that they had been attacked, I was terrified. I can’t think of anything else, I’m perennially anxious, this now is the thought that I have to abandon! And I don’t give a damn if the attacks come from the right or wrong side, Lucia! I’m terrified that they may hurt him, that they may kill him!” “Listen, I don’t want to try and change your mind about him as a person, ok? Because it’s totally true that he’s a beautiful person, no doubt about it. But just think, Marina, that Yaron had to obviously defend himself against those attacks. He may also have killed someone, do you realize that?” “Yes, I imagine so.” “Didn’t you ask him?” “No, because I don’t want to hear him saying yes.” “And if he did so, he killed one of our own, do you ever think of that?” “Yes, Lucia, but I repeat, I can’t stop thinking about him, that he is in danger. The important thing is that he’s safe, even if to be safe he has to kill somebody.” “One of our own?” “Yes.” “You love him very much, don’t you?” “Very very much.” “The sentence on the banner is true, then.” “Yes.” The two friends continued to colour the Hebrew letters on the banners, remaining in silence for a few minutes. Then Marina said to her friend, “Listen, Lucia, I want to tell you something that Yaron told me.” “Certainly, tell me, Marina.” “He told me they all pray every morning, to remember all day to treat everyone with humanity. Everybody, even their enemies. He spoke about stopping in front of an injured enemy ... there, I wanted to tell you so that you know that he, but also Eyal and the other soldiers on the wrong side, don’t treat our people cruelly.” “Good, thank you for telling me that, Marina. That really consoles me.” “It makes me also think that, instead, the more our people can be cruel the happier they are.” “No! Why do you say that about the Palestinians, Marina?” “Come on, Lucia! How many times have you seen the video of those two Israeli soldiers who got lost in Ramallah ten years ago, and a crowd of Palestinians lynched them until killing them, and then they all celebrated in the streets
  • 102. 103 showing their hands filled with blood? So much for stopping in front of an injured enemy ...” “Yes, but our people are right, the Israelis stole their land! Those, even if your Yaron is part of it, are occupation soldiers!” “And so for this you justify anything? Also lynching two boys? Also decapitating a three-month old baby? And then everyone going into the street to celebrate, also for this disgusting crime?” “What are you saying, Marina?” “Yaron told me in Itamar. There, eight months ago, two Palestinians slit the throats of a Jewish family in their sleep, also their youngest daughter, Hadas, of three months, who was almost decapitated. We also heard that news, Lucia, I remember perfectly well seeing those monstrous photos, with all that blood.” “Oh my God, Marina, I got it. I also remember those photos ... Listen, this is a monstrous thing, but Itamar is in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the Palestinian militants are at war with the colonists.” “So you’ve also lost your compassion, Lucia. Otherwise you couldn’t justify in any way what they did to the little Hadas,” Marina told her shaking her head. “Marina, don’t believe everything that Yaron tells you, he won’t want to deceive you, but he’s definitely filled with Zionist propaganda!” “It’s not propaganda, those photos were real, they’re not photomontages! And on YouTube there’s an interview by the Palestinian television in which the mother and aunt of the killers call them heroes ... heroes for having massacred children, don’t you realize, Lucia? And those killers said that they had only one regret: that they hadn’t realized that two other children, aged 2 and 8, were sleeping in another room, and therefore they hadn’t slit their throats as well! Go and look for those photos again and take another look at them, because maybe there is no other way to make you open your eyes on the cruelty of the Palestinians. Our people are cruel, Lucia, and they do everything they can to be even more cruel. Whereas the Israeli soldiers are humane and they do everything they can to be more humane. And if you think about it, what we risked two months ago in Dayr al-Hatab, we couldn’t definitely have risked with the other side.” “I don’t understand, Marina, what do you mean?” “That the opposite situation was impossible, the three of us chased by Israeli soldiers and saved by Palestinian boys!” “Each person is a story in itself, Marina. If you speak to me about Eyal and Yaron, and the three Palestinians who almost raped us, I agree. But what do you know about all the other Israeli soldiers and all the other Palestinian boys?” “No, Lucia, it’s not true that every person is a story in itself. It’s too important what they teach us from a very early age, and what they repeat to us every day. One thing is to pray to remind oneself of being humane with enemies, another is to pray to kill the biggest number possible of infidels.” “Amen, the end of the free will.” “Listen, Lucia, it’s obvious that a person always has the possibility to be himself, but don’t tell me it’s easy to go against the tide!”
  • 103. 104 “Marina, I’m just saying this: Eyal’s and Yaron’s state is the oppressor, and the Palestinian population is the oppressed, whatever one or the other prays for.” “Whereas, what they pray for makes a big difference to me. However, I pray that nobody harms Yaron.” “Come on, don’t worry, Marina, your Yaron will always be ok. He’s already been in the army for two years and he’s never been injured, so why should something happen to him this year?” “That’s what he also says, Lucia. Moreover, he says that I risk more than he does when I’m in the car with you driving ...” “They didn’t appreciate my driving at all, did they? Terrible boys ... but, Marina, you shouldn’t have made me think of when I was driving the jeep. Eyal made me die of laughter, impassive, taking the piss out of me in Israeli ... Hebrew, whatever it is. Anyway, he’s a nice guy ... ah, I don’t want to think of him anymore, really. Come on Marina, let’s get a move on with this banner, otherwise we’ll never finish.” “Ok, Lucia. But first let me look how to say “very much”, because I want to add it on.” “Help, Marina, it’s going to be so long!” “I still have some cloth ... come on, Lucia, help me, otherwise I’ll never manage on my own! Please, Lucia, I want to tell him ...” “Ok, you romantic thing, look for it, and let’s hope there are less than ten letters!” “Thank you, Lucia, you’re a darling! Besides, the letters are pretty, aren’t they?” “Yes, if you only have to look at them and not try to write them!” “Here, “very much”, Lucia, only four letters, yay! Let’s remember to add it on the left.” “Sure, because they also write the other way round, otherwise it was too easy!” “Come on, Lucia, after this banner you can say that you’ve learnt Hebrew!” “Oh, I surely won’t ever forget how to write “Yaron I love you very much”! However, I’m not able to read it, can you read it to me, Marina?” “Oh Lucia, I’m not able to read it either!” “What? With all this effort, and you won’t even say it to his face?” “You’re right, Lucia, how come I didn’t think of it? What an idiot I am!” “It’s love, Marina! Lucky you! Let’s look on Google how to pronounce it, come on!” “Yes ... here, Yaron ani ohevet otha meod ... how lovely, Lucia! Listen to what a beautiful sound it has, Yaron ani ohevet otha meod! It’s so beautiful! It seems as if I’m telling him I love him more than if I said it in Italian!” “Come on, Marina, you’ve totally lost it ... Listen, isn’t the banner a bit too long? How are you going to hold it by yourself?” “You’re right, Lucia! Good God, how am I going to manage? I’ll cut it! That’s it, we’ll cut it into three pieces, so that I’ll put his name at the top, “I love you” in the middle, and “very much” underneath, what do you think? Will we manage to cut it into three pieces? We have to cut it well, I beg of you! Do you think we’ll manage, Lucia?”
  • 104. 105 “Sure, calm down, Marina! You’re thrilled that you’ll see him the day after tomorrow, aren’t you?” “I’m in paradise! It doesn’t seem true, Lucia, after two months! It’s so long, how did I survive?” “You poor thing! And you’ve spent two really shit months ...” “Exactly, Lucia! It’s never happened to you because you’ve always had your boyfriends near you, but I assure you that sixty days in a row are an eternity.” “Yes, but I wanted to say that you’ve also been treated really badly by the boys at Montelungo, in these past two months.” “You know, it’s enough for me to stay with you girls, you really are all darlings! You all understood me at once, you’re all happy for me, it’s such a beautiful thing! You are real friends! Thanks, Lucia!” “The real test of friendship, Marina, are these red squiggles that I'm making on the cloth!” “It’s coming out really well, Lucia!” “Really, Marina! You did well in choosing red, it looks really good! And what are you going to do in Rome? Do you already have a plan?" “Yes, but don’t say anything to the others, please! I’ll tell everybody that I’m always going to stay with you: going there, in Rome and on the way back, because I’ll say that I’m going to see Yaron only at the airport, exactly like you, ok?” “Ok, Marina. Instead?” “Instead I’m going to stay with you only until the airport. We’re going to travel together by train from Bergamo to Rome, then we’re going to take the tube together until the airport of Ciampino, and then we’re going to stay together on the landing strip of the airport until Yaron, the escort and the Minister get off the plane. At that point, when I see Yaron going away, I’m going to pretend to despair and want to go at all costs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hope to see him. However you know that that’s impossible, because on the other two occasions that we went to Rome to cause chaos they didn’t even let us near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So, you’ll all return immediately to Bergamo by train, and I’m going to part from you because I’m going to insist on going to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once there, Yaron told me that they’ll let me in because they’ve already transmitted my passport information to the Ministry. I’m going to go outside the conference room, where there’ll be the Israeli Foreign Minister, and there I’m going to find Yaron waiting for me! We won’t be allowed to move from there and we’ll only be able to stay together for two hours ... I know it’s little, Lucia, but my heart explodes with joy when I think of seeing him again!” “I can believe it, Marina! And anyway, you’ll be together for two hours, better than nothing! I thought you wouldn’t have been able to spend even a minute together. If he’s part of the escort, how can he stay outside the hall where there’s the Minister? Shouldn’t he always stay with him to protect him?” “You’re right, Lucia, but Yaron is not really part of the escort. They can’t jeopardize the Minister’s safety with a conscript. So they’ve added Yaron and
  • 105. 106 another professional to the true escort, which is usually made up of six professionals, because for that moment when you see them in public arriving at the airport, the troops must be deployed in two symmetrical groups on either side of the Minister, so, instead of the usual three on each side, there will be four on each side. Then there won’t be other opportunities for outsiders to see this kind of parade of the Minister with an escort, because transfers between the airport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are made in armoured cars, which on the way back take them right up to the plane. So when he arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yaron will be free, he won’t have to stay in the conference room with the Minister because there will be the real escort to protect him. But of course, as soon as the conference ends, Yaron will have to return to the Minister to immediately leave with him, that’s why we have to stay right outside the conference room. They told him not to leave even for ten minutes, because if for some reason the conference ends before, they cannot wait for him.” “And then, when Yaron leaves the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, what will you do, Marina?” “Don’t make me think of that, Lucia! Anyway, I’ll go and catch a train to Bergamo. Keep your cell phone on, because I’ll send you an SMS to be sure that we haven’t caught the same train. I don’t want to risk seeing the boys.” “Marina, I think you’re going to arrive late at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if you want to see Yaron at the airport. When we arrive in Rome, wouldn’t it be better for you to go directly by train to the Ministry? Yaron won’t take ling at all in an armoured car. They’ll block all the traffic!” “I’ll take a taxi to the airport. In Rome they have preferential lanes that cut out the traffic. I’ll arrive almost at the same time as Yaron. I really want to see him at the airport, Lucia. I want to show him the banner, I want to say hello to him immediately, send him a kiss. I can’t stand it that the only welcome that he will receive will be the insults from Montelungo and other social centres.” “There will also be the people with the flags of Israel.” “Yes, but it won’t be the same thing for him. I’m his “morosa”, his girlfriend!” “Did you teach him that word? They don’t understand even in other parts of Italy, it’s really a word from Bergamo.” “No, because then maybe he’ll teach me one of his words!” “God, Marina, you’re right! Look at what a mess of an alphabet!” “It’s going to take us two years to finish this banner, Lucia!” “Listen, Marina. Paola and I made that banner about the two states for two peoples, the other girls have prepared signs written “peace” and “no to war”, and obviously they’re all written in English. Even if you’re not at the airport, Yaron won’t only read insults from us.” “Yes, and in fact he asked me to thank you.” “Oh come on, are you kidding?” “No, really. I told him about your banner and he was happy, he asked me to thank you. I must also tell Paola.” “What a nice guy he is. We aren’t used to such nice guys, are we, Marina?”
  • 106. 107 “I know, Lucia, have you ever heard one of those assholes from Montelungo saying thank you?” “Never, not even by mistake!” “Anyway, I want to be there at the airport. You girls won’t insult him, but you won’t be able to send him kisses either!” “Oh no? Let’s hope you don’t come, so we can smother him in kisses!” “What a fool you are! By the way, let’s remember to stay quite near the plane, because he’ll be on that side, the first of his row. If we stand there I’ll be able to see him well, if we stand on the other side, he’ll be covered by the other seven of the escort and by the Minister, and maybe I won’t even be able to see him.” “It 's true that they stand in that way, Marina, in a horizontal row. They were like that on the other two occasions, do you remember?” “Yes, of course, I remember very well. It’s strange for me to replicate this with a completely different spirit! That is, I can’t stand Israel even now, but the only thing that interests me is to see Yaron! I'm too happy, I don’t want to scream insults at anyone, at the airport I’ll only scream with joy!” “Don’t scream in Israeli, though!” “In Hebrew ...” “Whatever ... anyway, it’s an absurd alphabet, Marina, look at this stuff! In Itamar, Eyal tried to explain it to Paola and I, with the female soldiers who were trying to help him, in front of the entrance sign to the village, where you and Yaron left something, like the little coins in the fountain, so that you could return, right?” “No, Lucia, it was so as not to lose my compassion anymore.” “Huh?” “My compassion for the little Hadas. I had also justified the massacre of Itamar with your very words, before Yaron took me there to explain to me what had happened and to help me find my compassion again.” “I see. One day I’ll look at those photos again, I promise you. Not now though ... because I remember them, you know, Marina? And I don’t know when I’ll have the courage to look at them again.” In the meantime they finished the banner, and it turned out really well. The letters had been recopied carefully and it seemed as if they’d almost been embroidered. “Let’s try and put it onto the sticks, Marina.” “No, look, Lucia, I bought the Swiffer sticks. They are little sticks, a foot long, to be screwed onto each other, that I can hide easily in a bag. I don’t want the guys to see me with sticks and ask me which banner I’m taking to Rome.” “But when they see it on the landing strip, what are you going to tell them is written there, Marina?” “I don’t know. Anyway they definitely won’t understand the words!” “However, you’ll have to prepare a sentence, Marina, and confidently tell them as soon as they ask you, so as not to create any suspicion.” “You’re right, Lucia ... free Palestine!”
  • 107. 108 “But there are five words here, they’ll never believe you!” “Two states for two peoples?” “I’ve already got that!” “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea?” “But those are ten words, and the banner only has five.” “Do you think they’ll notice, Lucia?” “Perhaps, Marina. Invent something, tell them that they use one word in their language to say “from the river”, another one to say “to the sea”, another one to say “will be” ... what would they know? So you tell them that slogan, and at least they’ll leave you alone.” “Let’s hope so, Lucia. However, they would be two banners with a different meaning.” “That is?” “You say that Israel should be divided between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If my banner really had that sentence, I would be saying that the whole of Israel should go to the Palestinians. It’s not the same thing.“ “Of course it’s not the same thing, Marina, it’s even better!” “What?” “The whole of Israel to the Palestinians! Let alone half each, Marina, wake up!” “So why did we make all those demonstrations on two states for two peoples?” “To get on Israel’s nerves!” “And why didn’t we simply say that we want it to disappear, Lucia?” “Because that type of slogan scares people, Marina. It’s too Nazi-style. Whereas “two states for two peoples” is so democratic, it’s accepted even by nuns and nursery school teachers.” “What the fuck do we care about nuns and nursery school teachers, Lucia? If we want to say something we say it, even if it does scare nuns and nursery school teachers!” “We need large numbers, Marina. The fight to free the Palestinian people is done also with nuns and nursery school teachers, as long as they increase the number.” “What shit reasoning is that, Lucia?” “Fuck it, Marina, let’s not argue!” “Yes, really. Already I always argue about this with Yaron, for these fucking things! All I need now is to argue with you too, and we should have the same ideas!” “Come on, really, we were spending such a nice afternoon. For once, who cares about Israel! Come on, Marina, have you thought of what you’re going to wear in Rome?” “This t-shirt and this sweater, that Yaron gave me in Megiddo. For the rest, I change my mind every day.” “No no! Put that khaki sweater with the pants of the same colour, so you match well with him in his uniform.”
  • 108. 109 “Isn’t it better if I put on this t-shirt and sweater? They are my favourite, and Yaron will be happy to see that I’m wearing them.” “Ok, but match them with your khaki pants because you look so good in them.” “And if I put on my light-coloured jeans or my wide black pants?” “You look better with the khaki pants, Marina, that are tight on the legs. You are lucky enough to have long lean legs, don’t get all bundled in those black pants or baggy jeans.” “Ok. Then, Lucia, coral t-shirt, grey sweater, khaki green pants ... and the shoes?” “Put on your high black boots.” “Or my new hiking boots?” “No, they’re horrible! You wouldn’t want to arrive at the airport with those big boats on your feet, would you? Yaron will climb right back onto the plane!” “They’re my favourite! I think he likes them.” “If you wear those things, I’ll tell the guys what’s written on your banner.” “Ok, Lucia, I get your message, high black boots.” “Perfect, Marina.” “With the black anorak.” “No, it’s too long!” “Then the short orange one?” “It’s hideous.” “Thanks, Lucia!” “I’m being honest, Marina, because I want to help you! Wear the white, short jacket that tightens at the waist. It looks like a military jacket and I think it looks great on you.” “Ok. And what do you think, Lucia, do I put on the keffiyeh, or not?” “Why don’t you want to wear it?” “It seems as if I’m giving him a hostile welcoming, Lucia.” “With that banner, Marina?” “You’re right, then I’ll wear it, Lucia, also because it would seem like a betrayal not to wear it.” “Betraying him?” “Not him! Myself!” “And then the guys would get suspicious, if they see you without the keffiyeh.” “Ok then, Lucia, I’ll dress like that and I swear that I’m not going to think about it anymore, because it’s becoming an obsession. And do I tie my hair up?” “Don’t wear a ponytail, just put the elastic at the top because you look stunning if you gather your hair only behind your ears and allow it to fall down your shoulders.” “Ok, Lucia. Do I put on the big black elastic or the coloured one?” “The black one looks better on your hair, Marina.” “Ok. And the bag? Shall I use the military shoulder one?” “Yes, it goes well with the pants. Do the Swiffer sticks fit into it?” “Yes, they’re small.”
  • 109. 110 “Does the banner fit as well?” “Maybe it’s better if I take the black shoulder bag, eh? It’s bigger.” “Which one?” “The crocheted one.” “The granny’s bag, it’s horrible!” “But it’s the biggest bag I’ve got!” “Well then take it, anyway guys don’t notice bags.” “And do you think I should make myself up?” “You, make yourself up, Marina?” “I don’t know, Lucia, maybe a lipstick?” “Come on, you’ve never worn any makeup! Except when you get obsessed with pimples that only you can see ...” “But I have to be pretty in Rome.” “You’re beautiful as you are!” “Ok, thanks, Lucia. Now I really don’t have to think about it anymore.” “Really, Marina?” “Look, Lucia, one day I think of going dressed as usual, the next day I want to buy a jacket, the day after a skirt, and the day after that a dress with rhinestones!” “A skirt? Marina, that’s an excellent idea! I can already see you, with a short little black skirt on black leggings, and the rest as we said before! Come on, let’s go out and buy it!” “Tight or wide?” “A bit wide, but soft, of a light fabric like a jersey, that flutters a bit when you walk. I saw one just like that at Oriocenter, it’ll look stunning on you!” “Ok, Lucia, you’re a real friend, let’s go! Drive slowly, though, eh?” “Good heavens! Do you want to make a video to take to him in Rome to calm him down?" “No, it’s ok. Maybe he was just joking, after all.” “Oh, I hope so! Come on, let’s go Marina, Oriocenter closes in two hours.” When they left the shopping centre, Marina also had a big light grey cloth bag with dark blue handles, because she couldn’t dare being seen by Yaron with a bag that Lucia had called a “granny bag”. She had also bought a pair of dark grey shoes because Lucia had said that with the black leggings and black boots, she seemed ready to go to a funeral despite the white jacket. The fact that she had chosen a wonderful pair of quilted leather, low-healed All Star shoes, a brand that an anti-global girl should not be willing to buy even under torture, said a lot about what it would take Marina to impress in Rome. *** It was the eve of the big day. The next day Marina and Yaron would meet in Rome. That morning, at the checkpoint, Yaron and his companions had found explosives in the boot of a Palestinian car, hidden in seven cans of aftershave but
  • 110. 111 that had been detected by the trace detector. They arrested the driver and neutralized the explosive, and Yaron sincerely regretted having to leave his companions the day after, as there were not many of them and there would be one less at the checkpoint for an entire day. However, his fellows were excited about his journey. Not only had no one spoken about preferences or injustice, but rather, they were all happy that one of their companions was able to make a dream come true, even if only for one day. Tomorrow, they were going to think of their comrade in Rome with his girlfriend, and each of them will feel a little bit at home. That night, Marina wrote to Yaron on messenger, “Yaron, finally! I couldn’t stand it anymore today, I’ve spent the whole day as if I was under water. At least now we are writing to each other so I can have a breath of fresh air and carry on until tomorrow. I can’t wait, finally I’ll be able to breathe for two hours! Look, ironically I was happy that I had to study so much for the maths oral test the day after tomorrow, at least I didn’t have to think about not being there with you, and that as from tomorrow night we’ll be alone again. ” “I also miss you so much, Marina. Let’s not think about tomorrow night, ok? Let’s just enjoy our two hours. Let’s think of the real future, not that of tomorrow night: the future as from September, when we can stay together as much as we want.” “Do you think it’ll really be possible for us to see each other often, when you’ve finished the military service?” “Sure, I’ll come to Italy at least once a month. I’ve also been living in apnea for two months, and in order to breathe I make plans to really see you in September. I’ve been thinking of starting with two of my friends at the technical institute a little company of electricians. We have friends that make electrical panels, they install swimming pools, alarm systems, irrigation systems and the likes, that would use us willingly. The three of us want to study electronic engineering while working, so we thought of make shifts for a few days in a row every month, so by rotation one will study while the other two will work. I’ll use my shifts to come to Italy, and I’ll study even better instead of sitting behind a desk all day, because I’ll know that something beautiful, wonderful is waiting for me.” “You’ll really come and visit me!!! Thank you!!! What a marvellous idea that you’ve had, it’s a wonderful project, Yaron! Instead I don’t have any idea for the future, I don’t even know what university to attend next year.” “Electronic engineering, so we can work together.” “Maybe ... can you imagine? It’s just that I’ll finish when I’m eighty, I’m not cut out for maths at all!” “And the day after tomorrow you are going to be tested, poor little thing.” “And I have to absolutely get a good mark. I want a B in everything, so I won’t have any bad marks on my report. I can’t keep on calculating the average among C-, C+, B-. I can’t risk not coming to visit you in February!” “You’re a real darling, making such an effort just to come and visit me.” “I make these sacrifices for you willingly.”
  • 111. 112 “Tomorrow I’ll fill you up with kisses.” “I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m going to die.” “Don’t die, hey? After all this wait ... Marina, did you know that today they put up the two shelters for the nursery schools in Nitzan? They managed to buy the second one as well! Golan told me that they had such a party, and the children coloured the shelters and covered them with drawings. This is the link.” “What little stars! Look at how cute they are, Yaron, with their little hands full of paint! And what beautiful drawings, they are real artists! They made a real mess, ah, they must have really enjoyed themselves!” “Golan said that they were so happy. Children from the other surrounding villages came to colour the shelters as well. For once he was acting as a babysitter, he said that he had to run after them all afternoon, otherwise they were going to eat their chips with their hands full of paint. You should see him, he’s so big that four of their little hands would fit into one of his! He told me that he had never been so tired in all of his life! And at the recruit trainings he was always fresh and rested, even to march for kilometers in the sun with twenty kilos of equipment.” “Yeah, children can wear you out! How cute, here there are two of them eating pop corn with their hands all red! You have to tell Golan that he didn’t see these two. Do you know what these little red hands bring to my mind, Yaron? A discussion I was having with Lucia at her house the day before yesterday. We were thinking of two of those soldiers of yours ten years ago in Ramallah, who had been lynched by the crowd who then proudly showed their bloodied hands to the cameras. Since then, we sometimes see Palestinian children all proudly showing their hands painted in red. When I think of those adults who paint them, with that meaning ... it’s monstrous, Yaron. We can’t get to this point, we can’t teach these things to children.” “Really, Marina, if I think of their children, I feel more sorry for theirs than for ours. Just think of how they bring them up with the myth of the suicide bomber! They bring them up with that goal in life, committing suicide by killing the Jews! My heart bleeds for the children of Nitzan, that must escape from the rockets and mortars, but at least you saw how they are so full of beautiful things, inside, they didn’t even want the shelter if there wasn’t one for the others. Yet the Palestinian children are filled with horrendous ideas, and they remove all the will from them to build a future. They’ll grow like their parents and grandparents, whose only aim in life is to hate the Jews.” “I keep on hoping that they’re not all like that.” “I hope so too, but I find it hard to believe.” “We will fill our children with beautiful things, Yaron, inside and out.” “Of course, my little one. They’ll grow up happy with such a sweet mom.” “You know that today I spoke to my mom about you for the first time? I showed her the photo of us two, the one outside the synagogue.” “And did she also think that we were married, like your friend?”
  • 112. 113 “No, Yaron! But she ran to call my dad and for once they agreed on something, they shouted in chorus Finally a good boy!” “I have my parents-in-law’s blessing then!” “Certainly! Since they told me I could do the trip again in February, they can see that I study until late at night and that I’m getting good marks, and so they started telling me that I really want to go on this trip, But why? Explain to us what you do there ... and so eventually today, after lunch, I showed them the photo and I told them a bit about how we met, that I’ll see you tomorrow in Rome, that we write to each other every night, so I had to admit that I don’t only study at night ... And you, did you tell your parents about us?” “Yes, I showed them the same photo.” “And what did they say?” “That you’ll break my heart!” “No! Just because of my hair and the keffiyeh?” “No, mainly for the distance. And my brother said you’re too beautiful for me.” “Do you remember that saying about the cockroach? Every cockroach is beautiful for his mom ... but a stunning guy will never be good looking for his brother!” “He said you’d be more suitable for him.” “Cunning thing! We’ll prove them all wrong, Yaron!” “And we’ll prove Paola wrong too.” “It seems as if she’s changed her mind, you know? I don’t know if she said it only to console me, though. Listen, tomorrow I’ll remove the keffiyeh for a moment so I can take a picture for your family, ok? “Don’t worry! Keep your keffiyeh! No surrender to your in-laws!” “I also want to receive their blessing! And maybe you’d also like it if I removed it.” “It wasn’t a problem in Samaria, it won’t be in Rome.” “That’s true, what problems am I inventing? It’s just that this wait is eating me up, I live thinking of all the possible ways to dress, and I continuously change my mind. However, Lucia helped me the other day, and what we chose together is fine. Don’t ask me how I’m going to dress because it’s a surprise.” “I understand you. I also don’t know how to dress and all sorts of ideas keep coming to mind.” “But you’re so good looking, you could put on the first thing you find!” “Marina, I was joking, I’ll be in uniform!” “What an idiot! Will it be the same one you were wearing when we met? “No, it’s a special uniform for body guards.” “You’ll be irresistible!” “As always.” “Exactly! I’m looking forward so much to tomorrow! I’m going to crush you, I’m not going to let you breathe and I’m going to turn you into a prince! No, I’m going to turn myself into a frog, so I can really always stay in the pocket near your heart! Yaron, can you believe it, we’re going to see each other in just a few hours! You’ll recognize me at the airport, I’ll be the one jumping like a mad man and sending you a thousand kisses!”
  • 113. 114 “You’ll recognize me from the Clark Gable smile I’ll have.” “I don’t believe it! Did you learn to do it?” “Hours and hours practising. You’ll see the outcome.” “You didn’t grow the moustache, did you?” “Of course I did!” “No! Shave it off immediately!” “I’m joking!” “Thank heavens ... I could never turn a toad with a moustache into a prince!” “Bye, my little frog, see you tomorrow. I can’t wait.” “Bye, Yaron. See you soon.”
  • 114. 115 Chapter 3 Finally Thursday, November 10th, 2011 had arrived. In less than an hour the Israeli Foreign Minister would be landing in Rome with his escort and Yaron. The group from Montelungo had arrived in Ciampino and were on the edge of the landing strip. There was Marina, her six friends and the six boys who had excluded her in the past two months, plus about ten of the seventy people who occasionally went to the ex-barracks. The party from Bergamo saw that there were already about 100 youngsters from other social centres, with a cordon of twenty policemen in front that prevented them from moving away, and so they resigned themselves to stay at the back, behind all the others, even if they were going to see very little of what was going to happen on the landing strip. Marina was desperate because she risked not seeing Yaron and not being able to show him her banner. She assembled the Swiffer sticks anxiously. She made a mistake three times when screwing them on and trying to attach the three parts of the banner, and when it had been assembled she realized that as a matter of fact it disappeared behind the flags of the Palestinian Authority and the banners full of insults in English, that the people in front had brought from the other social centres. “Oh God, Lucia, I won’t even see him!” she said to her friend who was trying to console her, “Yaron is tall, Marina, I think he’ll see at the least the part at the top, the one with his name.” “No, Lucia, I wanted him to read the entire sentence! I wanted to welcome him like this, wave at him and send him kisses ...” Marina was about to start crying when some guys from the social centres in front heard her accent, even if they hadn’t followed the discussion between the two girls, and they asked Marina and Lucia if they were from Bergamo. “Yes, we travelled for six hours in order to be here ...” Marina answered, seeing some hope in getting closer to Yaron. In fact they said to her, “Hey! We are from Rome, go to the front, you deserve it!” “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you very much! Thank you so very much!” Marina sang, jumping for joy, and the Romans replied, “Calm down, you don’t want to marry the Minister, do you?” “Oh no, not exactly the Minister ...” Lucia said and winked at her, while all the people from Bergamo were allowed to pass in front without understanding why. As a matter of fact, Jacopo asked, “To what do we owe the honour of standing in pole position?” and Lucia answered him, “To Marina’s charm!” so Jacopo shouted, “Brava Marina!” and she took these words as another sign of a blessing being made on the day, after the kindness they had just received which would allow her to see Yaron nearby on the landing strip, and she decided not to ever lower her banner so as not to arouse suspicions among the others who were keeping theirs held up high, even if it would have made more sense to raise it only when Yaron could read it. When the guys from Bergamo were all in front, Jacopo came closer to her and asked her what her banner meant. She told him the sentence that she had previously prepared and pleased he repeated, “Brava Marina!” moving away from the group of girls. “It went well,
  • 115. 116 Lucia ...” Marina whispered in her ear, “Very well!” Lucia answered her happily, next to the other girls and their banners without insults. About twenty meters away, near the social centres, there was a group of about fifty pro-Israel demonstrators, kept in their place by five police officers who appeared to be much more relaxed than their other twenty colleagues. The Zionist demonstrators didn’t have banners but all had the flags of Israel, and the strong wind made that little group seem like a small sea full of white and blue waves. The ones closer to the group of the social centres saw Marina’s banner, and some of them understood its meaning and smiled pointing to the words. So, startled, she wanted to make a sign to them with her index finger over her mouth as if not to say anything, but both her hands were occupied with the banner sticks. Yet the expression on her face was so anguished and the situation so strange and potentially dangerous for the girl, that the pro-Israel demonstrators immediately winked at her and passed their finger over their mouth as if to close a zip. Marina smiled at them with a sigh of relief, and then everyone turned to look at the landing strip so as not to arouse any suspicions among the boys of the social centres. In the meantime, photographers and reporters had arrived with their video cameras, and Marina’s heart took a plunge when she saw three of them going to stand in front of her in order to film the arrival of the plane. Fortunately, they were not authorized to stay in that area, and the policeman in front of Marina made them move on to where the other journalists were standing in the shape of a horseshoe to film the plane, demonstrators and politicians. Marina was so happy and the seven girls all smiled at one another, because it would have been a great disappointment for all of them, especially Carla, not to be able to see Marina’s boyfriend close up. The policemen had understood that the girls were not there to cause the usual problems, and the ones in front of them moved away a little from each other to stay closer to the boys, who on the other hand had not yet stopped shouting insults even for a second. So, Marina’s view was perfect, because she had nothing and nobody in front that could prevent her from seeing Yaron. She still just had a doubt: from what side would the plane arrive? In fact, Yaron would be the closest one to the plane and thus he risked being far from Marina, even though there were no obstacles in front so they could definitely see each other. However, Lucia, who had heard the explanations given to the three photographers by the policeman, understood that the politicians would stop in front of the empty space between the two groups of demonstrators. So, she explained to Marina that Yaron could not be that far from her: at the most he would be in front of the Zionist demonstrators who had translated her banner, or otherwise, if the plane landed to their left, Yaron would be right in front of her! “Let’s hope it arrives on the left! Oh God, Lucia, it would be like having Yaron all to myself, for the entire time of the welcoming ritual! Can you imagine?” “Hey, you!” Lucia shouted to the policeman closest to them, “Do you know where the plane is arriving from?” “From the right.”
  • 116. 117 “No! I’m going with them!” Marina shouted and started going towards the group of Zionists, but the policeman blocked her, because although the girl evidently didn’t have hostile intentions, he could not allow anybody to move away from their group. Furthermore, Lucia said to her, “Are you crazy? The guys from Montelungo will kill you, if you go there!” “Yes, Yaron told me that as well ...” Marina answered her and she had such disappointment on her face that the policeman asked the two friends, “What’s the problem?” “That the plane will arrive from the right ...” Lucia answered him with a sad smile. “From my right though, in other words from your left,” the policeman pointed out. “Hurray!” Marina jumped joyfully and put the two lower points of the banner’s sticks onto the floor, to hug Lucia and to rest her arms a bit. The armoured cars of the Italian politicians started arriving on the sides of the landing strip. It was a sign that the plane was about to arrive, and the protest from the social centres became noisier, as did the celebrations of the Zionists and Marina, who saw the moment she had been waiting for so long come closer. “Marina, calm down! You can’t shout “Yaron Yaron” now, at least wait for the plane to arrive, so that with all the chaos going on the guys won’t hear you!” Lucia told her and added, “Marina, think of everything that we did for the banner, so that nobody would know what’s written. Do you want to ruin everything right now? Yaron wouldn’t be happy to see you with a black eye ...” “You’re right, Lucia, brava, remind me of these things because I don’t understand anything anymore!” In the meantime in the sky, where there had been three big planes ten minutes before and then nothing, a smaller plane appeared. “Oh God, Lucia, it can’t be that one there, the one coming on the right?” So the policeman, who had understood the situation, assured her, “It must really be that one, the plane with the Israeli Minister. But don’t worry, ’cause then it’ll do kind of a U-turn in the sky to land on the correct side, because here in Ciampino the planes can only land in that direction, unless there are bad storms or other terrible weather conditions.” As soon as the policeman finished speaking, the plane passed them and made a U-turn in the sky. Marina started jumping up and down and shouting, “Yaron Yaron” and Lucia’s wise advice to keep quiet until later, when Yaron can hear her, was impossible to follow for Marina because her heart was bursting with joy. The Italian politicians got out of the cars, with them there were also some people that none of the demonstrators recognized, and were probably the interpreters. There were seven people in all, and they went to stand in the empty space between the two groups of demonstrators, just as the policeman had told the reporters, in a line parallel to those of the policemen, a few meters ahead of the agents. The Italian politician nearest to Marina was not however in front of her,
  • 117. 118 and so the possibility of seeing Yaron face to face was becoming all the more possible. The plane landed, it came closer and stopped almost in front of the area without demonstrators, about thirty meters before Marina, who could see it perfectly. The door opened and tilted to become a ladder from which the Israeli Minister would descend with his escort. The Italian politicians approached the plane and the Minister’s escort started to descend. Every uniform that appeared from the opening stopped Marina’s heart, and also of her friends a little bit, who were becoming ever so curious to see or see again Yaron. Lucia and Paola marked the arrival of each soldier shouting, “No! It’s not him!” until the fourth. Then the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs came down and the shouts and whistles from the social centres increased even more, after having got louder when the plane appeared in the sky, yet they could not overwhelm the greetings from the fifty Zionists and their little sea of flags. Behind the Minister the fifth soldier of the escort descended at once, then the sixth and the seventh, and for everyone of them Paola and Lucia shouted again, “No! It’s not him!” The next one definitely had to be Yaron, and Marina felt her heart freezing from the anguish of a possible unexpected event. “And if he’s not even the next one, if for some reason he didn’t come and he couldn’t warn me?” she wondered as she continued shouting out, “Yaron Yaron”, as if by repeating his name he would be forced to really be on the plane, to come down from the ladder and appear there in front of her. And as a matter of fact Paola and Lucia shouted, “Yes! It’s him!” and all the other girls together called out his name, while Marina laughed and cried for the joy and relief. Yaron immediately looked for her with his eyes, and already from the first step he found her and smiled at her, then he looked at her and smiled the whole time he took to come down the ladder, and he saw that Marina didn’t stop jumping and crying even if she was trying to smile at him, and his heart leapt as he thought of how much she had really missed him. Yaron got into his position in the escort in front of the line of Italian politicians, and he was actually before Marina, just as she had hoped. However, seeing that her dream was coming true in the best possible way was not enough to calm her down, and Marina could not stop crying. So Yaron gave her his Clark Gable smile to cheer her up, as if it were a hug or a tender joke, and seeing the eyebrow go up made Marina burst out laughing, making her finally stop crying. Only at that point did Yaron see Marina’s banner and he read it. Those words, in his language, in his alphabet, struck him so hard that he had to look away for a minute, because a soldier in the Minister’s escort cannot have tears in his eyes. In the meantime, the politicians were shaking each other’s hands and the Italians turned to accompany the Israelis towards the side of the landing strip, approaching the two groups of demonstrators. While he was marching, Yaron continued to look at Marina who was sending him kisses, smiling at him and shouting out his name. She had really stopped crying and she was the picture of happiness, and he should have maintained a serious
  • 118. 119 demeanour also with his expression, now that he was part of the escort, but he could not avoid smiling at that face that was so dear and so full of joy and love. The other seven soldiers of the escort and the Minister had noticed Marina’s banner, and seeing that they had met Yaron on the plane and they had learnt his name, they slightly turned their heads to the right and smiled at him with their eyes. Then they all turned to the girl who was holding the banner and they could not help smiling at her as well, and they could smile at a girl more enthusiastically and tenderly than to the soldier. Meanwhile Marina’s friends were flooding her with comments. Sweet Carla told her ecstatically, “Yaron is absolutely stunning, Marina, he’s even better that in the photos! And the way he smiles at you, you can see that he really loves you. You haven’t seen each other for two months, and you saw each other only for a few hours, and just look at how you’ve remained in his heart ... Did you see how moved he was when he saw your banner? I don’t think there’s written what you told Jacopo, eh? Anyway, Marina, you are really lucky!” And also the other girls moved close to her, shouting to drown out the insults and whistles from the social centres and the cheering from the Zionists. Nancy shouted to her, “Marina, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs smiled at you! Do you realize that? In man’s memory, nobody has ever seen Avigdor Lieberman smiling in public!” In the meantime Paola and Lucia continued shouting in a chorus, “Yaron Yaron”, stopping just a moment to make Carla notice that they had told her that Yaron was even better in person than in photos. Erika shouted, “Marina, Yaron is absolutely awesome!” and Greta added, “He’s too good looking! He’s stunning! He’s super handsome! The next time I’m also coming to Palestine, Marina!” Nancy called to him, “Ciao Yaron!” waving a hand, and adding in a lower voice, “Ah no, he doesn’t even notice me, he has eyes only for you, Marina! It’s a pity, I have absolutely no possibility of taking him away from you ...” and Greta shouted to her, “He’s handsome and impossible, Nancy, for you, just like the song!” and Paola commented, “Girls, us three were saying that as well in Palestine, Yaron is just like the song!” And the six girls started singing in a chorus, in which Marina joined as well after not having answered anybody until that moment so as not to be distracted for a single moment from Yaron. They all sang the refrain of the song by Gianna Nannini at the top of their voices for a few seconds, “Bello, bello e impossibile, con gli occhi neri e il tuo sapor mediorientale! Bello, bello e invincibile, con gli occhi neri e la tua bocca da baciare!” (translator’s note: it’s the complete refrain of the song by Gianna Nannini: "Handsome, handsome and impossible, with your black eyes and your middle eastern flavour! Handsome, handsome and invincible, with your black eyes and your kissable mouth!"), before realizing that Yaron could not understand the words and that the guys from Montelungo would not appreciate a love song during their protest. Suddenly, the politicians and the escort stopped and Yaron was standing less than ten meters away from Marina. Marina, who due to the excitement could no
  • 119. 120 longer shout, repeated in a low voice to him, “You are finally here, here with me, you are so good looking, I missed you so much, I love you very much” and she sent him kisses with her mouth but without her hands, so as not to let go even for a second of her banner which said the most important thing about her. Also Yaron’s heart was bursting with joy, it was obvious from how his eyes were shining and from the smile that he could not hold back. A man and a woman took a step away from the line of Italian politicians, and the crowd soon realized that they were not two interpreters but two opera singers. In fact without any musical instrument accompaniment, they started singing “HaTikva”, the Israeli national anthem. The Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and all the soldiers of the escort put their hands on their heart and started singing. Yaron, filled with joy, sang as well, without ever removing his gaze from Marina. And she, who knew the words by heart after having listened a thousand times to the song by the Maccabeats, tightened her grip on the sticks of the banner and sang out loud HaTikva, looking at Yaron and smiling at him, as if she were singing only for him. Yaron managed to finally hear Marina’s sweet voice, and he was so happy that, under his hand, he could feel his heart beating so fast as if it really was going to burst with joy. He beat his index finger of that hand on his heart, and then with that finger he indicated Marina and then his own heart again, and Marina had to stop looking at him for a second so as not to cry and to continue singing. The whistles and the insults of the social centres could not completely cover the voices of the two opera singers, sustained by the chorus of the Zionist demonstrators, the voices of the Israeli Minister and the eight soldiers in the escort, and by the voice of Marina. The Israeli national anthem was being sung by the two singers in a very different way to the version by the Maccabeats: at the beginning slower and sadder, and at the end more proud and full of hope, and Marina had to adapt her way of singing HaTikva to this new and solemn way. It must have been the joy of seeing Yaron face to face and singing with him, so much that she heard their voices mixing into one, yet Marina had to admit that the national anthem of Israel was absolutely lovely and in less than two minutes it created emotions that went from sadness to hope. When everybody sang “od lo” together, whatever it meant for Marina, and suddenly the sad and resigned tone of the music rose in a kind of trusting prayer, she felt as if she was receiving a promise. And when at the end they sang the last “Yerushalayim” with the voices rising together, Marina had the feeling that this promise could not fail to be realized. She looked at her beloved Yaron singing with her and smiling at her, and she thought of when they had prayed together in the synagogue in Megiddo, and she convinced herself that the hope hidden in these incomprehensible words would become true. In fact, it had already happened. Marina didn’t know that “od lo” meant “not yet” in Hebrew, and that this song was created from the desire of the Jewish people to meet up again in their holy city, from which they had been banished but which they had continued to love with all their heart for thousands of years. The promise, with the state of Israel, had finally been kept. If she had
  • 120. 121 known the meaning of the words that she had just sung, Marina would have find even more faith in the future. A future together with this absolutely wonderful boy standing in front of her and smiling at her emotionally, and who now occupied her heart and thoughts. How pale the Italian anthem “Fratelli d’Italia” seemed at that point, that not even with all their good intentions, could the opera singers turn it into something solemn and moving! However, the Israeli Minister and his escort listened to it respectfully, and Yaron used this moment to admire his Marina in peace, so beautiful and happy, and so sweet with her banner. Whereas, Marina’s friends, who during HaTikva had remained in silence so as not to disturb Marina with their chatting, now with the Italian anthem, they went wild. Furthermore, during the Israeli anthem, they had understood that it was better not to disturb Yaron either, by calling and waving at him, because they could see that the two lovers were taking advantage of that song to live a moment that united only the two of them, as if there were nobody else around. Yet now, during Fratelli d’Italia, could voice all the things that their curious eyes had noticed during HaTikva: the other seven soldiers of the escort! Nancy exclaimed for first, “Did you see the mirror image of Yaron?” And Greta asked her, “Nancy, all of a sudden have you learnt the rules of symmetry?” “Keep quiet Greta, you don’t even know what symmetry is!” Nancy answered her and in the meantime tried to attract the soldier’s attention by waving violently at him, and as a matter of fact he noticed her and even winked at her, “Girls! Did you see that he winked at me?” “Come on, calm down Nancy, because none of the other seven can compare with Yaron!” Lucia told her. “I, on the other hand, wouldn’t discard them though!” Erika added and waved at the one next to Yaron, who however remained impassive, “He didn’t even bother to look at me, girls. There’s no hope for me!” “No, Erika, maybe that’s what he’s like, a fake statue like Eyal, Yaron’s friend that we met in Palestine,” Lucia consoled her with a little regret. The comments about the soldiers continued until the end of the Italian anthem, and the attempts to conquer through greetings and kisses sent with their hands brought about the following remarkable results: the abovementioned wink at Nancy, a little smile for Paola, for Greta however there was a bigger smile because her soldier unveiled some nice white teeth, and a tiny hint of a kiss that Carla swore having seen. The girls would fantasize about these gestures for months, magnifying them until turning them into little love stories. Yet, considering that the girls were showing anti-Israel banners, perhaps the actions of the soldiers held a deeper meaning than a cute wink. A way of showing that they too were normal guys, like everyone else, and that surely, despite the machine guns, they were less violent than those hotheads who, next to and behind the girls, had not stopped for one moment shouting insults and threats.
  • 121. 122 When the Italian anthem had finished, the politicians, opera singers and the escort moved quickly towards the armoured cars, and Yaron looked at Marina until he had to climb into the car. At that moment he put a hand over his heart and repeated the gesture with his index finger that he had done during HaTikva, and the two youngsters smiled at each other filled with joy because they knew that they would be seeing each other later and they could really stay together for two hours. The walk towards the cars was accompanied by the whistles from the protesters of the social centres, but also by the cheers of the pro-Israel demonstrators with their beautiful white and blue flags, and by the enthusiasm of the girls from Montelungo who were waving energetically at the soldiers shouting out greetings and sending them kisses, with a succession of “ciao” and “hello” in which Carla managed to slip in some “shalom”, hoping that Jacopo wouldn’t notice. When the cars left, the boys from Montelungo were raging mad. “What the fuck were those greetings?” they shouted at the girls. “We were saying hello to Marina’s boyfriend, Jacopo, she’s been speaking to us about him for two months, for fuck’s sakes!” Erika said to him, and Nancy added, “I, personally, was waving at the singer. Didn’t you see how stunning he was?” trying to move the discussion from the Israeli soldier to the Italian singer. In fact the boys’ anger subsided and everybody started putting their banners and flags into their rucksacks and bags, and they walked off together to go back to the station. However, when they were outside the airport, Marina started the skit that she had carefully prepared and explained only to Lucia. She started sobbing and despairing, saying that she wanted to try at all costs to see Yaron once more, even if only for a minute, when he came out, in who knows how many hours, from the Foreign Ministry. The guys didn’t care the less about her or what she wanted to do, and so they let her go and get a taxi without a fuss and, above all, without suspicion. Marina got into a taxi and arrived a short while later at the Foreign Ministry. She climbed the stairs, showed her passport to the guards at the entrance and asked where the conference room was. She went in the direction they had indicated to her, but right after the entrance she found Yaron in front of her who wanted to say so many things to her and managed only to say, “Marina” and then he hugged her emotionally. She smiled at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Yaron” as if to be sure that it was really him and not a mirage, and before saying anything else they gave each other a shy kiss on their closed lips. Yaron linked his arm with hers and said, “Come, Marina, let’s go and visit Rome ...” “Huh?” replied Marina in disbelief, since the rules that Yaron had laid down seemed absolutely strict. “But we have to stay outside the conference hall for the entire two hours, Yaron ...” “Marina, he changed his mind ...” Yaron told her and, while he walked with her through the entrance and down the steps of the building, he explained to her why the Minister had decided to leave him free to go out of the Foreign Ministry. While he was talking, Yaron found the courage that he had lost as soon as he saw
  • 122. 123 Marina in front of him at the entrance, and he said enthusiastically, “You gained everyone’s affection, Marina! Did you see the Minister, he’s a real tough one, eh? And yet he felt moved when he saw your banner. Thank you my love, I never would have expected to see you with those words.” And he stopped hallway down the staircase to give her another little kiss and to caress her cheek and hair. Marina hugged him tightly, she went on tiptoe and whispered in his ear, “Yaron ani ohevet otha meod.” Yaron lifted her as if she were a child and she was surprised to see how effortlessly he picked her up, he gave her another little kiss and said, “Gam ani ohev otah meod, Marina.” Then he took her hand and they arrived at the end of the staircase, and Marina concentrated for a minute and said to him while hugging him tightly, “Yaron, let me understand ... the Minister changed his mind because I gained his affection?” “Yes, Marina, he said it was like seeing a flower among a lot of thorns.” “Avigdor Lieberman said something like that? I can’t believe it, Yaron!” “Yet he really compared you to a flower. It’s obvious, you’re so beautiful and sweet ...” and he gave her another caress on the cheek and another kiss on the mouth. He took the map from his pocket and went towards the tube, holding her hand. “Did you bring a map, Yaron?” Marina asked, squeezing his hand between both of hers. “Yes, when I went home on leave I saw it in a shop and thought of buying it. After all we would use it sooner or later, at least on honeymoon ...” he said smiling and winking at her. “And here we are already, my beautiful love! Let’s go at once to the Coliseum to get married, ok?” Marina said to him hugging his neck and giving him another little kiss. They went to the tube station and Yaron surprised her by buying the tickets. “Why have you got euros, Yaron?” “Ilan, my French fellow soldier in my battalion who arrived a few months ago, and who I thought was Israeli, exchanged some of my shekels. The one who was planning a trip to France when you and I met, and I thought of organizing one in Italy. He told me that maybe today I might have needed a few euros, that we must never give up hope, and he even cited David Ben Gurion, one of the founders of the state of Israel, In order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” “And as a matter of fact, we’re here together! Free! Going around Rome! It’s so wonderful!” Marina told him full of joy as they slimed onto the cramped tube, and Yaron held on with a hand to the handle on the ceiling. Marina clung to him and hugged him tightly, and allowed her hair to be caressed all happy like a kitten. The coach started and its shakes made them laugh and exclaim together, “Lucia’s driving!”, Yaron let go for a second of Marina’s hair and removed his beret, and folded it and put it beneath the shoulder strap of the uniform. “How did you manage with only one hand?” Marina asked him in admiration. “Months and months of training!” “That’s what all your drills are for ... I wish, my love ... but I don’t want to think of anything ugly today, I don’t want to think of the risks you take, Yaron.”
  • 123. 124 “However, I know how to defend myself, my love.” “I hope so with all my heart, Yaron ... What happened to the machine gun you had at the airport?” “I had to leave it at the Foreign Ministry, if I wanted to keep it I needed written authorization, with stamps. Anyway I hope I won’t need it today ... and they hadn’t prepared any authorization for me because I wasn’t supposed to leave the Foreign Ministry,” Yaron told her kissing her on the forehead and continuing to caress her hair, “I’m getting used to your dreads, have you noticed? I don’t get my fingers stuck anymore!” Marina went on tiptoe, she gave him a little kiss on the lips and said, “Bravissimo!”, then she stretched out and caressed Yaron’s hair, “You cut it, you look so good! You’re so handsome, Yaron!” He smiled at her and said, “And you are marvellous, Marina! Really! And you look so good with that little skirt ... you really looked like a flower at the airport!” “And Lieberman said such a thing! It’s crazy, if you hadn’t told me such a thing, Yaron, I wouldn’t have believed it!” “It’s not very pleasant always being welcomed with insults, whistling and ugly sentences ...” They got off the tube and arm in arm walked through the corridor that led to the Coliseum, and Yaron continued speaking, “There’s always somebody there to welcome us with the Israeli flags, thank heavens, but today among all those hotheads there was you, with your sentence and your smile ... and you were the very image of happiness, do you know that? The others in the escort told me the same thing! Although you were crying at the beginning, you poor thing, it broke my heart to see you like that, you really missed me, eh?” “So very much, Yaron! And seeing you didn’t seem real, there so close to me ... and instead now we really are here, together, it’s absolutely lovely! You and I freely going around Rome!” Marina repeated hugging him tightly, and they stopped to give each other another little kiss. “My little flower, do you know what you did that really moved the Minister the most?” “The banner?” “No, the fact that you sang HaTikva. That you knew all the words and you sang it all with us, even if you had all those crazed thorns around you. This thing really struck him, he said you’re an exceptional girl and he compared us to ... guess who?” “Romeo and Juliet!” “Yes, Marina, the same thing that everybody says to me when they see the photo of us outside the synagogue.” “Me too, Yaron, everybody says that to me! But it’s a story that ends badly, Yaron, I don’t like it!” “Ours will have a happy ending, Marina. Better still, it’ll be without an end, it will carry on happily forever!”
  • 124. 125 Marina hugged him, squeezed him, caressed his back and arms. She didn’t know what else to do to keep close to him and show him she loved him, and Yaron totally enveloped her in his arms and filled her hair with kisses, then they climbed the last steps of the tube exit and they found themselves in front of the Coliseum. “Wow!” they both exclaimed and walked towards the arena. “It’s terrific, Marina!” “Wonderful, Yaron!” “Let’s take a photo!” they said together and Marina removed the camera from her new bag while Yaron removed his from his jacket pocket. They asked a man who was passing by to take two photos for them with the two cameras, then Marina changed her mind and said to Yaron, “I think your camera is better than mine. Let’s use only yours today and then you can send me the photos, so we don’t have to ask everyone to take two photos, ok, Yaron?” “Of course, Marina, you’re right!” “Excuse me, you can just take one photo with this camera, thank you,” Marina told the man they had stopped in the street in Italian, and he asked if he could take one of them with his own cell phone, “Because you two are so beautiful, and you seem Romeo and Juliet!”, Yaron smiled at him because he had understood the last words and he winked at Marina. “However our story will have a happy ending, “ she said to the man, “better still, it will carry on happily forever!” “Best wishes then, guys!” the stranger said to them and took the two photos, then he said goodbye to them and wished them a happy holiday in Rome. Marina pointed to the band on Yaron’s right arm and said to him, “Yaron, with such a big stripe like that, a lot of people will compare us to Romeo and Juliet today ...” In fact it was a little Israeli flag, and it was bigger than the one that Yaron had on his uniform arm in Samaria. “This is the representative uniform, with all the bigger coats of arms. Look at the one of Tzahal,” and he showed her, just under the left shoulder, the circular crest of the army. “I don’t understand what the word Tzahal means, Yaron. Army, maybe?” “No, it’s short for Tzva HaHagana LeIsrael which means Israel Defense Forces, in fact our army is also called IDF.” Marina looked at him perplexed and said, “Defense, Yaron ... instead, we should say assault!” yet she immediately added, together with Yaron, “No! Not today!” and they burst out laughing hugging each other. Then they walked around the Coliseum to get a good look at it. “It’s really beautiful, Yaron!” “Absolutely grand! Had you never seen it either, Marina?” “No, Yaron.” “Then this is also your first trip to Rome?” “No, well, I’ve been to Rome twice before, always to “welcome” Israeli politicians, but we only did the route from the train to Ciampino. On one of the two occasions there was Lieberman. I don’t think he considered me a little flower, that time.”
  • 125. 126 “Obviously you were still a little seed, back then!” “Yes, sure ... a little seed among the thorns, Yaron.” “Why not, Marina? If there isn’t a good seed, a beautiful flower will never grow. In this little heart there was already a good seed also at the other “welcoming”, but Lieberman couldn’t have noticed,” he told her putting his index finger on her heart. Marina put her index finger on his jacket, over his heart, where he had made that gesture with his hand both when they were singing HaTikva and before getting into the car, and said, “And this big heart, two months ago, recognized the little seed that was already in my heart and made a beautiful flower blossom.” and she started crying hugging Yaron. “Marina, darling, don’t cry! Come, let’s go for a walk in this avenue with these beautiful big trees. Look at how beautiful the sky is through the branches! Maybe if we go there, where there are the ruins down below, we can also see the view among the sprigs.” “You’re a love, Yaron, you are my joy! However, I was also a hothead, and I shouted insults and hate and ugly things, until I met you.” “Marina, you’re a wonderful person! You are so good, really! Otherwise, you would never even have taken me into consideration, given your ... political preferences, let’s say.” “Well, Yaron, I don’t know ... anyway, I took you into consideration! And this was the most beautiful and important thing I’ve ever done in my life!” They stopped to hug each tightly and to give each other another little kiss, and then they went towards the ruins of the Imperial Fora and Marina suddenly stopped and said, “Yaron, look! How beautiful, there’s a plate under this olive tree that says that this tree was donated to Rome by the state of Israel! Wow, we came across this sentence, right now! That means that I didn’t have the good seed in my heart, and you gave it to me when we met.” “That’s not true, Marina, you’ve always been a good person, I’m sure about that because I understood it as soon as I saw you.” “My Yaron! Thank you! Thank you for having this faith in me, it’s beautiful, it’s incredible!” Yaron cradled her a bit in his arms and then he realized that he still hadn’t told her an important thing. “Marina, my love, I still haven’t given you an important news, we’ve got four hours to stay together!” “Really, Yaron? Not two?” Marina said starting to jump up and down. “Yes, Marina! They told me in the car. They said that other topics had been added to the conference and they’ll stay inside the room for four hours, so as long as we return in three and a half hours to the area of the Foreign Ministry, we can hang around there. The seventh soldier, who came just to make the escort symmetric, told me that he’ll call me on the cell phone when he sees that the conference is about to finish. It’ll take some time for it to finish really, and for them to say goodbye to each other with all the ceremonies, and we’ll have enough time to present ourselves outside the conference hall when they’re about to leave.” “That’s fantastic, we have so much time for ourselves, Yaron!” “We can have a candlelit snack, almost as I promised you, Marina. What about this bar?”
  • 126. 127 “Perfect! Look, Yaron, they have candles on the tables!” And, hand in hand, they entered the bar, with the walls and ceiling of the same blue as the sky on that splendid day. They sat at a round table and moved the chairs so they could be as close as possible. They hugged and gave each other another little kiss and then Marina removed her jacket and hung it at the back of the chair. Yaron undid his jacket but kept it on and said, “Marina! You’re wearing the things I gave you in Megiddo, thank you!” “They are absolutely my favourite t-shirt and sweater, I wear them all the time! You’re really stunning, Yaron, you look great in uniform!” “Ah, it’s the uniform, isn’t it? Marina, one day you’ll see me in jeans and t-shirt and I’ll seem like a toad.” “What an idiot I am, Yaron, I’ve only ever seen you in a uniform, you’re right! But I don’t think that you could ever be ugly, no matter what you’re wearing!” Yaron raised his eyes to the sky and said worriedly, “But, if I really seem like a toad to you, what will we do then, Marina?” “Oh, you sly thing, I know what you’re getting at! Let me see if I can turn you into a handsome prince, or maybe you can turn me into a little frog and I can stay forever in your pocket,” and a tear fell down her cheek at the thought of not always being able to stay near him. “Wait, Yaron, I have to give you this now.” She removed a box of matches from her bag, Yaron opened it and found a little doll, that was like a tiny baby of a few months, dressed with a little jumpsuit and hat of the same coral colour of Marina’s t-shirt. It had green eyes, and under the bonnet there was a tuft of red hair. Marina took it and moved Yaron’s jacket slightly to put the little doll into the left pocket of his shirt. “Here, Yaron, so it’s as if I’m always there with you, on your heart,” and she couldn’t stop the tears. Yaron hugged her and kissed her, and nobody thought anymore about toads, princes and little frogs, and the waitress, who had arrived at their table to take their order, went away so as not to disturb them. She watched them for the whole time of their kiss and she called the other waitress to show her. This one defined them as “Romeo and Juliet” and the other one who had gone to their table said sadly, “I hope that their story has a happy ending, though ... Ok, I’m going to get their order, bye.” “Bye, thanks for calling me. They’re really lovely, they warm the cockles of our hearts ... Come on, not all love stories end badly!” Marina ordered a marocchino and recommended Yaron to get one as well, “It’s an espresso with a bit of cream and chocolate powder on top. It’s so good, try it, my love!” So she ordered one for Yaron as well and together they took an assortment of pastries. When the tray arrived, Marina got a fright, “Yaron, there are too many! You eat them all or I’ll become a fatty!” “It’ll be quite hard, my love, with those beautiful thin legs ...” “Lucia told me the same thing! She told me that I don’t look good with wide jeans, the ones I was wearing when we met.”
  • 127. 128 “That’s not true, you were very beautiful with those, Marina!” Meanwhile Yaron lit the long and thin candle on the table with a lighter. “Let’s get another candle from another table, Yaron, so it’s like that Saturday celebration you were telling me about!” Yaron took another candle and blew on the lit one, “Because, Marina, if we want to make the candles of the Shabbat, the lady of the house has to switch them on.” He gave her the lighter and a little kiss while caressing her hair. Marina became serious and emotional. “Must I say something when I light them, Yaron?” “After lighting them you must pass your hand a few times over the candles, careful not to burn yourself! That’s it, very good. Now you must cover your eyes with both your hands and recite this blessing, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe” and Marina repeated this keeping both her hands over her eyes, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe” “Who has sanctified us with His commandments” “Who has sanctified us with His commandments” “And commanded us to kindle the lights of Shabbat.” “And commanded us to kindle the lights of Shabbat.” “Amen.” “Amen.” “Very good, my darling. Now you can remove your hands from your eyes, and you must look at the two candles as if it were the first time that you see the light.” “Then it’s enough for me to look at you, Yaron, to make the right expression,” Marina said, drying a tear. Yaron caressed her wet cheek and gave her a little kiss, and Marina asked him, “Yaron, we lit the Saturday candles on a Thursday, is that ok?” “That’s ok, Marina, the moment is always right to thank our Lord for the light, and for allowing us to meet.” “And meet again.” “He really listened to us in the synagogue, didn’t He, Marina?” Yaron asked caressing her head. “Oh yes, He’s been really good, Yaron, we have to admit it!” Yaron put the two candles next to each other and said, “Marina, if we could link them together, we could also make the multiple candle of Havdalah, for the blessing of Saturday night, when the Shabbat ends.” “How lovely, they would be linked like we are,” Marina said hugging him tightly and adding, “When you light them the day after tomorrow, promise me that you’ll think of us two embracing, eh, Yaron?” “Of course, my darling.” Meanwhile, the waitress returned and Yaron saw Marina opening her bag. “You’re not thinking of paying, Marina? It’s on me.” “Ok, but if we get something else in another bar, I’ll pay, Yaron.” “Let me offer everything, Marina. You’re my girlfriend, and I’m taking you around Rome!” and they left the bar embracing and happy. The waitress who had served
  • 128. 129 them watched what they were doing with the candles and understood that they had been praying and, just before the other waitress arrived, she blew out the candles and whispered, “May they live happily ever after.” They walked embracing under the maritime pines to a park, where they saw a sycamore tree rise high into the sky. Marina stopped and said to Yaron, “Look, a sycamore! They are my favourite trees, and especially in this season, with those spiny little balls hanging from the branches, they’re so beautiful!” “Let’s go and look at it properly, Marina, it’s really beautiful, it must be a hundred years old.” They entered the park and went to the tree, whose beautiful shape thrilled Marina. “Look, Yaron! It looks like a dancer raising her arms above its head starting from folded arms. Look, it seems as if the six big branches are describing the whole route of the lifted arms!” “You’re right, Marina, it’s wonderful. Trees have all of this harmony, like shells. If you look at them from underneath, you can see that every branch comes out from the trunk with the same angle as all the other branches, and also as all of the other trees of the same type.” “Yaron, you’ve ruined the poetry of trees!” Marina said bursting out with laughter and hugging him. “All we need is me to say the word algorithm!” he said laughing. “Wonderful, Yaron, algorithm! Like circumspect, impolite and notwithstanding! So, my prince notwithstanding you, would you like to receive the grace of becoming a toad and staying forever in my pocket on my heart?” “I’d love to, princess!” “Well then, kneel down, my prince, and I’ll also kneel down in the event that the spell works on me too, and then you may receive the kiss of love.” They solemnly knelt down under the sycamore tree and Marina kissed him lightly on the lips. “Nothing, Marina, it didn’t work. I haven’t become your pocket toad.” “And I haven’t become your little frog either. Why doesn’t it work, Yaron?” “Well, Marina, we must insist ...” And so they sat under the tree, on the cold, short November grass on the lawn, and they embraced and kissed in peace, without anybody seeing them, until a group of mothers arrived with their children in strollers. So Yaron and Marina got up and moved away, they watched where the mothers were headed and went in the opposite direction. They arrived in an area where there was a big sandy square, where children usually played but today it was deserted. They sat down on the sand and Yaron took her hand and guided it like in Samaria, drawing a heart in the sand with their names in it. “Let’s write it in Hebrew, yours, Yaron, because I’ve also learnt it ... there, and on the outside, we’ll put an arrow with the point towards the top, like that!” “Perfect, it looks really nice, Marina!” “It’s a pity that it’s on the sand, it won’t last long, Yaron.” “Not its meaning, though,” and Yaron raised his wrist with the bracelet that Marina had given him in Samaria, and gave a little kiss to the key. So Marina
  • 129. 130 removed her chain from under her t-shirt, and gave a little kiss to Yaron’s military tag, then she looked at it for a second and sighed, “What happens to you all day, there, Yaron? I’m worried.” “Don’t worry, my love. I’m in a tranquil area, sometimes we’ve been attacked but they’ve never managed to even injure us,” Yaron said caressing her hair and kissing her on the forehead. “Sorry, Marina, I’ve filled your hair with sand.” “It doesn’t matter, it’ll go away. And if it doesn’t, that’ll be fine by me.” “You’ve become sad, my little one?” “I can’t think of the risks that you take, Yaron. I’m really hurting.” “We are all really well trained, Marina. Do you watch the news every now and then?” “Yes.” “Have you seen that we always win?” “Almost always, Yaron.” “Don’t worry, nothing will ever happen to me. I’ll always be fine. Ok?” “Yes, ok, Yaron,” Marina replied and her worried expression became serious as she asked him, “Yaron, have you ever killed anybody?” “Yes, Marina. Necessarily.” “How did it happen?” “Every time that we get attacked we must defend ourselves, and very seldom do we manage to avoid a shooting.” “So it’s happened many times, Yaron?” “Sometimes, yes, almost every time that they’ve attacked us.” “How many people have you killed, Yaron?” “I don’t know. About ten, twenty.” “And how did it happen?” “At the beginning, when I had just finished the training, we were sent to a Palestinian village from which they were continuously attacking the Israelis in the nearby villages. From the balconies, they were machine-gunning the Israelis who passed in front of their houses. And they were throwing mortar shells, missiles and kassam rockets on schools and homes, such as those rockets that from Gaza hit the nursery schools that you yourself helped to protect with the anti-missile shelters. It wasn’t Nitzan, but the result was the same: Palestinian bombs on Israeli children.” Yaron knew that he was saying terrible things to her, but this thing couldn’t remain hidden for long as if nothing was happening. His uniform was no longer just a nice suit, it was a work uniform, and his work was to defend his country. And seeing that his country was continuously being attacked by the enemy, he had to kill this enemy, he had no other choice. “I had just finished the training, and I had never shot at anything in my life, except a plastic target. The air force had identified the building that the terrorists used as a weapons depot: a school, of course, because they don’t care about their children. But we do, therefore we definitely couldn’t attack the school during the day, so we waited for the night. The fire from the helicopters protected the tanks,
  • 130. 131 and they freed the road for us so as to avoid us too many hand-to-hand combats, otherwise, for us in the infantry, walking down the road leading to the school would have been like walking into a minefield. Even along that road I had to kill enemies. I was terrified, not only was I killing people, but for the first time I found myself in a real battle. I realized that no training simulation had prepared me for that anguish, you don’t know what lies around the corner you have to pass by, and your legs become paralyzed because the step you are about to take may be the last. And you cannot shoot wildly because around the corner there might be a terrorist, yes, but hidden behind a human shield. Or it may be a terrified civilian, maybe an old man, a child, a sick man, someone who didn’t understand what was going to happen, despite the leaflets with warnings in Arabic that we had launched from helicopters throughout the afternoon.” “Have you ever really found yourself in front of a human shield, Yaron?” “Yes, but not that time. A few months later, in another Palestinian village, in an apartment building that had been reported as a weapons depot. In fact, there we then found, at the end of the operation, hundreds of kassam missiles. Two of us entered. I was in front, and at the top of the stairs I was immediately faced with a terrorist holding a small child. He probably wasn’t even three, kicking desperately and trying to scream, but we couldn’t hear him because the terrorist had covered his mouth with a rag. I stayed still and I was under fire. I thought I had no way out, because my fellow, Liran, behind me, was in an even worse position to defend me. I remained motionless because at least he could go back and save himself, instead Liran, as he explained later, lay down on the steps and put his machine gun next to him. From there he managed to aim smoothly at the abdomen of the terrorist, because he was holding the baby up in air, in front of his chest and head, and the more the baby kicked and tried to scream, the higher he held him. When Liran shot, the terrorist died immediately after, and I picked up the child and saw that he was ok. We alerted the base to send the medical service, because anyway we still had to keep him in hospital until his relatives had been tracked down. Liran and I we stayed there to try to calm him down, and when the child had quietened down we noticed weak moans coming from another room. I put the baby into Liran’s arms and I went to see. On the ground there was a woman in a pool of blood, half-dead. I saw she had a vein in the neck that had been sliced and I immediately medicated her to stop the bleeding. We are taught first aid techniques at the beginning of the training, and since it was a vein and not an artery, the doctors managed to save her. She told the doctors that she was the mother of the child, and that the terrorist had snatched him from bed to use him as a human shield. She had tried to take her son away, so the terrorist had cut her throat with a knife. Fortunately, the knife had only cut a vein, as I said before.” For as long as Yaron spoke, Marina had been sitting in front of him, on the sand, listening to his every word and watching every expression of his face and every movement of his hands. Now she embraced him and clung onto him, then she
  • 131. 132 looked into his eyes and said, “Stop being a soldier. Please Yaron. I know it's mandatory, but I cannot think of you running these risks.” “I don’t only do it because it’s mandatory. Israel is my home, the home of my people. If we don’t defend our own home, who will? We have already seen that no one will defend us, Marina, on the contrary.” Marina looked at him with such a worried and disappointed expression that broke Yaron’s heart. “My love, do you understand that I have no choice? I’ll carry out my duty for another few months and then I’ll be all yours. Ok, my beautiful little star?” As Marina’s face lit up with a little smile, Yaron helped her to get up, he linked his arm with hers and said softly, “Let’s go back to our sycamore tree, ok, Marina?” They quietly went back to the sycamore and sat down again on the grass. Marina still had the sad and serious look of before, she raised her arms a bit and put both her hands on Yaron’s face and caressed it slowly, then she closed her eyes and continued saying, “I want to remember your face with my hands, Yaron, like the blind do. So when I won’t see you anymore, I’ll still remember you. Because photos aren’t enough.” “Marina, it seems little gruesome,” Yaron said trying to lighten the situation. “Maybe it is, Yaron, really, but I’m terrified of losing you.” Yaron stopped her hands and kissed them. Marina opened her eyes and her expression was really desperate. “My darling, little one! Don’t worry, I’ll always be alright!” Yaron told her, cradling her in his arms and adding, “And then we’ll see each other in February, and from September onwards we’ll see each other every month. And then we’ll see each other every day.” Then Yaron looked into her eyes and saw that he hadn’t managed to console her. So he listed all the months when they would see each other again, and for every month he gave her a kiss. “February” on her forehead, “September” on her eyelid, “October” on her other eyelid, “November” on her nose, “December” on her cheek, “January” on her other cheek, “February” on her mouth, “March” on her chin. He stopped and looked at her, and when Marina said “April” he hugged her hard and filled her with kisses. A quarter of an hour later the mothers returned with their children in the strollers to leave the park. Yaron and Marina looked at each other slightly exasperated. “They are following us!” Yaron whispered to her and then opened a pocket of his military jacket. “I brought you a present, Marina, directly from Jerusalem, when I went back home on leave.” and he handed her a slightly battered packet, “It has been in my pocket for a long time, sorry ...” “Thank you, Yaron! What a darling you are! You thought of me also when you were at home on leave, with your brother and your celebration.” “Of course, I always think of you, Marina!” He caressed her head and Marina gave him a little kiss before opening the packet. Inside there was a little doll with a stuffed grey-green body, little light pink plastic hands closed into fists, and a pink plastic sleeping face. It was as big as a kitten and seemed like a minute newborn
  • 132. 133 girl, wrapped in a crushed and crumpled teddy bear onesie. “What a marvel, Yaron! It’s a doll by Anne Geddes! It’s absolutely beautiful!” While she thanked him, Marina caressed the stuffed part and made it smooth and soft again. It didn’t seem like a teddy bear anymore, but she could clearly see that it was a little hedgehog. “A hedgehog-doll! Yaron! I didn’t even know it existed! How did you find it? My God, what a darling you are, you gave me a hedgehog-doll!” Marina repeated enthusiastically. Yaron looked at his Marina with fondness, a real tough girl with dreads and keffiyeh, who was holding the little doll close to her heart and didn’t stop praising the little sleeping eyes and the serene smile. “Look, Yaron, at the marvellous peaceful expression it has! It gives me such serenity ... And it’s actually a hedgehog! It’s incredible, Yaron! It’s marvellous! And feel how soft it is! And what a perfume! Smell it, Yaron, it smells like a real stuffed toy, it feels as if I’m in a toy shop where my mom used to take me as a child! And you chose it, Yaron! A soldier! You’re a soldier and you chose this marvellous absolutely sweet hedgehog-doll for me! You really love me a lot, Yaron! Thank you, my love!” She felt so grateful as she hugged him, and Yaron was moved because this doll had managed to show Marina all of his love. In fact, Yaron had hoped that something half person half hedgehog existed, and he had asked the female soldiers and searched in the Internet. When he had finally found the picture of this doll, he had telephoned every toy shop in Jerusalem, but nobody had it. So he had ordered it through the Internet and asked for it to arrive at one of these shops, and then he had gone to fetch it when he was back home on leave. So, really, this doll brought along with itself all the care and patience Yaron had had to find it, and thus it could tell Marina’s heart that Yaron loved her very much. “It must absolutely not get ruined, Yaron! I can’t put it into my bag like this! What can I do? It needs a little house, a case, some kind of hard box. What can I use, Yaron?” “Marina, if it didn’t get ruined in my pocket, it will never get ruined.” “But it was wrapped in the packet! And I ripped all the paper to open it, what a cretin ... But I have a little scarf in my bag, a pashmina ... Here, I’ll wrap it in this, it looks good in here, it’s the same colour as the little body, the same grey- green. What do you think, it won’t get ruined if I put it in my bag like this, will it, Yaron?” “No, absolutely not, look at how it’s sleeping well, all warm in that small cotton burrow that you created for it!” Marina looked at him full of joy and said, “What a darling you are, Yaron! You are too sweet, you’re not only a soldier or an algorithm!” Yaron burst out laughing and hugged her, while Marina was still holding her hedgehog-doll in the scarf. They stayed like that for a while longer, sitting under the sycamore hugging each other tightly, and then when they got up Marina looked at the tree and said, “Look, Yaron, its bark looks like a camouflage uniform, it looks like an enormous soldier, a giant.” And Marina seemed as if to focus on something. “Yaron, I always want to sleep with the hedgehog-doll in my
  • 133. 134 arms. Because I want to dream that you are a giant and I am very small, and you hold me in your arms over your heart like this, as I am doing with the doll.” Yaron put his hand under his military jacket and removed his Fiammiferina from his pocket, and gave her a little kiss and put it away. He kept his hand for a second on his heart and looked at Marina with such a happy and convinced smile that she could not help but put away the hedgehog-doll in her bag, well wrapped in her scarf, and hug him tightly to fill him with kisses. Then Marina focused on the mathematical sentence that Yaron had said before, when they entered the park to look at the sycamore tree. She did everything possible to try to remember that phrase about the tree branches, the angles, the algorithm. She wanted to tell him something that would make him understand that she listened to everything he said, and that she remembered it, and meditated on it. “Yaron, look at the sycamore branches again!” “It’s still dancing, Marina, have you seen it?” “No, Yaron, I wanted you to see that the algorithm with which its branches come out from the trunk has remained constant.” “Wow, Marina! And you said you weren’t good at maths ... Sorry, my love, we’d better not talk about it, tomorrow you’re going to be tested,” Yaron added, honestly sorry for having made her think of the test. Marina smiled at him with a heart full of tenderness, thinking that Yaron was careful not to remind her of her test, while before, on the sand, she didn’t mind reminding him about the fights, injuries, death, fear. A shudder passed down her back and a sense of guilt squeezed her heart, and she hugged him so hard in order to feel forgiven. Then they left the park and went to get an ice cream. “All chocolate?” Yaron asked Marina. “Do you remember when we had our first conversation on syllables, Yaron?” “Of course, my love.” “What a darling you are, you remember everything we said to each other!” “I relive our conversations every day, my teacher.” “What a good student! Yet maybe I also remember your favourite flavour, let’s see ... coffee?” “Exactly. But today hazelnut, in honor of Nutella.” “Yeah Yaron, you know what we’ll do? We’ll get two cones, both with hazelnut and chocolate, so it’ll seem as if we’re eating Nutella!” “Two cones with hazelnut and chocolate, thanks,” Yaron said to the barman and stopped Marina who already had her purse in her hand, which was a kind of coloured crocheted case. “It’s on me, Marina!” “You said that before, Yaron, I had forgotten ... I forgot one thing you said, and it’s even got three syllables: I’ll-o-ffer.” “It doesn’t matter Marina, don’t worry, ’cause they should be four syllables: I-will- o-ffer.”
  • 134. 135 “You’re right, Yaron, I-will-o-ffer are four syllables,” Marina said as they walked off arm in arm, holding their identical ice creams, and then she added, “We need to find three syllables to describe this marvellous day, Yaron.” “Algorithm?” “That would be perfect, Yaron, ’cause it’s got three syllables. But it makes me think to ugly, horrible, terrible maths, not to this beautiful, marvellous, wonderful day.” “I think the words three syllables are enough, Marina, to be totally happy. Even if there are four syllables.” “You’re saying such an interesting thing, Yaron, go on.” They both burst out laughing and Yaron went ahead with his explanation, while the two of them carried on walking arm in arm eating their ice creams. “I think, Marina, if one day we were to be separated for a long time ...” “No! What are you saying, Yaron! I don’t want to hear these horrible words!” “No, just listen, let me finish and you’ll see it’s a lovely thing.” “Ok, I’m listening, Yaron.” “So, Marina, if one something were to happen to us, such as we are on two different ships that sink in two opposite points of the ocean, and we found one another after many years ...” “After having swum and sailed with rafts and stopped on deserted islands, eating coconuts ...” “And getting closer day by day, swimming and sailing, from those two opposite points where we were shipwrecked ...” “When we finally met up again, Yaron ...” and Marina had to stop not to cry at the thought that in a while she would have to really separate from him for a long time. Yaron hugged her tighter to make her sadness pass. “We are here together now, Marina. Little one, let’s celebrate this beautiful moment that we’re spending together. Cheers ...” And he put the two almost finished ice creams together to make a toast, and added, “You were right, Marina, let’s forget this conversation about shipwrecks ’cause it’s too sad!” “No, Yaron, it’s a lovely conversation, ’cause we already said that we’ll meet again, so it has a happy ending. Let’s continue ... Cheers, my love.” “So, Marina, after all those years spent like that, eating only coconuts ...” “Swimming amongst the high waves and sharks, like two little points that slowly come closer ...” “When we finally meet, sunburnt, skeletal, unrecognizable ...” “Ragged, dishevelled ...” “With our faces hidden by a crust of dirt ...” “Yuck!” “And at that point, Marina, if one of us said the words three syllables ...” “We would recognize each other immediately, Yaron!”
  • 135. 136 “And we would run towards each other like in the movies, and I will lift you up like this, and I’d hug you like this, and I’d kiss you like this, and like this, and like this, and like this ...” Then they looked at each other smiling, but Yaron had tears in his eyes and had to look up so that they would not roll down his cheeks, he sighed heavily and said, “I miss you already.” Marina’s heart tightened to see him like this, he who had comforted her whenever she was sad due to nostalgia, and so she tried to raise his spirits this time, “Look, Yaron, let’s go into that church and get married!” “You're right, Marina, let's not miss the opportunity like in Megiddo.” They entered the long, narrow and dark church, but with a beautiful stained glass window above the door. They remained there and sat at the last row, on their own, because the other people were all sitting around twenty benches away, to hear Mass that had just begun. These words came from the altar, “Neither it is beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Yaron looked at Marina and said, “It's an important phrase for my religion as well, you know Marina?” “It’s the first time I hear it, Yaron ...” He caressed her on the head and smiled, “It’s a phrase that God told us after giving us the Ten Commandments.” “Come on, tell me, Yaron, I don’t remember anything.” “It says they are not impossible.” He put his arm around her shoulders, then with his other index finger he touched his heart and then hers and said, “Because they are written in our hearts.” Then he moved his index finger to his mouth, then to Marina’s and gave her a little caress saying, “and in our mouths.” Marina stopped smiling and became serious. “Also our love is not impossible, Yaron. Even if later on you’ll be beyond the sea.” Yaron looked at her moved and gave her a big kiss, after all nobody could see them at the back. Meanwhile, the reader began reciting the psalm, and when Marina and Yaron heard the refrain, “I will rejoice in the shadow of your wings”, he asked her if she had ever seen a hen with chicks. “No, Yaron. Now that I think about it, I’ve always seen the hens alone, or with some rooster, but I've never seen them with chicks.” “The chicks hide under the wings of the mother, they just disappear inside. You see a plump hen and all of a sudden even three chicks come out from under each wing, and before they were completely invisible.” “I also want to be always like that, Yaron, just as now, in your arms, in the shadow of your wings.” “My little one, my sweet chick, in a few months we'll always be together, you’ll see!”
  • 136. 137 “Let’s ask Him for it here as well, Yaron, like in Megiddo at the synagogue, seeing that we were listened to.” “Of course, Marina,” and he gave her a little kiss on the hair before removing his arm from her shoulder to let her concentrate in prayer. Marina got into the same position as in Megiddo, with her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. While Marina prayed, Yaron looked at her all the time, not daring to even caress her hair. Then they left the church holding hands and Marina said to him, “Yaron, you know, I don’t even know the Ten Commandments!” “Oh come on!” “I swear, Yaron! I mean, maybe if I concentrate I can also say them, but not in order ... Do you know them all well, in the right order?” “Yes, they are very important for us.” “Are there also those among the prayers that are said with the black band wrapped around the arm? Oh God, Yaron, I am so ashamed that I said those stupid things, sorry.” “Don’t worry, you didn’t even know what they were! Anyway, some also recite the Ten Commandments with the tefillin, yes.” “Do you recite them? Even if you don’t use the tefillin, I mean, do you recite the Ten Commandments among your prayers, Yaron?” “No, I recite the words that God told us after giving us the commandments, much earlier than the ones we heard in church: the Shema Israel, which is our most important prayer, and it also includes other phrases from the Deuteronomy and the Book of Numbers.” “Do you always recite them?” “Yes, every morning and every night, like many other Jews.” At that moment they were stopped for the umpteenth time, this time by an elderly couple, two Americans who were wondering if they could take a photo of them. “Can we? You look just ...” and Yaron and Marina said before them in chorus, “Romeo and Juliet!” “Everybody says that to you, don’t they?” “Oh, yes! But our story has a perennially happy continuation,” Yaron said and winked at Marina. The two youngsters took the opportunity to have some pictures taken with Yaron’s camera, as they did with all those who had stopped them to photograph them and to point out to them, inevitably, that they looked like Romeo and Juliet. Once the photos were finished, the two couples said goodbye to each other, “Many good wishes, then, guys! And may God bless you!” “Thank you, you too!” When the elderly couple had gone, Yaron hugged Marina tightly, he kissed her on her forehead and said, “Today we’ve received so many blessings and good wishes!” “Really, Yaron! We should always go around dressed like this, also when you’ve finished your military service!” “Really, Marina! Nobody can resist such a romantic match,” and he pointed to the band with its flag and Marina’s keffiyeh.
  • 137. 138 Marina hugged him tightly and gave him a little kiss, “My Yaron!” “My Marina!” Yaron said to her and lifted her from the ground and filled her with kisses. When Yaron put her back on the ground and they started walking again, Marina asked him, “Yaron, tell me that prayer you were talking about before. The one you say every morning and every night!” “The Shema Israel, sure, Marina. But it’s very long, I’ll only say the first sentences. So ... Hear Israel, the Lord is our God …” “No, Yaron, don’t translate it into English. Say it in your language, the way you always say it.” “As a matter of fact it sounds much better in Hebrew than in English, because Hebrew is the language in which it was written for the first time.” “Above all, I want to hear your words, Yaron, the ones you use.” So Yaron stopped, he took her hands and gave her a little kiss, then he closed his eyes and started reciting the prayer in Hebrew, “Shema Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad. Veahavta et Adonai Eloekha, bekhol levavekha, uvkhol nafshekha, uvkhol meodekha. Veayu hadevaryim haelle, asher anokhi metzavekha hayom, al levavekha. Veshinantam levanekha, vedibarta bam, beshivtekha bevetekha, uvlehtekha vaderekh, uvshokhbekha, uvkumekha. Marina, you can’t have understood, I’m sorry.” “I got a bit lost, yes, Yaron! For now I understand only one sentence in Hebrew, but it’s the most important of all, even more than the ones you’ve just said, you know? Yaron ani ohevet otha meod!” “Marina ani ohev otah meod,” he answered her smiling and hugging her. “Yaron, for all the time that you said your prayer, I kept thinking of its beginning. Israel is indeed your name. Who was there, in your area, quite a long time ago, didn’t call you Palestine, they called you Israel. I think you're right, Yaron, when you always say that the land of Israel has belonged to your people for 3500 years.” Yaron was really taken by these words and stayed in silence. His Marina, who had never backed down half a step on this subject, who despite Yaron’s maps and explanations had never understood this thing that was so close to his heart, had understood it now thanks to a prayer in a language unknown to her. “We have to go back to the Foreign Ministry, my love,” Yaron said with a sigh. “Oh no, Yaron ... ok, you’re right. It’s already great that we could spend this time together.” Yaron took Marina’s hand and went down to the subway, and hugged her close for all the time that they descended the stairs. When they arrived at the right stop, they went back up the stairs still embracing and they immediately saw in the distance the building of the Foreign Ministry, with its white staircase and its dark doorway. They turned the other way and looked for a place to stay, waiting for the call from the seventh guard. There was a bar with a games room, and Marina, in order to drive away the nostalgia that was now saddening them both, suggested they play a game of table football. “Come
  • 138. 139 on, Yaron! I can get revenge for that awful game we did before arriving in Megiddo!” “But there’s no possibility here either, Marina,” Yaron told her and led her inside holding her hand. “Red or blue?” Marina chose the red and they started playing. “You’re really good, Marina! What strikes!” “But they don’t pass, Yaron ... I'll use all my power!” Marina started rolling with the row with more players without giving up a second. The ball went in all directions, especially towards the top, but there was no way the ball would go into the goal. In fact, when Marina had to rest her arm for a moment and stopped rolling, Yaron took the opportunity to score. “Oh no, Yaron!” “You should have continued playing like before, Marina, you were so good, really! If you just roll you don’t even know where the ball ends up! Apart from the fact that that would be prohibited, at least for us. Then again, I don’t know the European rules of table football.” “Everything is valid here, Yaron!” “Also the hooks?” “Of course!” “Then there’s no way out!” and in a second he scored two goals. “No! I was joking, Yaron! Hooks aren’t allowed here either! And rolling ... well, only I can!” and she started making the strikers spin wildly, laughing like mad. “Marina, honey, it’s not a good idea if we get the ball in the face!” “Once a little ball chipped a tooth of mine, look, Yaron! It’s my medal for bravery!” “Show me, Marina ... I had never noticed. Did you pull the ball?” “Of course, rolling with all my power!” “Poor tooth, though. I have to console it, don’t you think?” “I think so, Yaron. It’s always there so sad and alone, without its lovely little piece ...” They sat next to table football cuddling until the call from the seventh soldier of the escort arrived, which they had totally forgotten about. Yaron answered and they left hand in hand, and walked to the Foreign Ministry in silence. When they arrived in front of the staircase they stopped to look up the door, and it was so dark and definitive that it frightened them. It was as if it said, “The End”, but the two of them should be together forever, be one that no one can divide, and didn’t manage to climb the first step. So they embraced where they were in front of the stairs, standing, and they kissed like in the movies, as if it were the first and the last kiss. And at the end they saw a baby in a stroller, immobile a meter away from the two of them, looking at them with wide eyes, smiling with his little mouth without teeth, and they seemed to be receiving the blessing of an angel and they both caressed him on the head. The mother was chatting to a friend and neither of them had noticed the kiss, but now the mother noticed them, and saw how they were holding each other while bending down to
  • 139. 140 her baby to smile at him with shining eyes. The mother’s friend looked at them as well and all four of them shared a little smile, and when the two youngsters embraced strongly and began to climb the steps with sad and frightened faces, neither of the two women dared to speak about Romeo and Juliet, because there was nothing funny about these two lovers who were evidently about to leave each other. They arrived at the entrance embracing and forgot about the controls, but the guards had recognized them and had no intention of asking for their documents. They went to the conference room and stayed outside waiting alone. They were both sad, and Yaron, in trying to cheer up Marina, asked her to let him see the banner again. “Of course, my love, here it is.” Marina pulled it out of the bag, she had neatly folded it so it was not wrinkled, they spread it on the window sill and looked at it. “It’s beautiful, Marina, you made the letters perfectly, and then you coloured them so well.” “Lucia helped me.” “How nice of her. It’s a pity that she has stopped talking to Eyal.” “We’ll talk to each other tomorrow night, Yaron. I’ll still be on the train tonight.” “That’s true, Marina, you still have a long way to travel! You’re not going to go around alone at night in the station, are you?” “No, my parents are coming to fetch me in Milan, so I don’t even have to wait for the train to Bergamo.” “How nice of them. This love they have for you is so beautiful, Marina.” “Yes. I can forgive a few of their arguments,” Marina said smiling at him for the first time since they arrived at the Foreign Ministry. “Marina, can I keep this banner?” “Of course, Yaron! It’s yours! I made it for you, why didn’t I think of giving it to you?” “I’d like to hand it on my bedroom wall, next to the window, as soon as I arrive at the barrack.” “How sad, Yaron, you’ll arrive at the barrack and it’s not your home.” “But we’re all friends, I spent two good years in the army. And the next few months will be even more beautiful because you’re here, here with me,” Yaron said to her while opening his shirt pocket and patting the Fiammiferina on the little head with his index. Marina opened her bag to take the hedgehog-doll, but when she saw its sleeping face sticking out of the scarf she wanted to cry, and immediately closed the bag without removing the doll. Yaron hugged her to comfort her and to be with her for the last few minutes, in fact from the door they could hear the chairs moving as if they were all getting up to leave. They moved from the window to be as far away as possible from the door of the conference room, and Yaron stroked her back and kissed her hair without saying anything, because now there was no word that could console them. From another room, close to where Marina and Yaron were standing, a noisy group of people came out, and so the two of them didn’t notice when the door of the conference room opened and the Minister and his escort came out. The seventh soldier looked
  • 140. 141 around looking for Yaron, but in the midst of all those people who had come out from the other room, he could not find him. Instead he saw the banner resting on the window sill and pointed to it for the other six soldiers and the Minister, who read it again. Meanwhile, the people who had come out from the other room, left, and the Minister and his escort saw the two of them embracing at the end of the hall, whereas Marina and Yaron had still not noticed them. The Minister and the soldiers spoke for a moment, and then the seventh soldier went to Yaron and Marina, who moved apart as soon as they saw him, and he told Yaron to take his girlfriend in the car with them, so at least they would be together until the airport. Marina didn’t understand a word because he and Yaron had spoken in Hebrew, but from Yaron’s smile she understood that the soldier of the escort must have given him some good news. “Come with us in the car, Marina, so we can stay together until the airport!” “Hooray! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Marina said to the seventh soldier refraining herself from skipping. “Yaron, I’ll get the banner,” she said and went to the window sill managing not to start running from the joy, to maintain some composure in front of the Minister, then she folded the banner and took it to Yaron who put it in his military jacket pocket. “So much fits in those pockets, they are Eega Beeva’s magic pockets!” Marina said to him because she had regained the will to joke around, for the joy of being together again with Yaron. “The taxi took half an hour ... do you realize that we can stay together for another half hour, Yaron?” “But unfortunately, I’ll be in one car and you’ll be in another. I didn’t tell you that, Marina?” “Oh, you sly thing, I’m not falling for it! You were too happy when the soldier of the escort spoke to you!” Yaron introduced her to everybody and they all shook her hand, and she thanked them all joyfully, and she shook the Minister’s hand with both hands. When they got into the cars, Yaron asked Marina if she remembered the names of the two soldiers in the car with them. “No. I’ll ask them to repeat their names, because honestly I was so excited that I didn’t even hear them!” “Ah, it seemed strange that you didn’t say anything, Marina,” Yaron said mysteriously. “Huh?” Marina became curious, “I’ll ask them at once! Excuse me, can you repeat your names?” “Eldad.” “Aviram.” “Three syllables! Finally, Yaron! Sorry, Aviram, but yours is the first Israeli name that I’ve heard with more than two syllables, and Yaron and I invented the game of three syllables ... well, never mind,” Marina stopped embarrassed. “What do you mean, the first? And the Minister?” Eldad pointed out. “A-vig-dor! How come we didn’t think of it, Yaron?” “It’s amazing how we missed it, Marina.”
  • 141. 142 “Anyway, Marina, my brother’s name is Matityahu,” Aviram told her. “Can we consider that a four syllable name, Yaron?” “Without a doubt, Marina,” Yaron replied hugging her and caressing her shoulder. “Your parents must have spent a fortune, Aviram,” said Marina, and explained that Yaron had made her believe that in Israel there was a tax on names with more than two syllables, of 5000 euros for each syllable. “And you believed it?” “Yes, Yaron said it!” “So the phrase on the banner is really true, but you should have put a hundred meod!” “Even a thousand!” Marina replied, and she turned to Yaron to smile at him, without being able to hold back a kiss, even if she was ashamed because there were the other two soldiers. He cuddled her for a moment and then asked, “Did the guys of Montelungo ask you what the banner meant, Marina?” “Yes, I invented a sentence and they accepted it.” “Be careful, I don’t like them. Already when you described them to me on messenger, but now that I’ve seen them ...” “No, it’s just a façade. The hair, the clothes ...” “No, those are alright,” Yaron said caressing her dreads and the keffiyeh, and Marina smiled. “I don’t like their expressions, Marina, they have nasty faces, full of hate, just like you said. What do you think, guys?” Yaron asked the other two. “Yes, really ugly faces.” “Terrible.” “Stay away from them, Marina,” Yaron said worriedly. “Oh, I don’t even speak to them anymore, Yaron.” “But don’t even stay near them. Go somewhere else, Marina.” “No, you've seen them when they give the worst of themselves, but they are usually calm,” Marina tried to minimize. “My love, I’d feel calmer if you didn’t go to Montelungo anymore.” “If I have even the slightest doubt, I won’t go, I promise you, Yaron.” “Ok. Thanks, Marina,” Yaron said unconvinced, because in his heart he thought that the slightest doubt could come too late, but he didn’t want to distress her with his fears: he was probably worrying too much because he loved her so much, his beautiful Marina. He ruffled her hair and kissed it and repeated the last phrase he thought, “My beautiful Marina” and the other two soldiers said two sentences in Italian, “Bella Marina” and “Bella Italia”. Marina burst out laughing and said, “You have the accent from Bergamo!” and she pronounced those two sentences the way they are said in Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, Naples, and at the end in Bergamo. “Did you see that you say them like we do in Bergamo? It’s my city!”
  • 142. 143 “Then we’ll also come and visit you, when Yaron comes,” and when he heard this phrase, Yaron immediately embraced her strongly and kissed her to comfort her. “No, don’t cry, bella Marina, bella Italia!” the other two said because they understood that they had saddened her, and they repeated the two sentences in Italian hoping to make her laugh again. In fact Marina burst out laughing through her tears and said, “You two sound as if you come from my valleys! Yaron, do you also talk like that, if you try to say something in Italian?” “Bella Marina, bella Italia, bella spagheti, bella fusilipomodoro, bella pizza, bella polenta.” Marina almost died laughing, “Yaron! It sounds as if you were born in Bergamo! Bella polenta! You are Bergamaskers, boys! Where do you come from, from Betlehem de Sura or de Sota?” They obviously didn’t understand this last sentence and so Marina explained, “Bergamo in our dialect is pronounced a bit as how you say Bethlehem, and it is made up of two parts, one at the top and one at the bottom: Upper Bergamo and Lower Bergamo, which in the local dialect is called "Berghem de Sura and de Sota”. And any Italian who meets a person from Bergamo, cannot resist the satanic temptation of asking him if he comes from Berghem de Sura or de Sota.” So Yaron asked her, “And you, do you come from Berghem de Sura or de Sota?” Marina could not even talk from the laughter, and when she could breathe again she said, “You said it perfectly, Yaron! Per-fec-tly!” “Three syllables.” “My darling, I love you so much! Ti amo tantissimo! Ani ohevet otha meod meod meod meod meod!” and she filled him with kisses, no longer even thinking that in the car there were also the other two soldiers, who however turned their heads so as not to disturb. They arrived with their cars directly below the plane, and Marina hadn’t realized that she still had so little time to spend with Yaron. The doors opened, and in a moment they all got out of the cars, and the Minister and the escort had already disappeared into the plane. Marina, panicking, hugged Yaron tightly until she felt the Fiammiferina on his heart, “Yaron, I want to always be on your heart, here, in the shadow of your wings.” “We’ll always be together, Marina. Ciao, my love. Thank you for such a beautiful day. I love you so much, Marina. Bye my darling.” “Ciao, Yaron. I love you so much.” Yaron climbed the ladder for last, he turned to look at her when he was at the top, he first pointed to his heart, then to Marina and again to his heart, and he disappeared into the plane. The driver of the car that brought them this far got out of the car, and asked if he could accompany her somewhere, but she preferred to go to the station alone, because she could no longer hold back the tears. When she climbed onto the train, she took the hedgehog-doll from the bag and held it hidden in the scarf, so that only its peaceful sleeping face was showed. For the whole journey she embraced the doll, looking at its face and looking at the
  • 143. 144 landscape unfold, and she was able to fall asleep only when she had almost arrived in Milan.
  • 144. 145 Chapter 4 Yaron arrived at the barracks in late night. His roommates stood up to greet him and asked him how things had gone in Rome, he also asked them how their day had been and was relieved to hear that there had been no problems at the checkpoint, and that their day had been trouble free. When his companions had gone back to bed, Yaron stuck Marina’s banner onto the wall above his bed, next to the window she loved so much. He used the hammer and nails trying hard to make as little noise as possible, in order not to wake up the others, but Eyal noticed him and went to his aid. “Look what she wrote, Yaron. And it’s in Hebrew.” “Who would have said it, eh, Eyal?” “I had thought of it straight away, but I spoke to Paola and Lucia at length to know whether it could be possible, and they said that Marina would never fall in love. And yet, here we are!” “And it’s written in red!” “That’s right, Yaron! However, I would never have bet on this occurring, but on the opposite, yes, that I was certain.” “That I was in love with Marina?” “Yes, I knew it immediately, Yaron. The first time I saw you together, when I came back with Paola and Lucia and I saw you embracing on the floor near the jeep.” “I also knew straight away that I was falling in love with her. I knew it already then, on the floor, near the jeep.” “That’s exactly what I saw, Yaron. I saw your face for a minute and I must say I had never seen you so worried and concerned, and I had also never seen you so taken with a girl. You were looking at her as if she was the most important thing in the world.” “Are you becoming a romantic, Eyal?” “I’m just saying what I saw,” said Eyal impassively. “Way to go!” Yaron laughed, patting him on the back. “And how was your day, Romeo?” “Great!” “Tell me about it, make me dream!” “Ok, softy!” The two friends stayed up another two hours because Yaron was so wound up that he just wasn’t tired. Eyal instead felt tired but was happy to listen to Yaron telling him about his day, because he had never seen him so happy. *** Marina arrived home very late, in the middle of the night. And lucky for her, her parents had fetched her from Milan, otherwise the oral maths test would certainly have been a problem. Four hours of sleep would have to suffice, this morning, to feel rested, to remember formulae and calculate quickly. In fact the test went
  • 145. 146 really well, she got A- and her teacher even complimented her. Once she got home, before telling her mother about her excellent result and before eating, she switched on her computer and searched through YouTube to find a film about Yaron’s arrival at Ciampino. She found a film from RAI News, clicked on it and was overjoyed, because you could see Yaron clearly, happy and smiling. Marina ran to call her mother who was in the kitchen, alone because her father worked far away and couldn’t come home for lunch. “Mom! Come see Yaron!” she shouted, and grabbing her by the hand pulled her into her room to see the film on the computer. “There, mom! That’s Yaron!” “What a good looking boy, Marina, he’s even better in the film than in the photograph.” “And you must see him in real life, mom! In person! He’s gorgeous! He’s the most handsome boy in the world! And the sweetest, the nicest, the most affectionate!” “You can see that from his smile, Marina.” “Have you seen his smile, mom? He was smiling at me! He was looking at me! I was here and he was looking at me like that the whole time!” “You can see he’s happy to see you, Marina.” Marina pranced around her room, hugged her mom and showed her the video over and over, repeating continuously that Yaron was the most handsome boy in the world, “Look at him here, mom! Isn’t he wonderful, mom?” “He is, my dear.” “Mom, look at him here, he was giving me his Clark Gable smile! Did you see? He was great!” “Yes, darling, he is good at imitating him.” “And he learnt how to do it for me, because I said that I loved that smile!” “Then perhaps he really loves you, dear.” “And look here, also Lieberman is smiling, he’s the Israeli Foreign Minister, mom, can you believe it? You can look at all the photographs you want and you’ll never see him smiling! But he smiled at me, and he said to Yaron that I was a blossom! All the bodyguards were smiling too, look mom, they were smiling at me, I was there in front, they were looking at me and smiling!” “They were happy to see their friend’s girlfriend, of course.” “But they had met Yaron in the plane, they weren’t his friends. But I had a banner in their language, with all those impossible letters, I had written that ... I had written something for him ... and then I also sang their national anthem and look, look mom, wait I’ll go back ... there, can you see they’re singing? See, they have their hands on their hearts, they’re singing their national anthem, HaTikva. And they’re all smiling in the same direction, they’re smiling at me!” “At least you welcomed them, and there weren’t only these crazy fools,” said her mum to Marina, while the journalists explained, “In this picture we can also see the protest of the kids from the social centres who met the Israeli Foreign Minister in Rome”, as in the subtitle to the video. “There you are, Marina. We can see you for a minute, darling.”
  • 146. 147 “It’s true, mom, I hadn’t even noticed!” “You are happy in this photograph, dear, are you singing their anthem?” “Yes, mom. I know it off by heart because I listen to the songs by a group that Yaron introduced me to.” “And you are holding the banner, Marina, now you can see it clearly.” “Where mom?” “Go back a moment ... there, in the corner.” “Oh there! Mom, I hadn’t seen it! Have you seen how difficult that lettering is?” “It must have been difficult to write, sweetheart.” “It was impossible, mom! Lucia helped me.” “That was sweet of her.” “And then yesterday I gave the banner to Yaron! He’ll put it above his bunk bed in the barracks, near a window that has a wonderful view. Hang on, mom, let me still the photo ... look at the writing at the top, it means Yaron! I also have it on the dog tag, look. He gave it to me when we met in September.” “How nice, it was sweet of him to give it to you. Did you visit his barracks during your trip?” “No, I met him the last night, he was on his jeep with a friend and he took us to the airport.” “That was really sweet of him.” “Mom, I’m sorry I never told you anything, only a few things yesterday.” “It’s ok, darling, I didn’t want to be nosy.” “Mom, he’s the best person in the world! He’s wonderful!” “He’s very good looking, yes.” “But he’s also so sweet and good, you should hear the things he thinks about, how he is inside, mom!” “One day perhaps I’ll meet him.” “Of course, mom! It’s serious, you know? We were only together a short time but he also loves me!” “So it would seem, darling, from the way he smiles at you.” Her mom finished cooking and while they were having lunch Marina could speak of nothing else but Yaron, it was only at the end of the meal that she remembered about the maths test. “Oh Mom, this morning I got A- in the maths test! The teacher complimented me and said that this year I’m really working hard!” “That’s great, Marina. It means you have deserved your trip to Israel in February, to see ... I still can’t remember his name, darling.” “Ya-ròn.” “What a nice name.” “They all have strange names, short, but they sound lovely. Mom, I can’t wait to see him in February!” “Time will pass quickly, dear, and you got A- this morning ... Anyway, the two of you, you and Ya-ròn, you were saying the day before yesterday, that you manage to speak every night.”
  • 147. 148 “Yes, mom, we speak every night! He has almost one hour free every night and we go on messenger, I use the PC and he uses his cell phone.” “You do have wonderful possibilities these days, Marina!” “Yes we do! I think I would go crazy if I had to wait ten days for the postman with a letter!” “It’s nice that he uses his one hour of free time for you.” “Yes, mom. He really cares about me.” “How old is your Ya-ròn?” “Twenty.” “Twenty! What’s he studying?” “He can’t study now because he’s doing his military service, but he’s a qualified electronic technician and when his military service ends, in September, he’ll set up an electrical company with some friends and they’ll all study electronic engineering.” “Well, he has very clear ideas. He doesn’t seem to be a beachcomber.” They continued to speak about Yaron for one hour. There was no stopping Marina, and her mother was happy to have her there, enthusiastically telling her about this strange affair, while underneath she was quite worried as she couldn’t see it continuing, and was afraid her daughter would suffer. After some time, Marina showed her the video again, and she saw the smile that that tall handsome stranger gave to her daughter the entire time, and couldn’t help but hope for a happy future for him and her Marina. And then she was sorry she hadn’t seemed to be more enthusiastic earlier, and had only started to pay attention when Marina had spoken about the bunk bed and the small window with a wonderful view. There were many other things to pay attention to, like this open, happy smile and these deep eyes that expressed everything, like here, when he looks around and it’s easy to see that he turns his head not to be seen crying for her daughter. But she doesn’t say anything to Marina, she’s not used to saying things like that. And so, when the film ends, she only caresses her rebel daughter’s dreadlocks and says, “He’s a lovely boy, take care of him, Marina.” *** Later, Marina went to Montelungo and took her schoolbag with her, with her homework, even if she knew that she wouldn’t study much, because she would watch the news broadcast with her friends over and over. Arriving at the community centre, she found the usual people, the youngsters who were in Rome yesterday. All the boys had a slightly disapproving expression, all except Nicola who was angry, but was being held in check by the others. Mauro was the first to speak, “Marina, Marina, you really went overboard yesterday.” and Emilio added, “You should be taught a lesson.” Marina didn’t reply and turned around to leave again, but Tommaso raised his voice and shouted, “Guys, cut it out! Marina, stay, please. Let’s sort this out once and for all, and guys, you calm down, ok?”
  • 148. 149 “I have nothing I want to sort out, Tommaso,” Marina answered. “I’m sure you don’t, Marina. You are free to do what you want, to fall in love with who you want, to tell him in any way you want, and to sing any songs with who you want. But maybe you shouldn’t have made us look like fools, because now all the community centres will be laughing at us, after having seen the news.” “I don’t have to explain anything to anyone. No banner and no song, Tommaso.” “On the whole, you’re right. But when Jacopo asked you what the writing on the banner meant, you weren’t truthful, were you Marina?” “Of course not, Tommaso, you would have torn it to shreds.” “There you go, then it would’ve been better not to have brought it at all, seeing as you knew we wouldn’t have approved.” “I wasn’t looking for your approval.” “Sure, Marina. But it really didn’t fit with our group. You were quite free to take your banner and join the happy Zionist group.” “Your would’ve killed me. You know that, Tommaso.” “Come on! You’re not fair, Marina. How can you say something like that? We didn’t kill you in September when we saw you in that video, when you were wrapped around that soldier from the occupying force!” “Occupying force! Come on, Tommaso! He’s a soldier defending his country, like any soldier does for his country.” “Guys, calm down. Marina didn’t want to make us look like fools. She just wanted to surprise her boyfriend, that’s all. She was wrong not to tell us, but it’s not a tragedy,” Jacopo interrupted, without using that ironic and dangerous tone the others had used, and so Marina started to speak to him to show the others that the person who they had always seen as their leader, was today actually on her side. “Jacopo, I didn’t think the banner would land up on TV. Anyway, you only see it for a short while, but over and above that, it’s written in Hebrew, I don’t think anyone is going to translate it, and no one in the community centres who know us will ever know what’s written on there.” “You’re mistaken, Marina,” Jacopo said, but not angrily, “Every community centre worthy of its name has at least one Arab friend, don’t you think? Like Mohamed here by us. He knows a little Hebrew, and last nigh, he called the six of us as soon as the news was over, to translate your banner. And like him, I’m sure lots of other Mohameds did the same in the other community centres.” “I’m sorry, Jacopo. I never meant to embarrass you, I apologize.” “See guys? Marina has apologized, what more do you want?” said Jacopo turning to the other five without any sign of sarcasm, “She says she’s sorry. For me, that’s enough. That’s ok with you too?” The rest of them mumbled a bit, but it was clear they would all fall in with Jacopo’s decision. All except Nicola, who turned quickly to Marina and spat out, “You made us look like ruddy idiots! And don’t keep wearing this then!” he said, ripping the keffiyeh from around her neck and throwing it on the floor. “Ouch, Nicola, that hurt!” shouted Marina, because pulling the keffiyeh away, he had also tightened it around her neck.
  • 149. 150 “Nicola, cut it out!” shouted Jacopo, picking up the keffiyeh and returning it to Marina, who put it back on, massaging her neck. “Just go, you bitch, or I’ll pull your hair out too! Why the hell do you walk around with all these revolutionary symbols and then you choose to be with an imperialist bastard?” continued Nicola and Jacopo intervened, seriously, “Nicola, cut it out, ok? She made a mistake, she apologized, enough.” “But what the fuck is she still doing here with us?” asked Nicola, turning straight to Marina, “Buzz off, disappear, leave Montelungo, we never want to see you again, Marina!” Jacopo defended her still, “Marina can go where she likes, Nicola. Perhaps it’s you who should go for a walk,” he said pushing him towards the door. Nicola looked angrily at him, then he looked at Marina wanting to insult her but understanding that there was nothing to do, no one else in there had the guts to do anything to teach her a lesson. He left shrugging off Jacopo’s hand, who was pushing him out the door, and Jacopo turned to Marina as if to say, “everything’s ok, I’m here” and Marina smiled back as if to say, “thank you, and sorry again for the banner”. Clearly she wasn’t going to pass the whole afternoon as she had originally planned, that is to say watching the video of the news with the other girls, seeing as at Montelungo there were the five guys, so Marina sat at a table on her own with her backpack, took out her school books and began to study. Jacopo came over with a chair, “Marina, let’s settle the matter of the last two months, ok?” “Sure, Jacopo, love to. Oh, and thanks for before, Nicola was really out of order.” “Yeah, but I can’t blame him. What the hell were you thinking, how could you prepare a banner and sing the anthem, Marina? Initially when Mohamed called me to tell me what the writing meant, I was furious. Then I thought about it and said, “Jacopo, the circle closes”.” “What do you mean, Jacopo? I don’t understand,” said Marina. “That the circle that started in September, with that video of you and your soldier, is now complete. I was really angry at you in September, and I had not gotten over it, Marina, you can be sure of that.” “I had noticed, Jacopo.” “But then last night it all became clear. You have fallen in love, that’s it. With someone like that, unfortunately, but you didn’t do it just to piss us off or because you had changed your political ideals. No, and look your symbols are still here, your keffiyeh and your dreadlocks.” Jacopo touched her hair and added, “You just happened to fall in love with him, and you fell hard. But you are still our friend. We must accept that this happened to you out of the blue, you couldn’t do anything about it, and this is why you were hugging him in the video in September, why you write him love words, and also why you sing him his anthem, like you did yesterday. You could’ve avoided the anthem though, Marina.” “I didn’t know it was the Israeli national anthem when I learnt it, Jacopo, I assure you. And yesterday when Yaron sang it, I couldn’t help singing it too,” said Marina, and while she said those words she felt like she was betraying Yaron.
  • 150. 151 She drew comfort from the fact that she knew he wouldn’t want her to get into dangerous situations in Montelungo, but inside she didn’t like the ease with which she was betraying HaTikva. She knew full well that it was the Israeli national anthem, and yesterday that song had symbolised a promise and a hope. “Anyway, Marina, let’s not speak about it any longer, ok? Friends like before. Like before September, I mean,” said Jacopo holding out his hand. Marina shook his hand immediately and said, “Ok, Jacopo, let’s close it here. I’m glad.” “Great. Ok, bye then, Marina. I’m going and I’ll take the other four with me, so you can look at yesterday’s video in peace with the other girls.” “Thanks, Jacopo, you’re a friend. That’s what I came for today, not the homework!” As soon as had Jacopo left, the seven girls switched on the pc and played the video on a loop to study in detail the way one soldier walked, how another one smiled, the glance of the other, and so on. But the winner of the still image was by far Yaron, Marina never tired of admiring his every expression, each detail of his face and every single movement. The guys went into the park outside Montelungo, ’cause they knew the girls would be busy until the evening and there was no risk of them joining them and overhearing their conversation. Jacopo phoned Nicola straight away and screamed at him, “Shithead, come to the park, Now!”. Nicola arrived a short while later and wasn’t looking Jacopo in the face, avoiding the temptation to punch him in the face, ’cause Jacopo was double his size, even though there were not many muscles hidden inside that mass. Jacopo hadn’t said a word, he was waiting for Nicola, so he didn’t have to say things twice and waste his breadth. As soon as he saw him arrive he shouted, “You shithead! You should have done like the others! Upset, yes, pissed off, yes, but nicely, good-naturedly! You shouldn’t have put your hands on her, idiot!” “I can do what the hell I want, Jacopo!” “Oh no, you don’t, you do what I tell you, which is what all six of us had decided on the phone yesterday, what we have been planning since September. We must remain friends with Marina, she must be able to trust us, to agree to travel to Israel with us in February, and to give us the soldier on a silver plate. That’s our aim, get it, Nicola! We can’t teach her a lesson now! We must teach the soldier a lesson in February, to him and his entire army, that’s the way we’ll teach her a lesson too.” “Yeah, Jacopo, you’re right,” said Nicola lowering his head, and Jacopo said, “Great Nicola! Now try and do what the others do, from now on.” Jacopo turned to the other four and said, “Guys, you were great! Fantastic! You were like professional actors! Pissed off but not too much. I was able to play the part of the concerned friend, and she fell for it.” ***
  • 151. 152 That night Marina and Yaron contacted on messenger. Marina had already decided to not say anything to Yaron of Nicola’s insolence and Jacopo’s understanding. She preferred not to tell him that the one had attacked her and the other had defended her, she knew that if she said anything Yaron would worry, and instead there wasn’t anything to worry about, because Jacopo had defended her and the others had followed him like more or less obedient dogs. “Yaron, my love, how are you?” “I miss you madly my sweet.” “Yesterday was great, wasn’t it?” “Too great, Marina. Hang in there, we’ll see each other in February, not long now.” “Don’t be sad, ok?” “Ok, but it’s tough!” “Yes, at least I can see you again and again on film. Have you seen it on YouTube?” “Yes, and you’re there too, love! Have you seen how happy and pleased you are?” “Yeah, actually my mom saw that I was there too, I saw only you!” “How sweet your mom is, she must love you very much.” “She really likes you, you know? She says you’re very good looking, that you have a lovely smile, that she can see you care about me, and that you’re not a beachcomber.” “A beach-com-ber? Someone who sifts sand through a sieve?” “It means a loafer, a slacker, a layabout!” “A beach-com-ber! What words does your mother use?” “Eh, Yaron, there are not many three syllable words like that still around! Anyway, it was a compliment. It means she likes you because you have clear ideas about your future, work and university.” “Perfect, it’s the second blessing I get from the mother-in-law!” “It’s me who still hasn’t got the approval of mine.” “Hang on, Marina! I have just received a text message from her. Wait, let me read it, maybe she says something about you.” “Oh God, my knees are shaking, Yaron, really!” “Are you crazy? Whatever my mom says will never change how I feel about you.” “You are a darling, but I’m scared.” “Wow! Listen to this! Benediction and redemption all in one!” “Come on, translate it for me, Yaron!” “Here goes, “Hello Yaron”” “Hello Yaron? Doesn’t she say “Hello my baby”, “Hi puppy” or something like that?” “No way, Marina.” “That’s good, Yaron! Go on!” “Aye aye! So, of course she says I was gorgeous in the video.” “And up to now we agree.”
  • 152. 153 “And then, here you are, Marina, “Your girlfriend is lovely, Yaron! In the photo I can see she is very pretty, but seeing her smile, so full of love for you, with the banner in Hebrew, singing HaTikva, and she even knew the words! We were very moved. Even Lieberman was moved, did you see? And I’m really sorry I was nasty to you, like a real mother-in-law, when I saw the photo. Does she live far away? Has she got dreadlocks? And a keffiyeh? What did I want to know, that she would break your heart? Instead you can see she’s in love with you! Take care of her, Yaron, that girl will love you forever, I’m telling you. A kiss etc. etc.” My mom’s right this time, isn’t she, Marina?” “Yes, absolutely, Yaron! I’m thrilled, I assure you, such lovely words. And would you believe it, my mom said exactly the same thing? Take care of him. Then she isn’t the kind of person who is very enthusiastic or shows her feelings, but she said the same thing.” “They’ve both seen that we are meant for each other. It’s a lovely thing, Marina.” “Yes, and that’s important. Mothers never say things like that lightly.” “I love you Marina, I’ll take care of you for my whole life.” “Me too Yaron, forever.” “Darling, how was your maths test?” “Great, I got A-, and the teacher complimented me! When I told my mom she said that I was sure to come to Israel in February, or almost ... I know that if my report card has bad marks I won’t be able to, but I’m hopeful. God, Yaron, I can’t wait!” “So, in three months we’ll see each other again, great my love! And then you’ll stay for a few days?” “Of course! There is no return flight on the same day!” “As soon as you have any idea about the dates I’ll ask for a permit. I should get it, we can get one every three or four months, more or less.” “Oh God, you got one recently for Simchat Torah, Yaron!” “Don’t worry, Marina. I didn’t get one for five months, since they cancelled them at the last minute because of operations.” “Ok, darling, enough. I know they aren’t simple operations, you can say that the permits were cancelled because of attacks.” “Yes indeed. But you see I always came out ok?” “Yeah. But be careful.” “Of course, sweetie.” “Let’s hope that the one in February will be fine. Especially not due to an attack.” “In February Hamas has declared a ceasefire for three weeks.” “Fantastic!” “Yeah, sure, dream on! Love, sorry, I was joking, a bad joke, sorry.” “No, it’s ok. You have to make jokes, otherwise you would go crazy. It’s good that you can joke about the situation every now and again, it relieves the tension and then you can defend yourself better. Right?” “Yes, that’s true, Marina. Sometimes it’s good to talk shit and laugh about the situation.”
  • 153. 154 “And do silly things sometimes, Yaron ... This afternoon, at Montelungo, when I was looking for the video about us, I also looked for something on Israeli soldiers (they’re always great videos, Yaron, you’re all so good looking! But you are absolutely the best of the lot!) and I found a video from one year ago where six of you were dancing to Tik Tok by Ke$ha!” “That was great, Marina! They became heroes, those six, even if they were severely reprimanded and forfeited all their leave permits.” “There you go then, don’t do anything like that, Yaron! But when I saw the person in the foreground my heart stood still! He looks a lot like you, physically, he’s also tall and slim! And he’s a great dancer, do you also dance so well?” “I’m not bad. And you, Marina?” “Me too! I love dancing!” “Then we’ll go to the disco, in February!” “And to the movies, Yaron, you promised!” “Of course! And you’ll have to meet the family, Marina, everyone wants to meet you.” “Help, a bit heavy, don’t you think, Yaron?” “About 150 kilos in two.” “Ah, I hope they’re not 150 kilos of lead!” “No no, they’re 150 kilos of feathers, Marina, don’t worry.” “Oh, ok then, meet-the-family can be done. But it must be super-fast!” “Hey Marina, 150 kilos of feathers weigh exactly the same as 150 kilos of lead!” “Ha ha ha! It’s true, Yaron! God I’m thick, I should’ve realized! You confuse me! Thank God you’re not in my class otherwise I would fail ... But what am I saying? If you were in class with me I would see you every day, and even if I would fail all my subjects I wouldn’t care!” “In class together, can you imagine that?” “It would be won-der-ful, Yaron!” “Instead I’m here, my love, and now I must run, I’m sorry, I would stay here all night to speak to you, you don’t know how much I miss you.” “No no, Yaron, I know, I know ...” “Bye little one, sleep well, in February we’ll see each other again and we’ll go dance to Tik Tok. Learn the steps well from the video of the soldiers, ok?” “Sure, my love. How nice, I can’t wait to dance with you, Yaron! Well, these three months will pass, sooner or later ...” “They’ll fly, you’ll see. Now we’ll speak every night, so we’ll be close anyway. Ok, Marina?” “Yes, Yaron. And we’ll get the better of this blind, deaf and mute destiny that has placed us in two different space-time zones!” “Wow, Marina, your great in physics also! I’m sure that in February you’ll have an average mark of B, no measly C for you!” “I’m great, aren’t I, Yaron?” “But you got a definition wrong, my love. It’s not a damned case of blind destiny, but a Blessed Creator who can see very well in order to get us to meet.”
  • 154. 155 “You’re right, my love. I now want to fall asleep thanking Him. Bye Yaron, I love you. Think of me while you pray that wonderful prayer you told me about yesterday.” “You too my love, think of me while you are all concentrated on your prayer, like in church or in synagogue. Good night Marina.” *** On the second night, Marina and Yaron had lost all of the euphoria of the day before. Rome seemed to be surreal, not only far away. “Yaron, today I felt like a zombie all day. I was breathing but I felt dead inside. I felt like crying all day. It was difficult not to cry in class, I turn around and you are not here, I can’t smile at you, touch you, kiss you, hug you. I feel terrible.” “My love, my darling Marina. I also felt lousy all day. Marina, you were with me the day before yesterday, it’s impossible that you are not here now, how can I live without you until February?” “My darling Yaron, my love, let me comfort you like I did the other day when I asked you to go into the church to get married.” “Yeah, love, we should have done it! We should get married as soon as possible and live together forever, it would be great!” “It’ll be fantastic, we’ll be the happiest people in the world! If you are near me I am close to heaven, I don’t need anything else!” “We’ll definitely speak about it in February, Marina, what do you say? Oooh, I’m already dreaming about it, already I don’t feel sad anymore!” “Yaron, we must be strong until February, then we’ll see each other again for days and we’ll be able to plan our wedding!” “It’ll be great!” “It’ll definitely be great, Yaron!” “Darling Marina, you have made me so happy, thank you!” “Yaron, I’m happy too! If I left for the woods now, I would walk for fifty kilometers! Instead this afternoon, when I had hoped to console myself walking in the woods and looking at the scenery through the sprigs, I felt like I had twenty-kilo boots on my feet, I couldn’t go on, Yaron, I felt like an old lady.” “My favourite old lady, I was also totally out of shape today! The backpack seemed to weigh three times more than usual. Perhaps the footsteps are the window to the soul, like the eyes, who knows?” “If you are full of enthusiasm you can take long strides, otherwise you are scared to go forward.” “That’s true, Marina. Today I just didn’t feel like moving, I wanted to stay huddled up in bed, under your banner, in mourning, I didn’t want to exist for the whole day.” “Thank you for loving me like this, Yaron! I’m sorry you are so sad, I am too, but you fill my heart with joy: I love it that you love me, that you miss me so much even if we only saw each other for a short time, thank you!”
  • 155. 156 “My darling, my Marina, I love you sooo much. It’s crazy, we haven’t been together much, have we? But we fell in love immediately.” “Yes, Yaron, my darling. And at least we have spent a lot of time together on messenger.” “And in Rome.” “And soon we’ll be together again in Israel. You see, Yaron, I didn’t say Palestine?” “Yes my love, thank you. It means a lot to me. Perhaps it’s not easy for a non-Jew to understand what it means to be an Israeli.” “I surely can’t understand it. Me, I remember I’m Italian only at the Football World Cup. And I’m not joking.” “If I were to remember I’m an Israeli only at the Football World Cup, it would be hard for me!” “Now hold on, Yaron, and listen. Israel Israel Israel!” “Very good, you’re making progress!” “It was your prayer, you know?” “I know.” “Have you already prayed it?” “No, I’ll say it later, before sleeping.” “Then before going to sleep I’ll also whisper, I won’t write it, I’ll whisper: Israel.” “Good girl.” “Tomorrow is Tuesday, it’s my homework-free afternoon, we never have homework for the Wednesday. So tomorrow I want to find out about your country. Because it’s your people, Yaron, and not your football team.” “You’ll find out many wonderful things, you’ll see. Bye my love, I must leave you now, good night.” “Bye my love, tomorrow night I’ll surprise you with everything I’ll learn about Israel.” “I’m counting on it, sweetheart. As long as I don’t have to study the history of Italy!” “No no, me too I don’t even know it. Perhaps I’ll make you study the members of my national football team!” “Now that will be fun! Good night my love.” “Sleep well, Yaron, I love you.” *** The following night, Marina and Yaron, as usual, were in contact with messenger. “Hi darling, how are you? Did you manage to read up about Israel?” “Yes, Yaron, I started.” “Great, Marina, I’m happy!” “Good.” “Something wrong, sweet?” “This research has destroyed me.”
  • 156. 157 “Well, darling, there’s a lot of information, you can’t possibly have read it all in one afternoon. Take more time, I’m happy just that you are interested in finding out more about my country, but it mustn’t become a nightmare.” “But it’s becoming one, Yaron.” “Then stop, leave it, my love. Who gives a damn if you don’t know anything about it? I love you as you are, whether you know things or not.” “But now I’ve started, Yaron.” “But Marina, my love, what’s wrong? Look, you’re already studying hard for your report card and because it’s your final year. Put Israel aside, don’t get tired finding out information on my country.” “It’s not the fact of finding out information, Yaron. It’s what I’ve found.” “That’s it, there is too much information, my love, you must slow down. The return trip to Rome a few days ago must’ve been tiring ... not like those who travel in the President’s airplane, hey!” “No, it’s not that.” “Can I help you in any way, my darling?” “No, not really, it doesn’t matter, Yaron. But I don’t want to speak about my research on Israel.” “Great! I don’t have to learn much, actually, I already know it all!” “Indeed.” “Little one, Marina, can I tell you about what I learnt today about your Italy?” “Sure, Yaron.” “Here goes. Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Gattuso, Pirlo, Camoranesi, Perrotta, Totti, Toni.” “The 2006 team. Have you learnt it off by heart or are you reading it?” “Off by heart, like you with HaTikva! But don’t ask me to learn your anthem because it’s horrible.” “Ah really, compared to yours, we should be embarrassed.” “My darling, my little star, I hope you have appreciated the fact that I have learnt the names of the world champions, and I refrained from learning the names of the 2010 World Cup team.” “Yes I did actually notice. And you did well, in 2010 we were eliminated straight away, we played really badly.” “Don’t worry Marina. We have only participated in one World Cup, in 1970, we didn’t even qualify for all the others!” “Mexico ’70, Italy-Israel 0-0, with two goals annulled for Italy.” “You’re amazing, Marina! But do you know all the games that Italy has played?” “No, Yaron, I don’t know anything about football, but my dad was born during that match.” “Wow, really?” “Yes, at the starting whistle my grandfather rushed to the bar, after having been with my grandmother through five hours of labour, leaving her right at the end. When it was getting tough, as she said.”
  • 157. 158 “Isn’t it funny, the things that bring us together, Marina? Your dad was born during the only game that our two countries played in a World Cup!” “If your mother had also been born during that game, then we would be 100% sure that we were meant for one another, Yaron!” “Ah, but I’m sure anyway, Marina! Very sure!” “Me too, darling, because every time you speak to me, then I feel great. Really, think about it, it’s true. Thank you, my darling.” “Now are you feeling better, are you happier? Is it ok if I ring off now, my love? I have overrun my time.” “Sure, my love, it’s ok now. Thank you my darling, Good night.” “Good night, Marina. Sleep well my love.” *** The next night they spoke again, and Yaron had hoped the whole day that Marina wouldn’t be feeling sad like the previous night. “Hello Marina, my sweetheart, how are you?” “Hi Yaron, darling, I’m better today, thank you.” “Good girl.” “So, Yaron, can I tell you the things I found out yesterday about Israel?” “If you want, Marina.” “Ok, Yaron. I have thought about it all day. What I read is true, I can’t ignore it. I have discovered things that are true because I searched using real criteria.” “Criteria are important, there is a lot of contrasting information around.” “Indeed! One website speaks about an episode as a Palestinian aggression, and another speaks about the same episode as an Israeli aggression.” “The difficult thing is finding reliable websites.” “That’s it, Yaron! We need to find a criterion that discriminates between the websites, to choose the ones to trust.” “You’re right, Marina, before choosing the website you must choose the criterion. Perhaps the names of journalists you admire?” “Well, Yaron, that was my problem. Could I trust the journalists I had admired for years? If so, it was useless to begin a research. I wouldn’t have found anything new, I have read every single article of theirs for years. I needed a criterion to also discriminate among the journalists, without thinking if in the past I had appreciated or criticized their ideas.” “You’re great, Marina.” “The criterion I eventually chose, Yaron, was a very sad one, but it was immediately natural for me to think about it. And then, reflecting upon it, I understood that I couldn’t find a better criterion, one that could reflect what for me meant “being reliable”. The criterion is based on how the website presents the massacre of the Fogel family at Itamar. If I see that it speaks of “invading colonists” I know it’s not a reliable website, because speaking like that about a family murdered in their sleep, of a three-month-old little girl whose throat was
  • 158. 159 slit so far that she was almost decapitated ... God, Yaron, I can’t bear to think about it, and the photos are seen also by those who call them invading colonists ... whoever writes these things can’t be reliable, he or she must be crazy or a monster. And I must say that yesterday, analysing the websites that we think are reliable here in Montelungo, I saw that they all spoke about the Fogels as invading colonists. Therefore, for many years I accepted this shit as Gospel, and then I just spat them back at your people.” “Darling, don’t see yourself like that, please. Look at the marvellous person you are, even for wanting to look for information in a different way. The criterion you chose speaks about you, you trust what’s good, because you are good.” “Thank you, Yaron, for everything. Look what you did for me by taking me to Itamar! Your compass and my watch are there, together, and Itamar has become my point of reference. It has shown me the right direction and has divided my conscience into a before and after. It has allowed me to find websites I can trust, and in these websites I found everything you told me about in September. From now on I will always believe what you say, Yaron, and I’m sorry I didn’t do that before. I’m writing what I am discovering about Israel to let my friends read it, because they don’t know anything, like me before. Do you want me to write them to you too, even if you already know them?” “Sure, Marina, I’d love to read them.” “Ok, Yaron. I‘ve just summed up the information I found about Palestine on the reliable websites. I have written them in point form because I hope Paola, Lucia, Carla, Nancy, Erika and Greta remember them, they’re always busy with homework, sport and boys. So, Yaron, here’s what I learnt yesterday: 1) Palestine has never existed 2) There’s never been a Palestinian culture 3) There’s never been a Palestinian language 4) There’s never been a Palestinian people 5) The Palestinians are simply Arabs So, you see, the sandcastle I believed in, crumbled, and it was hard to come to grips with it yesterday. The only way to prevent it crumbling would have been to change the criterion of choice of the websites. Let me tell you about the sentence that struck me the most among all those I read about the matter. Zahir Muhsein, a leader of PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organisation) said, “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. ... Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.” So, when we speak of Palestine I must speak about a pseudo-Palestine, and to speak about Palestinians I have to speak about pseudo-Palestinians. As you say. So then I’ll pass to the second point I studied yesterday, the pseudo-Palestinian refugees.
  • 159. 160 Searching through reliable websites I found this information: 1) Pseudo-Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war numbered 500,000 in 1948 2) Pseudo-Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war numbered 50,000 in 2011 3) Pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugees from the 1948 war numbered 5,000,000 in 2011 You were right. The Arabs who lived in Israel in 1948 and who fled the war declared by the Arab states against Israel, numbered 500,000, and only 50,000 of these are still living. Only they can be called real refugees, even if they aren’t Palestinian. The 5,000,000 are the children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren of those initial 500,000. Because no refugee in the world can transfer the status of refugee to their descendents, then this group of 5,000,000 people is not the group of pseudo-Palestinian refugees, but it’s a group of pseudo- Palestinian pseudo-refugees. And therefore I can only, when speaking of who commonly is called a Palestinian refugee, call them pseudo-Palestinian pseudo- refugees. As you said, again. The most important thing I have read on this matter was by Ralph Garroway, a former director of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugees), who said, “The Arab states do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.” So, to sum up, from now on, instead of speaking about Palestine, the Palestinians and Palestinian refugees, we should speak about pseudo-Palestine pseudo-Palestinians pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugees There, this was the result of my studies yesterday, Yaron.” “Marina, I am speechless, really. You are incredibly honest. You’re just great, you don’t know how proud I am of you!” “Thank you, Yaron, for everything! For your love, your trust, for having taken me to Itamar!” “Great little Marina, you’re my joy. Sleep well my darling, speak tomorrow.” “Night, Yaron, I love you lots.” *** Every night, as usual, Marina and Yaron would continue speaking on messenger. And every Tuesday night Marina would tell Yaron what she had studied about Israel during her homework-free afternoon. So, that Tuesday night, Yaron immediately asked Marina what she had discovered. He was very interested too, and this was bringing them even closer together. “Marina, my love, how are you? What else have you discovered about Israel today?”
  • 160. 161 “Hi, Yaron! You know that every Tuesday afternoon I study for you, to get to know your country better and to feel close to you. Today I chose to study Zionism. I discovered that Zionism is the return of the Jews to their homeland, the land of Zion, of Jerusalem, of Israel. The land inhabited by your people for thousands of years, from which they have never really separated despite persecution, and where finally their own nation was created: the state of Israel. I always thought that Zionism was a synonym of racism and instead today I discovered that it is the exact opposite, anti-Zionism is a synonym for racism! In particular, racism against the Jewish people, in other words anti-Semitism! My scheme today is like this: “anti-Zionism” = “anti-Semitism” There’s something that Martin Luther King said that explains it beautifully: “You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely “anti-Zionist”. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: when people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - this is God's own truth. ... All men of good will exult in the fulfilment of God's promise, that His people should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land. This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less. ... And what is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism. ... Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - make no mistake about it.” I read this to my friends because they are very involved with the non-violent struggle promoted by Martin Luther King for the self-determination of American blacks. Do you know that Carla, and also Paola, were shocked? Carla has always been less severe than Paola in her judgement against Israel, but do you remember how Paola was so obsessed when you met her?” “I do remember her, Marina.” “Well Yaron, you should’ve seen her this afternoon! She read and re-read this quote, she searched for it on various websites and these words were always there, to remind her that the state of Israel had been defended by Martin Luther King, a giant in the fight for human rights, and not only by a young girl in love with an Israeli soldier.” “Marina, these are really great words.” “Hadn’t you heard them before, Yaron?” “Yes, you had already told me, in other ways.” “But it’s impossible! I read them today for the first time.” “No no, you had already told me many times before, but each time you tell me, I’m in heaven.” “Ah, darling, I understand what you’re talking about ... how sweet you are, Yaron, I miss you so much and I love you so much.” “I also love you so much my darling. Good night Marina.” “Night Yaron, my love.”
  • 161. 162 *** The following Tuesday, after having spoken about other things during the week, Yaron was waiting for Marina to tell him about what she had studied. “Hi sweetie! How were your studies today, in class for the report card and on the net about Israel?” “Great Yaron! Today I got B+ in Latin!” “That’s fantastic, darling!” “Then I collapsed with laughter because, listen to what Paola did, she sits next to me these days. During Latin she was reading her English book under the desk, because she was going to be tested in the fourth lesson. So when the Latin teacher called her up to read, she read the first lines of Latin in an English accent! And do you remember how she pronounces that, don’t you?” “Sure, it was difficult for me to understand her!” “Well, the whole class was in fits!” “I have no idea what happens when Latin is read in an English accent, but if you were all laughing it must’ve been funny!” “Believe me, it was almost like hearing someone speaking the dialect from Bergamo in Rome, in an armoured car with the secret service from Betlehem de Sura and de Sota! Poor Paola, she’s really out!” “Maybe she’s in love, Marina.” “I think so too, Yaron, but she doesn’t want to tell me anything.” “One of the thugs from Montelungo, perhaps?” “I’m afraid it could be, I think she likes Tano. But he hardly knows she exists, poor thing!” “Why, poor thing? He’s just one of those six, better lost than found!” “I think she’s really hooked, she’s gone, and he doesn’t even notice her! She also embarrassed herself in the English lesson, with the teacher who asked her to translate a quote by Archimedes, “don’t disturb my circles”, which he told someone who was distracting him from drawing circles. She translated it into Italian by saying, “non rompermi le palle” that is “don’t break my balls”, and the whole class collapsed in a heap, Yaron! They could hear us laughing five kilometers away, she was voted the class comedian!” “Every now and again it’s good to laugh, Marina, in class like in the barracks!” “This morning I really needed it, especially in the history lesson, ’cause the teacher had the great idea of telling us about her pilgrimage to ... guess, Yaron ...” “Palestine?” “Exactly! A pilgrimage to Palestine, the same one the priest told us about at Mass, last Sunday! So today, in my homework-free afternoon, I researched two things about pilgrimages to Palestine, Yaron.” “You’re great, they are a huge means of promoting the pseudo-Palestinian myth.” “I have been thinking about it since Sunday Mass, but before I had to do homework and to focus on my report card for February.”
  • 162. 163 “Marina, if we can’t see each other in February I’ll die.” “But when this morning the history teacher also spoke about the same thing, I just couldn’t take it any longer, I intervened. But I should have done it on Sunday too, but then I kept quiet, you have no idea how I was sorry I didn’t defend Israel there too, Yaron.” “Well darling, I don’t think that arguing with the priest preaching his sermon at Mass is a good thing to do. Can you imagine? It would be strange wouldn’t it?” “Yes, you’re right Yaron. I think you’re wonderful, you make excuses for me all the time, you really love me, Yaron!” “That’s right!” “If I think that the priest and the teacher said the same things I used to say some time ago ... and you loved me anyway, Yaron! You’re a wonderful person, my love! They spoke about their pilgrimages like this: they went to Palestine, they ate cous-cous, visited the wall (the fence, Yaron, not the Western Wall!), waited in line at the checkpoints ... perhaps they came past you, my darling, they went past the best person in the universe and they didn’t even notice you, because they were only looking at the Arabs!” “I’ll be noticed in February, thanks to your tour of me.” “Oh yes! I only want to see you!” “Anyway, we call this type of tourism “bias tourism”, Marina.” “True, Yaron. A collection of things all done to delegitimize you, to exclude the presence of Israelis from the trip. Can you believe they went to Israel and they didn’t even meet a single Jew? They will have seen you at the checkpoints but they didn’t even look you in the face! They were shown only the things consisting of the pseudo-Palestinian legend! And I was shocked to hear that sometimes the Arab driver left them to other guides ’cause he couldn’t take them to Israel. In fact, if he had the Israeli stamp on his passport he couldn’t enter other Arab states, or even come home, because those governments would automatically have thought he was a spy.” “Actually Marina, if a Palestinian sells a piece of land or an apartment to a Jew, he’s punished by the death sentence.” “The death sentence because he has sold a house, Yaron?” “Yes, by law! It’s a written law by the Champions of Liberty, the pseudo- Palestinian Authority, Marina.” “Can you believe it, Yaron? It’s madness! They didn’t tell that to my teacher, but she’s only indignant one-way, she was much more indignant about the so-called wall than for the law about Israeli stamps on Arab passports! For her this law seemed normal, but is it normal that someone cannot go where one wants? One can’t even go back home? I get angry if I think that, with this law, those living in the Arab states cannot go to Israel and cannot meet you and understand that you are good people, and that one of you is absolutely fantastic and handsome and I miss him terribly and I can’t wait for February to see him again and hold him tight and fill him with kisses ...” “Marina, who are you talking about?”
  • 163. 164 “Well, Yaron, it’s someone I met the first day of a bias trip I took with two friends in September.” “Ah, didn’t you meet him on the last day, Marina?” “No no, the first.” “A pity. So he’s the lucky one who, in February, you will receive as a prize for having a good report card.” “That’s right.” “Ok, so in February I can be free for Miss Tel Aviv.” “You’re horrible, Yaron! Don’t you dare speak about her or I kill you first and then I’ll have a heart attack, understood?” “Ok, I’ll have to find someone else with whom to pass my leave in February.” “Did she pester you some more after you had spoken to me about her, Yaron?” “Who?” “What do you mean, WHO? Miss Tel Aviv!” “Ah-ah, you’re jealous, eh?” “Of course I’m jealous! So, did she or didn’t she?” “Only once.” “Eh??? You didn’t tell me?” “But it doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not the Israeli you met during your bias trip, am I?” “STOP IT, Yaron! I want to know exactly why the bitch has felt free to pester you again, and stop joking!” “Ok, ok, keep calm! She sent me an SMS, that’s all.” “That’s all? And how come she has your mobile number?” “At that party when we met, my idiot friend gave her my number.” “Change it!” “Come on! After that last time, a few weeks ago, I have heard no more from her.” “And what did you reply?” “Nothing, I pretended I hadn’t received it.” “And your ex, have you heard from her? Please Yaron, no jokes, my knees are shaking.” “My love, I love you madly. I don’t care about any other girl in the world. Thank heavens she left, because I found you.” “But has she contacted you?” “Yes, but there again I ignored even the phone calls.” “You must change number.” “Ok, if that makes you happy. Ok?” “Ok. Or no, perhaps it’s better if you keep it. I’m happy to hear that you don’t answer their calls. Thank you.” “That’s the least of it, my love. Have your knees stopped shaking?” “Yes. But if they carry on you must change number.” “Ok. So, Marina, who is the Israeli you fell in love with during your bias trip?” “You. You who fell in love with me despite Miss Tel Aviv and despite my bias trip. I was just a sheep in the herd, Yaron, I used to say the same things as the priest
  • 164. 165 and my teacher, and even worse things. You should have heard the teacher this morning, she was talking about the places were Christ had lived, He had also become a pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugee! Pity that He was a practising Jew, a devoted follower of the God of Israel, as you explained to me and stupid me, I didn’t understand. Now that my eyes have been opened I’ve no doubts that Jesus was a Jew and not an Arab, as I’ve never doubted that He was a man and not a woman! But I really used to be a sheep.” “My sweet little sheep.” “Baaaaah!” “They talk like this in Italy? In Hebrew they say meeeee!” “No, I googled the English sound, in Italian they say beeeee! Look, in Esperanto they say mek!” “That’s why that language died out!” “Yeah! Actually, have you seen any other herd pass by, Yaron?” “Yes, sometimes. It was lovely seeing the herd together in September, wasn’t it, Marina? I miss you so much, how soon can February arrive?” “Don’t tell me, Yaron! But let’s not be sad my love, hang on. Let me tell you what happened with my history teacher, at the end I was really proud of myself.” “Come on Marina, tell me everything, make me dream!” “Yaron, you should have seen me! The third time she said she had gone to Palestine I couldn’t stop myself, I got up and said, “But you DO know, Ma’am, that Palestine doesn’t exist?”” “Great, Marina!” “Everyone jumped up, all my classmates whistled and booed me, but I got the better of them because I’m really studying hard and I had really studied my history book. I opened it on the right page and read out loud, in front of everyone ... Yaron, hear this ... “Palestine is a phantom state”! The teacher came to read the book and was speechless, and so was everyone else.” “You’re just great, Marina!” “You have no idea how happy I was, Yaron! For the first time I wasn’t a sheep, I wasn’t saying the same things as the others. This morning I had my own ideas that had to be defended. I felt like a soldier, not a sheep, and you can’t imagine how close I felt to you. I know it’s late now, my love, and you must go, my conclusion today is from any travel agency that is unbiased ... Visit Israel!” “Visit soon, Marina. Good night.” “Very soon, Yaron. Sleep well.” *** A few nights later, Marina had some news for Yaron. “Yaron, my darling, today was a strange day for me. Very strange. Let’s see if you can guess why.” “Let’s see, Marina. You thought of me only 999 times instead of 1000?”
  • 165. 166 “No, Yaron, I usually think of you 1,000,000 times a day. So try again, ask me anything!” “Ok. Why was today a strange day?” “No no! You’re impossible! Ask me anything else, ask me only things I can give yes or no answers to.” “So, let’s see, Marina. Has it something to do with school?” “Yes, also.” “With home?” “Yes, also.” “With Montelungo?” “Yes, absolutely!” “Oh, I have an idea. Has it something to do with your clothes?” “Ok you’ve guessed, Yaron! You’re a genius!” “Your keffiyeh?” “Yes darling, how did you guess?” “Well, Marina, it’s since you started speaking about pseudo-Palestine that I’ve been asking myself how long that would last.” “And you were right, Yaron. I wasn’t even thinking about it, I just put it on in the morning and there it stayed until night time. It was years that I was just doing it automatically, I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. But this morning, Yaron, I picked it up and laid it out to shape it to wear around my neck and suddenly it looked like a flag, I was shocked. I said to myself, but is this my flag, the one I identify myself with? I had to throw it away, Yaron.” “Great, Marina. It’s a horrible symbol, a symbol of Islamic terrorism.” “It’s a symbol of all the mud that’s thrown at Israel. So I had to destroy it, so that no one else would wear it. If I put it into the charity box it would have ended up around someone else’s throat, so I tore it up and I threw it into the bin, no regrets.” “Think, Marina, you ripped it up so you didn’t have it anymore and to be closer to Israel, and in doing so you did something that is part of our culture: we rip our clothes as a sign of mourning.” “It is a mourning for me, Yaron, because part of me has died. Finally, though, because it was not a nice part of me.” “You were right not to keep the keffiyeh as a memory, Marina.” “Sure, Yaron, it would have been a bad memory. The only good thing that’s associated to it is the photo outside the synagogue at Megiddo, and the fact that everyone said we looked like Romeo and Juliet, now no one will say that anymore.” “Well, you still have your dreadlocks.” “Ummh, Yaron ...” “Have you cut them, Marina?” “No, not yet. But today I did ask how to get rid of dreadlocks, and I was told the only way is to cut the hair very short, almost shave one’s head, otherwise the
  • 166. 167 knots keep on forming. I’m going to have to cut my hair very short, Yaron, what do you think? By February it will have grown about two centimeters ...” “I think you would look great with short hair, you’re so beautiful, my love, with your little nose ... don’t make me think about your lovely face, I could just cover it with kisses my darling, Marina.” “How sweet you are, Yaron.” “Anyhow, my love, if you no longer see yourself with them, then cut them.” “Ok, Yaron. I’ll go tomorrow afternoon, think of me!” “Sure my love. And so today did you go to Montelungo without a keffiyeh?” “Ah yes.” “And what did the thugs say?” “Some gave me dirty looks. But Jacopo, the leader, remember the fat one who was in Rome?” “Yes, I remember.” “Well, he defended me, he said that the way I was reasoning lately, it was good that I had removed it, and I was being coherent.” “Well, Marina, I don’t think I like him.” “No no, after Rome we cleared things up and he has understood that I’m in love with you, he doesn’t think about me anymore.” “But is he in love with you?” “No!” “Ah, good.” “Are you jealous, Yaron? You can’t be jealous of anyone, especially him, I’m your Marina, Yaron!” “Not Jacopo’s Marina!” “No, never!” “My Marina! In February I won’t recognize you without your keffiyeh, you must send me a photo, especially when you cut your hair.” “Will you still love me if it doesn’t suit me?” “I will love you more.” “And if I look really terrible with a shaved head?” “I’ll still love you more.” “And if I look like a monster with large green veins on my scalp?” “You can wear a wig! But this morning in class what did your classmates and teachers say when they saw you without your keffiyeh?” “My classmates said nothing much, except for Paola who really cares about me, and she was worried about what those at Montelungo would say. But as I said, at the community centre everything was fine. In class the teachers didn’t say anything, except the history teacher, who said she was waiting for it, she said it with contempt, as if I were a traitor.” “The one who went on the bias trip?” “The same, Yaron!” “Has she got a keffiyeh, Marina?”
  • 167. 168 “No! She wears a ton of base on her face, and whatever she wears around her neck becomes orange immediately.” “Has she got dreadlocks?” “Come on, Yaron, she has straight teased hair that curl up on the sides.” “A true revolutionary! There you are, Marina, I’ll buy you a wig like that.” “Please Yaron, I want one like Pippi Longstocking, with plaits that stick out sideways!” “Wonderful, Marina, you’ll look great!” “And can I also have her horse, with the spots? And don’t forget about Mr Nilsson!” “Who was that, Marina?” “Her little monkey, Yaron!” “Ok great, so I’ll have two little monkeys! And then we’ll all live in a house in ... IT or IS, Marina?” “You decide, Yaron. Italy, Israel, anywhere is fine as long as you are with me.” “Well, we’ll think about it, Marina, these are details.” “No no, Yaron, I have an idea! We’ll go to Villa Villekulla!” “Where?” “Don’t you know anything, Yaron? It’s Pippi Longstocking’s home. Sorry but do you have a monkey, Yaron?” “A monkey? No.” “But you said before two monkeys. One was Mr Nilsson, and the other?” “Oops, the other was Mrs Marina.” “What??? I’m not a monkey!!! Then you’re a gorilla, an orang-utan, you’re King Kong!” “Ooh look, you’re getting cross about a joke, you really are a monkey!” “Yaron, you will now say your Shema Israel, right?” “Yes, my love.” “Great, darling, so ask God to look after you, because when I get there in February I’ll kill you!” “And so as usual, my little monkey, when I’ll see you I’ll be in Heaven.” “Why are you so sweet even when you’re unbearable? I love you so much, Yaron, sleep well.” “Good night, my love.” *** The day after Marina went to cut her dreadlocks, and that night Yaron asked her how it went. “Marina, darling ... so, did you go to the hairdressers, my love?” “Yes. It was awful, Yaron. Really, really terrible.” “I don’t believe you, you must be marvellous, I’m sure your lovely face must be even more gorgeous now.” “I’m a monster, Yaron. I’ve been crying all day. And I haven’t stopped.”
  • 168. 169 “Send me a photo?” “No! I hope that by February it will have grown, at least so it covers the skin. Yaron, my head looks like a skull, a mummy! I’m awful!” “Ok so tomorrow I’ll go buy a wig with plaits.” “Don’t joke. There’s nothing to joke about. After the hairdressers I went past Montelungo and I felt like dying.” “What did they say?” “Well, they weren’t happy yesterday when I removed the keffiyeh, but I told you Jacopo defended me.” “And today, when they saw you without the dreadlocks?” “Well, Jacopo said again that my decision was in keeping with what I felt inside. He even said I was great, not many would have had the guts to do what I did, not only regarding the hair but also because I questioned everything.” “He’s in love with you.” “Oh come on, Yaron! He doesn’t give a damn! And looking like this, it’s really not the best day to try and conquer someone.” “It doesn’t matter, a fierce anti-global like that, seeing you change your mind and your appearance, and who pays you compliments ... not possible, Marina, he’s in love with you.” “Are you jealous, Yaron?” “A little. I don’t like others moving close to you.” “But I wouldn’t even dream about it! Let alone think about it, Yaron, my heart is yours.” “Yes love, I know. It’s just that in Rome it seemed that he was the most violent one there, I don’t like it that he’s close to you and imagines what he likes.” “No no, darling, he doesn’t give a damn about me, I’m sure. A girl knows these things better than a man, believe me. Jacopo has understood that he went overboard in these recent months, and now he’s bending over backwards trying to compensate, it’s typical of boys.” “Mmh, let’s hope so. If you notice that there’s something not quite right, leave that place ok?” “Ok, darling. Don’t worry, a female’s sixth sense means she doesn’t have anything to learn from a male.” “Ok ok, enough of extolling the so-called virtues of the female gender, Marina!” “So-called?” “Yeah, that very useful ability for introspective analysis that disappears in front of a light bulb that needs changing.” “So, Yaron, why must we finish this conversation by arguing?” “Oohooh, con-ver-sa-tion ... I think I’ve said too much.” “That’s right, I don’t use certain four syllable words by chance you know!” “Have you noticed that the words “four syllables” have got four syllables?” “Yaron, you’re a darling, you’re trying to change the subject. But the situation doesn’t change by changing subject, my head looks like a boiled egg. No, I’m
  • 169. 170 wrong, I wish it DID look like an egg! There are lonely tufts of hair here and there, like those birds whose feathers haven’t grown yet and open their beaks to be fed.” “Marina, you have reminded me of something that happened today. I had to do an inspection with Eyal just before the woods, near the ruins of a house, and there were also Leah and Hava, two female soldiers.” “You, Yaron, with two female soldiers in an abandoned ruined house?” “There was also Eyal!” “Oh ok then ...” “Come on love! You are the love of my life, you know that, ok?” “Ok, thanks Yaron, it’s always a pleasure to hear that, my wonderful darling.” “Ok, so this ruin still had a piece of the roof, and on the top, under the four remaining tiles we found a swallow’s nest with little chicks inside. It happens here, in December, because it’s not that cold. Mother swallow was flying back and forth squawking and every time she squawked the chicks would open their mouths, and without even stopping she would feed them an insect. Leah tried to copy the squawk and the chicks opened their mouths also! So then also Hava tried, and the chicks opened their beaks. Poor things, after a while we felt sorry for them and stopped, but they were really funny. There was a really fat one behind the other four, and when he heard the cry he would be the last to move, he looked like he had just woken up!” “And did they open their mouths when you squawked at them, Yaron?” “No, Eyal and I weren’t able to fool them, probably our voices are too low.” “They must have been cute.” “Yes they were. They were so sweet, they were so silly and so touching!” “I wish I could be there with you when you see these things, Yaron. You don’t know how much I miss you. I feel like a blind woman to whom people describe what has happened during the day.” “Darling, in less than two months we’ll see one another again. Can you believe it, we’ll be together for three days? I’ll be able to hold you again!” “Can I believe it, Yaron? I must believe it, if not I won’t survive! But now I’m terrified of seeing you, I am horrible without hair. Listen, my love, I’ll send you two photos of me with short hair, or rather without hair, so I won’t worry about it anymore, ok? Hang on, here they come. Will you still love me, despite what you see?” “I’ll love you more, whatever I’ll see.” “Let’s hope so.” “Ok, got it, darling but you’re gorgeous! Poor thing though, it’s really really short, aren’t you cold?” “Yaron, you’re so sweet! I’m horrid and you say I’m gorgeous, and you worry if I feel cold! Thank you, I’m happy you don’t think I’m horrifying. I love you so much. Good night my love. I’ll go to bed trying to forget about the hair.” “Good night sweetheart, you’re really cute with your head like that. Now you have no anti-endearment barrier.” “No distance from love now.”
  • 170. 171 “If you were here I would fill you with kisses, Marina.” “Yaron, thank you. I never thought I would be so happy without barriers. Not only my hair, I mean.” “Darling, I love you so much. I can’t wait for February to hold you in my arms and kiss your sweet little head, good night my darling.” “Good night my love.” *** On Tuesday night, Marina told Yaron what she had studied in the afternoon about Israel. “Hi Yaron! Today I read up about the pacifists, and so my motto today is “pacifists” = “pseudo-pacifists” How about that, Yaron?” “I agree totally, Marina.” “Let me quote something I chose that represents the entire subject, it’s by George Orwell: Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other.” “That’s exactly what the pseudo-pacifists do, Marina, always and however against Israel and the West, always and however pro-Islamists. The pseudo-pacifists are not pro-peace, the pseudo-pacifists are at war, they are allies of the enemies of humanity.” “Indeed, Yaron! I searched for the history of “pacifist” demonstrations, I wanted to check without just judging those I had participated in, and I searched what they had never demonstrated against: A) against the massacre of Jews in discotheques, bars, pizzerias, restaurants, buses, shopping centres, shops, markets, cinemas, schools, homes, killed in Israel by Islamic terrorists. A) against the massacre of the Americans in the Twin Towers, killed by Islamic terrorists. A) against the massacre of Christians, killed in Arab countries by Islamic terrorists. A) against the massacre of Islamic people, killed in Arab countries by Islamic terrorists. And instead the pseudo-pacifists have always protested against: B) against the actions of the Israelis, undertaken to defend themselves from Islamic terrorists. B) against the actions of the Americans, undertaken to defend themselves from Islamic terrorists. My conclusion, therefore, has to be: A) because the pseudo-pacifists never protest against the Islamic terrorists, B) and because the pseudo-pacifists always protest against the defence from Islamic terrorists, C) then the pseudo-pacifists are allies of the Islamic terrorists!
  • 171. 172 Do you agree, Yaron?” “Sadly, it’s true, Marina. And they don’t even realize that they are allies of their enemies, because Islamic extremists will impose their laws on you, as soon as their numbers are bigger, and they will force you to accept the sharia, and you will lose all freedom. They will just kill those that don’t accept. And then what will the pseudo-pacifists do, they already don’t tolerate the laws of their own countries, how will they tolerate sharia? Islamic extremists will exploit the pseudo-pacifists to have the road open to them, but when they don’t need them any longer they will get rid of them.” “Yaron, an Italian icon of anti-Zionist pseudo-pacifism came to mind: Vittorio Arrigoni, a famous pro-Palestinian activist, who spent his life spreading hatred against Israel through famous newspapers, blogs, radios, and who even chose to live in the Gaza Strip to be closer to the Palestinians. Despite being so useful for the Palestinian cause, he was killed by Palestinian terrorists, who kidnapped, beaten, and hanged or strangled him. Nobody knows why: someone says for having behaved too freely, maybe for having been gay, in any case nothing could justify his death! But in spite of his “Palestinian death”, he is still an icon of anti- Zionism, as if he were killed by the Israelis, for the Italian pseudo-pacifists! Even for his parents, who in fact prohibited the passage of his body through Israel to reach Italy, to extremely scorn the Jewish state. Nobody learned anything from his death: who cares if he was killed by the ones he defended to the hilt? Who cares if a free Western man was killed for being too free for the rules of sharia? And which Western values are not too free for the rules of sharia?” “Instead of being an icon of anti-Zionist pseudo-pacifism, he would became an icon of the suicide alliance of the pseudo-pacifists with their own enemy: Palestinian terrorism, a branch of Islamic extremism, the enemy of entire humanity.” “But the pseudo-pacifists are blinded by Palestinian propaganda and by anti- Semitic hate, Yaron, they will never open their eyes. There’s another sad story, similar to the story of Arrigoni, the story of Angelo Frammartino. Another Italian pro-Palestinian activist, who moved to Israel to be closer to Palestinian people, and was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who stabbed him to death. Then the killer apologized, saying that he made a mistake due to the appearance of Frammartino’s face: he said Sorry, I thought he was a Jew! And his parents accepted his excuses, Yaron, it’s crazy! Parents who forgive their son’s killer, for this racist reason!” “Marina, thank you for having told me, I didn’t know anything about Frammartino. It’s crazy, all we need is Sorry, we apologize for his Jewish face!” “Pseudo-pacifists are racist and blind, and they’re also coward, Yaron. Because they protest against Israel and America, and they can still return home in the evening without being imprisoned, tortured or killed. While the protest against Islamic terrorism guarantees death, or, if you’re lucky, torture or imprisonment. In my small way, you don’t know how embarrassed I was in some demonstrations, where we were defended by the police. We would lie down on the
  • 172. 173 floor to block the traffic, and the police would blow their whistles to make the cars detour so they wouldn’t run us over. Well I always refused to participate in those kinds of things, because I thought it was terribly hypocritical, even I could see that. These weren’t heroes, they weren’t revolutionaries, they had no great ideas for which they were ready to die, ’cause if the police hadn’t been there with their whistles my friends would never have lain down on the floor! Oh God, Yaron, you have no idea how embarrassed I am to have been a pseudo-pacifist until recently.” “But, Marina, you see you were honest enough to have seen hypocrisy, and strong enough to not participate despite what your friends were saying?" “That’s true, Yaron, I wasn’t always a sheep just following on. That’s true, thank you. Nevertheless, to remember these two aspects of pseudo-pacifists (their cowardice and alliance with Islamic terrorism) I chose a letter from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As you will know, it was written at the time of the mass pseudo-pacifist invasion that was to occur in Israel, organized through the net and therefore also known to your government. On his arrival at Tel Aviv airport, each pseudo-pacifist received a letter and was sent home again as persona non grata. The letter said, “Dear activist, We appreciate your choosing to make Israel the object of your humanitarian concerns. We know there were many other worthy choices. You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime’s daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives. You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world. You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians. But instead you chose to protest against Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, where women are equal, the press criticizes the government, human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all and minorities do not live in fear. We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience. Have a nice flight.” You see, Yaron, here you can see the alliance with Islamic terrorists? They didn’t choose to protest against Syria, Iran or Hamas! And can you see their cowardice also? They chose to protest against a democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, so they were not imprisoned, tortured or killed, no, they were only sent back home and with a wish for a nice flight.” “Bibi is great!” “Bibi?” “It’s the nickname of our Prime Minister. And you’re great too, little one. Bye my love, good night.” “Good night, Yaron, I love you so much.”
  • 173. 174 *** Tuesday nights had become a lovely time of the week for Marina. Even if the time available was short and when they spoke of politics there was little time left to speak about anything else, she was very happy to see that Yaron was anxious to hear what she had discovered and how these things were really important for him. She thought that he couldn’t really be interested because he already knew all these things, but what was lovely for Yaron was seeing that Marina was doing all she could to get to know his people, and that all this was leading her to love Israel. “Hello Yaron, my love. Here I am, with my usual Tuesday night topic!” “Ok Marina, let’s hear!” “Today we will speak about ... drum roll please ... the counter-boycotts!” “Marina, you’re unique!” “No longer alone, Yaron, now there’s also Carla! She’s a little shyer than me, but I prepared some flyers in support of the Israeli economy and she helped me to hand them out outside the supermarkets!” “Wonderful Carla!” “I’ll send you the file of the flyer, see how nice it is, Yaron!” “Wow, it’s lovely, Marina!” “It’s the opposite of the flyer that is distributed by those who boycott Israel, with the list of products not to buy. I simply re-wrote the flyer inviting the people to buy the products on the list. I’m so sorry that I boycotted Israel in the past, Yaron, but I’m so proud to be on your side now! You know, the sad thing I discovered doing this research is that the boycott really had a serious effect on the Israeli economy, and some farms and industries had to close down. And there are some countries, like Denmark, South Africa, Great Britain, that label the goods imported from Judea and Samaria as: “produced in Israeli settlements” if they are made in Jewish villages “Palestinian product” if made in Arab villages That’s being racist, Yaron! And it will make cause many people to lose their jobs, those living in peaceful villages such as Itamar, and they already have so many problems surviving the attacks by Palestinian terrorists. And families such as the Fogels and the Shabos will be without jobs because they are labelled (in the true sense of the word) colonists in the settlements. And the word colonist is not tolerable, it’s unjust, it’s misleading, it brings to mind colonizers, imperialist powers that every Westerner should automatically fight against as a result of his own dirty conscience. Instead the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria are only “inhabitants of their land”, not colonists, not settlers! But they are Jewish inhabitants, that’s why there’s defamation and boycotts. Indeed this is not only racist, it’s Nazi, Yaron!” “You’re completely right, Marina. The Nazi motto “Kauft nicht bei Juden” (Don’t buy from Jews) is coming back.” “So my motto today is:
  • 174. 175 “boycotts against Israel” = “Nazism” And my conclusion, Yaron, is written in my flyer: “Counter-boycott! Support Israel! Let’s boycott Coop and Conad supermarkets that boycott Israel! Let’s support who invests in Israel: buy Disney, Nestlé, Nokia, IBM, Coca Cola, Estée Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, Danone, L’Oréal, Revlon, Intel, The Limited Inc., Kimberly-Clark, News Corporation, Sara Lee, Selfridges, Home Depot, Time Warner, Apax Partners, Delta Galil!” And if you know other, tell me, Yaron, I’ll add them to the flyer.” “I’ll find out and make a list. Marina, you don’t know what it means to me what you are doing, thank you my love, and sleep well. We’ll speak tomorrow.” “Wait, Yaron, I must tell you something else, something nice! I put a charm on your bracelet with the phrase from the Song of Songs. I took a small metal disk and I drew a Star of David on it, with a very thin light blue Uni POSCA marker. It’s small but noticeable, it’s my mark of solidarity with the Jewish people.” “Marina, you can’t imagine how happy you make me. Good night my love.” “Good night, Yaron. Speak tomorrow.” *** The day after, Yaron was busy in a defensive action with his battalion and that night he told Marina about it. She had already told him she wanted to know about all the military action he took part in, in fact Marina worried less when she knew that Yaron would have to defend himself, rather than just imagining that he was under constant threat. “Hello, Yaron, my love. How was it today?” “We are all well, my love, no worries. But we had to liberate a school in an Arab village from terrorists.” “Oh God, are you really ok?” “Yes sweetie, don’t worry, we always end up safe and sound, see? The air force had identified the school, it was being used to prepare kassam rockets that were then taken to Gaza and fired into southern Israel.” “Another school used as an arsenal, like the first place you fought, as you told me in Rome, my love.” “Yes, Marina, another school used as an arsenal. They don’t stop for anyone or anything. Schools, hospitals, mosques, children, the ill, people who pray: terrorists choose these places on purpose as arsenals, and the people as human shields, because they know we can’t hit them. We intervene only when we are sure that there are no civilians inside, like this morning. It was weeks that we were keeping the school under surveillance with helicopters, and we knew that as from yesterday inside there were only terrorists. This morning the tanks freed the road and we in the infantry entered the school. We divided into groups of four and not into pairs as we usually do, because we knew that this time inside there
  • 175. 176 were more vicious terrorists, those who would not surrender without shooting. As soon as we went in, they started to shoot from the upper floors.” “God, Yaron, don’t take part in these things anymore!” “But I told you they can’t aim, they were armed to their teeth but they didn’t manage to hit us, we fired back and in a few minutes everything was over. It’s on the news on Internet, the reporter says that the Israeli army killed eight school teachers ...” “The usual objective way of stating the news! Oh God, Yaron, I can’t think that you find yourself in these kinds of situations, tell me about something different, please.” “You tell me something nice, my darling: how was school?” “It was ok, my love, I got B+ in Latin.” “Great! It’s the second time you get B+ in Latin, Marina!” “Yes, it’s sweet of you to remember! Well, at this point I’m almost ok for Latin, for my mark on the report card. But you don’t know what that fool of Paola did, she is still sitting next to me but they will probably move us because we laugh too much! Well, today the teacher gave us back the tests he had marked, and it was clear that not only had she copied the whole translation from me, but she had also copied my name! She had written MY name and surname on HER test!” “But she’s out of her head, that girl!” “True! How can she disconnect her head so completely, Yaron?” “Is she still in love with Tano?” “Always, Yaron!” “And him?” “Never! Paola doesn’t even exist for him! And to think that she’s so pretty, and he’s a real disaster, poor thing ... did you notice him in Rome? The thinner one, slightly bald ... well, I shouldn’t really speak about baldies, but at least my hair will grow, I hope.” “You-are-gor-geous! I don’t want you to speak badly about your lovely hair any more, ok?” “Ok, thank you darling. Anyway, when the teacher gave her back the test he wanted to take off some marks from me, because he said I let her copy. Then Paola swore and assured that I didn’t know anything, that I was writing my translation and that she copied without me noticing. It wasn’t true, but the teacher believed her.” “Then it shows that Paola cares about you.” “Yes, Yaron, she was really cut up by the idea that I could fail and then I couldn’t come and see you.” “She has really changed her mind about us, hasn’t she?” “We were able to do that, Yaron.” “We made it, Marina.” “And you know what else happened, always during Latin? I had drawn on a sheet of paper while he was explaining the mistakes in the translation, and he caught
  • 176. 177 me and wanted to see the paper. Obviously there was a heart with your name inside.” “Ooh how sweet you are, drawing that.” “I have drawn hundreds, Yaron. I draw then every time I don’t have to look at the teachers, to pretend I’m listening, while I’m actually thinking about you. Anyway it was the first time they caught me. And this teacher, who is pretty stern but he’s nice, said, “Yà-ron? And who is he?” and I said, “Ya-ròn. He’s my boyfriend.” “What kind of name is it?” “It’s a Hebrew name.” “Ahhh, Marina! That’s why the hair and the keffiyeh have disappeared!” And he continued, “You draw very well, you must show the art teacher, there’s the Y that underlines the name and joins the N, and all these nuances of colour ... Your Ya-ròn must be happy to have an artist for a girlfriend.” And I said, “Well I’ve never actually told him I like to draw. But do you also have a Jewish girlfriend sir?” “A girlfriend?” he asked me, “No, dear! I’ve been married for a long while. Perhaps too long.” “So is your wife Jewish?” “No, why?” “Because your hair has also disappeared, sir!” he laughed like crazy, Yaron!” “You’re mad to speak to a teacher like that, Marina, but they’re happy when you speak to them affectionately, aren’t they?” “They are, Yaron! This teacher, he really likes us. He’s old, but he always wants to come with us on school trips, then he’s out of it for a month.” “Where are you going on school trip this year, my love?” “To Florence. It’s a beautiful city, Yaron, we should go and see it together! And close by there’s Siena, another lovely city.” “We’ll also go up the tower of Pisa, Marina.” “No, please, Yaron! I went up when I was a child, the thought of all those stairs gives me nightmares!” “You’re right, we’ll look at it from below! It’s a nightmare to have to climb a tower with a spiral staircase from many centuries ago, they must have had really small feet back then.” “It’s true, Yaron, no bigger than size 2! We can only step on the stairs with our toes, and you go up always turning in the same direction ...” “And you must be lucky not to meet a group coming down ...” “A nightmare, Yaron! You have to press yourself against the wall and those sweaty fat people try to squeeze past, it’s a miracle if you come out alive!” “And at the end, after one thousand steps and one hundred fatties, you eventually get to the top and you’d like to enjoy the view, seeing as you’ve taken all the trouble ...” “But you can’t manage because you feel sick from the spiral staircase, and it’s a miracle if you don’t throw up!” “Marina, in a previous life we must have been brothers, because we have too many things in common.”
  • 177. 178 “Twins, Yaron, because we finish each others’ sentences like Huey, Louie and Dewey.” “Who?” “Donald Duck’s three nephews.” “Oh, we call them Ido Dido Veyu!” “Ooh poor thing the one called Veyu, it’s a horrible name! Couldn’t you call them Ido Dido Vido, in Hebrew?” “You’re right, Marina, it would be better!” “We’ll name our triplets after them, Yaron.” “Done, Marina.” “Think, Yaron, we could really have triplets! Do you think we could really get married? Could we be a family? Could we live together? Grow old together? Have children?” “But we’ll think really hard before we name them Ido Dido Vido, Marina.” “Yaron ... it’s not true that we were twins, you always manage to surprise me!” “Bye twin, I must leave you now, unfortunately. Good night, my love. And in February I want to see your drawing.” “I’ll make a beautiful one for you, Yaron! Good night my love.” *** On Tuesday night Marina had a new research on Israel. “Hi sweetheart, here I am with the results of another afternoon of study on your country!” “Ok, Marina, make me dream!” “So, today I researched the city we will visit together in February, my love.” “Jerusalem!” “That’s right! I read up on everything, to understand if the Arabs have some valid reason to state that it’s a more important city for them than for you Jews. Obviously, Yaron, as you already know, there is no reason! The Jews have lived in Jerusalem for two thousand years before the appearance of Islam, the Jews pray towards Jerusalem and not towards Mecca which is in the other direction, in the Old Testament Jerusalem is mentioned 800 times and in the Koran it’s not mentioned even once, and Jerusalem had not become an Arab capital when Jordan occupied it from 1948 to 1967! They just want to drive you out, Yaron, first from here then from there, and then goodbye Israel! If I think that you gave Sinai back to Egypt I feel ill.” “Don’t tell me, Marina.” “A huge territory for you, you are such a small country. Ok, the Sinai is a desert, but in the desert you’ve already managed to grow vineyards, flowers, cultivations and even one of the most important clownfish breeding farms in the world, Yaron! Fish in the desert! Think what you would have been able to do with the Sinai, if you had held the area for long enough: it would be a garden now!”
  • 178. 179 “Land for peace, Marina ... all lies! At the time it seemed a reasonable exchange. Now they won’t catch us again.” “And what peace, Yaron ...” “At least with Egypt there has been peace with the Sinai ... while it lasts.” “But what about the Gaza Strip? You gave it to them, to the pseudo-Palestinian Arabs, and they turned it into a launch pad to fire missiles at you! As you said, Yaron, you were right about everything, my love.” “And they would also pretend Judea and Samaria, Marina, have you seen the map? Do you know what it would mean?” “The destruction of Israel, Yaron! You would be at the mercy of any attack, exactly as you were telling me. I conclude because it’s late and I don’t want you to get into trouble at the barracks.” “Ok, tell me your conclusion, Marina, you’re amazing. I then tell Eyal and Ilan, you know?” “Do you?” “Always, my love.” “Is Ilan the French guy?” “Yes. They both admire the work you are doing. It’s consoling to see that people, if they have a good conscience, can stop hating us.” “And can also start loving you.” “Ah sure, Marina, as long as this is contained in a historical-political study.” “Certainly, Yaron, with the distancing and objectivity required in the study of history.” “And with the ability of perceiving what is not explicitly mentioned, typical of a politician, Marina.” “So, Yaron, can I tell you my concluding phrase?” “Shoot!” “There is no concluding phrase!” “How come?” “Eh no! because I said to myself that, in my opinion, the most important thing I have discovered today is that the word Jerusalem doesn’t exist in the Koran, and in order to emphasize this, the concluding phrase doesn’t exist!” “That makes sense, Marina. An unquestionable mathematical logic. I forecast B on your report card. Goodnight my love.” “Goodnight, Yaron. I love you.” *** A few nights later, Marina was as happy as a lark, and she couldn’t wait to speak to Yaron. “My love, I got my card! I’m an Israeli citizen! Yuuuhuuu!!!” “What card, Marina?” “The one you told me to get, to book the flights in February!”
  • 179. 180 “Ah, the one from ELAL, the Israeli airlines. Great, you did well to ask for it. You’ll see, with that code you’ll be able to find a seat even if you book at the last minute.” “And with this card I am a real Israeli, Yaron! Wow!” “It’s not a passport, Marina.” “You have no imagination, Yaron! It has my name and surname. There’s an Israeli flag. And so, what else do I need to be completely happy? Yaron, you were a child also, once, weren’t you?” “You’re like a little girl: you got the card from ELAL, with your name and surname on it and a flag ... and my baby thinks she has her passport! It’s like when you are little and take a piece of paper, write NASA on it, stick it with tape on an overall, and you’re an astronaut.” “So you see, you remember what it’s like, Yaron! So you can understand that when I opened the envelope I felt like I was in heaven!” “Nonetheless, Marina, perhaps you’ll also have a real passport sooner or later, there are many ways to get Israeli citizenship.” “Really? Even if I’m not Jewish?” “Sure, the simplest is through marriage, you just have to marry an Israeli.” “Interesting. Would you have a friend to introduce me to?” “Unfortunately not.” “Too bad. I’ll have to settle for my ELAL card.” “You’re terrible, Marina! I was thinking of making a fa-bu-lous suggestion, one you can’t say no to ...” “I’m doing it for you, Yaron, otherwise you would also become Italian, and I don’t know if you would ever feel completely Italian, inside, the part that comes out at important moments ...” “Ah no, you’re right Marina. I think that in a direct confrontation I would always be on Israel’s side.” “It would be the greatest proof of love, Yaron! If our two national football teams were to ever play each other again, we should watch the game together, you and I, my love, and to prove your love you should support Italy!” “No way.” “What do you mean? And where is your great love for me now, Yaron?” “Look Marina, don’t speak to me about football and my great love for you, because I have made my great sacrifice, and more than that, in all honesty, you can’t ask.” “What are you speaking about, Yaron?” “Dearest Marina, in February, while you and I will be around in Jerusalem, my team, Beitar, will play an important match right there, in Jerusalem. It’s the game everyone has been waiting for, the whole championship, but I sacrificed going to it to stay with you. And I didn’t even want to ask you to come to see the game with me, I didn’t want to force you to see the game. If you don’t appreciate this, then you are heartless, Marina.” “So you really love me, Yaron.”
  • 180. 181 “And now you have total proof, Marina.” “But if you want to go and see the game together ...” “No no Marina, because then I have to kiss you all the time so you don’t talk about the posters, the jerseys, the hair ...” “You are a monster, Yaron! Forget marriage! Actually, in February perhaps I won’t even come, so you can go and see your precious game in peace!” “Bye, Marina, I’ll go on the website to see if I can still find a ticket. Good night.” “But excuse me, Yaron, with all the great guys there are in the world, why did I have to fall for you? The most egotistic, unbearable, awful and exasperating person?” “Me instead, whatever girl I chose, she would have stressed me anyway as regards football, so, all in all, I’m not complaining.” “I can’t stand you anymore Yaron, but I miss you to death, I can’t wait for February! I will cover you in kisses, but also beat you up because all these things that exasperate me, I must get back at you!” “Ok, Marina, I’ll receive your kisses and your beatings with joy and thankfulness, my love. Bye now, my darling, good night.” “Good night, my love.” *** Once again, it was Tuesday night and Yaron was curious to hear what Marina had studied that day. “Hi Marina, so what are we speaking about today?” “The Arab Spring.” “And this was all in one afternoon?” “More or less, Yaron ... So let me write the motto I’ve chosen, to remind myself of the truth about this subject “Arab Spring” = “Islamist Winter” more or less what you said when we met.” “Your definition is better than mine, Marina. I said “Arab Winter”, but you explain straight away why, what initially seemed like spring, quickly became winter: because it landed up in the hands of the Islamic extremists.” “Listen, but aren’t you bored to hear all these things you know already, Yaron?” “Not at all, see I’ve just learnt this definition from you? You don’t know how happy I am to see that you are interested in these things, and especially that you are interested in my country, that you really love it. The other day I was moved by the things you said, when you got the ELAL card.” “I always have it with me! It’s lovely, do you also have one, Yaron?” “Yes, and it’s much prettier than the passport. The card has the flag, the passport doesn’t.” “It doesn’t?” “No. Why, does the Italian one have a flag?”
  • 181. 182 “No, that’s true. Ok so I’m not interested in the passport anymore Yaron, so no marriage and friends like before.” “Well, you know, I got some information and it’s not enough to get married to get a passport.” “Oh, it isn’t? Ok, well, no problem, there isn’t even a flag on the passport anyway! And then who said I want to marry you anyway? I wouldn’t dream of it! Ok, no more chatting now, Yaron, let’s concentrate on the Islamist Winter!” “What better subject to get over the pains of love?” “Shush! So, the Islamist Winter is a series of revolts that began at the end of 2010 in many Arab and Islamic countries, where the majority of the common people descended into the squares to get rid of the dictators who had ruled them for decades. What struck me most, and what made me focus on this Islamist Winter, is that Islamic extremists are now taking the place of the dictators, and so what appeared to be a spring full of promise for a future of liberty and justice is instead becoming a winter in which these dreams are disappearing, crushed by sharia. What I can’t understand, is this, Yaron: how come the people in the squares, now that they’ve been able to vote, chose to vote for the Islamic extremists?” “I think they had no alternative, Marina. Under dictatorships, the only ones who had been able to get organized were the Islamic extremists, and now the common people had no moderate leaders to rely on. We must hope that the movements, with their hopes of justice and freedom, will be able to set up a political project to stand for the next elections, if ever there will be others.” “Why do you say that, Yaron?” “Because the Islamic extremists have often said that once they are in power, they will never leave.” “Gosh, it all looks black doesn’t it, Yaron? I can’t manage to find a concluding phrase this time, I don’t see any way out.” “Then you know how we Israelis feel, surrounded by countries where Islamic extremists are getting into power, and who have as their cornerstone a great anti- Semitic feeling. If you look at the map, Marina, you can see Israel surrounded by the Islamist Winter. So you could conclude with this phrase by one of our intellectuals, Mordechai Kedar, in reference to the Islamist Winter: Israel again appears as an island of stability and sanity in a roiling and stormy sea, where rickety boats are about to sink along with their inhabitants.” “That’s true, Yaron, and every Westerner should support Israel, because it’s the only country that defends Western freedom from Islamic extremism.” “My love, I must go now. Bye, Marina, speak tomorrow.” “Oh God, Yaron, don’t leave me alone with these thoughts!” “Marina, the situation is not good, unfortunately. But we mustn’t give up hope, ok?” “And how can we keep being hopeful, Yaron? Everything seems to be dark ...” “Think of Israel, think of the fact that Israel still exists, despite the many attacks by the Islamic terrorists and regimes.”
  • 182. 183 “So you say that the Western world will still survive, Yaron? I don’t think so: you have always fought against Islamic extremism, instead we are giving up something every day, giving up our freedom.” “Darling, it’s difficult to hope, I know. Be brave, be strong, don’t give up.” “It would be easier if we were closer, Yaron.” “It’s also difficult for me to be optimistic, without you.” “I love you, Yaron. Good night darling, sleep well.” “You too, Marina. Speak tomorrow, bye, my love.” *** The following Tuesday, Marina told Yaron about her new research, and she was very frightened. “Hello Yaron, my love. Today I studied a bit more about Iran and I am terrified. I also remembered that you mentioned Ahmadinejad, the president, when we met. But I wasn’t really listening to you. Today I read further because it was on my list, so I read something else about the Middle East. Instead this IS the topic on the Middle East, it IS the topic of Europe, it IS the topic of the U.S., and that of the world. If Ahmadinejad builds the atomic bomb, it WILL be the end of the world. He has said clearly that he wants the destruction of Israel, and I, my love, can’t bear to think about you and your wonderful people, because I feel ill. And in fact my motto today is a terrible one, Yaron: “Mahmud Ahmadinejad” = “Adolf Hitler” He is the new Hitler, and he said that immediately after Israel, he will hit Europe, and in fact in Europe we are setting up a nuclear missile interception system. The U.S. is also developing a radar system to defend itself from Ahmadinejad, he is threatening the whole world with the atomic bomb. Can you believe it, Yaron?” “Yes Marina, I know, sure. But many people don’t even think about it anymore, because dissident Iranians can’t send us information, since Ahmadinejad completely isolated the country from Internet. And we have already forgotten about a bloody, dying Neda Agha Soltan, the sixteen-year-old girl killed three years ago by Iranian police. Marina, friendly reprimands from the world will not stop Ahmadinejad, they will only give him time, time he needs to complete the making of an atomic bomb.” “No one is really defending humanity, Yaron. Some reprimands, a few radars, but who is doing something so the bomb is not actually made? Only you, Yaron, only Israel is doing something. It’s the same thing we were speaking about last Tuesday: us Westerners should side with Israel. We should support you, help you, at least thank you, and instead we can only criticize and leave you on your own, like always. I will quote a speech by Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Italian journalist and politician, perhaps you’ve heard of him: “Many, in their hearts, hope that Israel will “play dirty” on her own, reserving the right to condemn it publicly, while being fully in agreement with the aim of eliminating the threat of
  • 183. 184 an Islamic regime that is fanatical in an ideological point of view, authoritarian on an internal one, and bellicose on an international one. This is certainly the case for the wealthy Arab petrol-rich states, neighbours of Iran in the Persian Gulf who, while being fully aware that the regime of the ayatollahs represents the main threat to their security and stability, will never ever side publicly with Israel. But us, men and women who are free and full of good will, we, who are not dominated by anyone or anything, cannot continue to remain silent and inactive. If we do, our silence will mean connivance and our inactivity will mean complicity. When what is at play is the affirmation and defence of the fundamental value of our humanity, the sacredness of life, that today more than ever on the international scene identifies with the acknowledgement and safeguarding of Israel’s right to exist, we must be in the front line in defence of life and against whoever deliberately denies life. We must use all the human and civil means at our disposal.” Yaron, my love, what will happen? I hope there will be an earthquake where there are the Iranian nuclear sites ... I hope there will be no victims and I hope there will be no radiation ... I don’t know what to hope anymore, Yaron. Let’s ask God together, please, my love.” “Yes, Marina, let’s ask Him together now, while we pray. Good night darling, speak to you tomorrow.” “Good night, Yaron, my love.” *** A few nights later, Yaron and Marina were speaking again on messenger, as every night. “Hello Marina. I thought about what we were saying about Iran and I remembered the feast of Purim.” “What is it, Yaron?” “It’s a Jewish feast, a religious feast. First we fast for a day and the next day is a day of celebration, to remind us of when we overcame the first genocide, about 2300 years ago. Guess which nation was threatening to exterminate us?” “Iran?” “Exactly: Persia, which is the ancient name for Iran. A senior official in the Persian Empire, Haman, wanted to exterminate us all on a single day. But the story is in the Book of Esther, don’t you know it?” “No, I know almost nothing of the Old Testament.” “Anyway, after three days of prayer and fasting our army conquered Haman. Without any apparent divine intervention, a miracle, for example, but simply because the Lord was able to act through the persons who had prayed to Him and fasted. And if you were to fast with me, Marina, before Purim? It’s in March, after we have seen one another, there’s time.” “Thank you Yaron, thank you for asking me, I’m happy to be close to you in this also.”
  • 184. 185 “And it’s also close to your request for an earthquake, because it’s a feast that marks salvation from a period of darkness, without prophets and without miracles, which had been the signs of the closeness of the Lord until that time. Salvation obtained without even knowing whether the Lord was still with us or had abandoned us. And yet, without revealing Himself, He supported us in the struggle and we won.” “I hope it’s still like that, Yaron: hidden in the depths of the earth, perhaps He’s preparing an earthquake.” “Or just hidden in our minds and in our hearts, He’s preparing the skills to conquer Ahmadinejad.” “You’re incredible: you hardly ever ask, and when you do, you ask for little. Like the tefillin, which you don’t use to ask God’s protection but to remember His words. We ask for miracles in any situation, even for a personal problem and instead you, faced with a nuclear Iran, ask that God prepare your hearts and minds. I have read that, in Israel and in the rest of the world, the Jews number 14 million. Well, God must feel more loved by you 14 million that by all the other 7 billion people in the world. You really are the chosen people, the people whom God chose to be loved by. And then, this asking for the minds to be illuminate, perhaps it’s the secret of your incredible success in all fields, there are so few of you Jews and you have won so many Nobel prizes! Perhaps it’s because you don’t ask merely for His help, but for His help in making your mind work.” “Well, Marina, I think God was guiding our brains when we found that computer virus that had infected Iranian nuclear facilities and destroyed one thousand centrifuges.” “One thousand nuclear centrifuges, Yaron, do you realize how Ahmadinejad is wasting money, instead of using it to allow his people to live better?” “He doesn’t care about them, Marina.” “My God, Yaron, I got the shivers when I thought that Purim could also be our feast, seeing that it is in the Old Testament, and I thought that we don’t celebrate it because we never experienced a genocide, and you instead ... and how many times at the hands of Christians ... I’m really embarrassed, Yaron.” “But it has nothing to do with you, Marina, like it has nothing to do with today’s Christians. Some don’t think much of us, others even scorn us, but of course today’s Christians don’t persecute us, and many Christians like us and show us they do. Sadly it’s not true that you have never had a genocide, you should study what the Christians are going through at the hands of the Islamic extremists in the Arab countries.” “Then Tuesday that’s what I’ll speak about, my love. And I will fast with you in March, you must tell me the date, Yaron. Think how nice it would be, if we could also celebrate together the day after.” “It’s a lovely feast, we celebrate it also here in the barracks as far as it’s possible.” “Do you drink like at the feast of Simchat Torah?” “At home we do, but here in the barracks we just have a small toast.” “Will your brother Nitzan be on leave?”
  • 185. 186 “I don’t know. His battalion is on holiday now.” “Sorry? Are they all on leave, Yaron?” “No, they’re on holiday with the army. Some lucky battalion receives the gift of a week’s holiday from the FIDF, Friends of the Israel Defence Forces, an organisation that collects charity funds and helps Tzahal paying the studies for who can’t afford them, medical treatments for who has been injured, trips home for lone soldiers, and also a week’s holiday to battalions. There are two centres on purpose for this in Israel, like a kind of resort.” “Is Nitzan enjoying himself?” “I think so, seeing he never answers his mobile!” “Ha ha ha! I bet that when he wasn’t on holiday he couldn’t wait for your phone call, to feel at home ...” “Ah yes, Marina! My little brother!” “Is he as good looking as you, Yaron?” “Much less.” “Sure, no one is like you, my Yaron. In a short while we’ll be together three days, can you believe it?” “Almost half a week of the FIDF, and much better.” “You’re wonderful! But if at the last moment you get a week from the FIDF just when I must arrive, what would you do?” “Do you have to ask?” “Would you take me with you to the week of the FIDF?” “Are you crazy? My little flower with all those randy soldiers?” “Well no, I didn’t think ... I only want one randy soldier!” “Marina be careful, I might not be responsible for my actions in February.” “Luckily I’ll be there and I’m VEEEERY responsible.” “Pity. I’ll have to get used to it, Marina.” “You sound like Paola! Her motto is Get used to it!” “There, perfect for me in February.” “Poor puppy!” “And it would take so little to make me happy ...” “A bone and a bowl of dog biscuits.” “A leash and the promise of a walk.” “A pat and a warm kennel.” “A female puppy with whom to express my animal instincts.” “Yaron, you’re a beast, a ravenous wolf! But I still love you. Good night from your puppy.” “Good night Marinahuuuuuu” *** A few nights later, when Marina and Yaron contacted one another on messenger, Yaron remembered what Marina had written to him the previous Tuesday, when they had spoken about a nuclear Iran.
  • 186. 187 “Hello Marina, my love. I was looking back at what we were speaking about the other night: do you remember that you wrote to me a quote by Magdi Cristiano Allam?” “Yes, Yaron.” “I know who he is, Marina, he’s also famous here because he’s really pro-Israel and always tells the truth, he’s a reliable source of information and interpretation. I’ve read his wonderful book “Long Live Israel” and I also know something about him. He’s a journalist and a politician, he used to be a Muslim but converted to Christianity, he lives protected by bodyguards to defend himself from Islamic terrorists. Do you realize that you are no longer free, in Europe? If a European wants to speak his mind and criticize Islam he is forced to live under guard otherwise Islamic terrorists might kill him. I feel ill when I think of Holland, Marina, a country that seems to be, at first glance, free and peaceful. Look what happened to the poor director Theo Van Gogh, stabbed to death eight years ago by Islamic terrorists because he directed the film Submission, which was critical of Islam. And the same day he was killed, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, very critical of Islam, was collected from his home by his bodyguards and since then he lives in different, secret places and changes destination every day: he hasn’t been able to return home, not even after eight years. And Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the screen writer for Submission, a Dutch woman originally from Somalia, had to emigrate to America because in Holland no one wanted to be a neighbour of hers anymore. They were all afraid to live near a target of Islamic terrorism, and the International Court of Justice (the primary judicial branch of the UN) gave reason to her neighbours, even if her house were one of the safest place in the country due to the large number of guards that the Dutch government had assigned her. Europeans, you are no longer free, everything your fathers have fought for, you are selling short!” “You’re absolutely right, Yaron. Have you seen the photos of the Islamic occupation of the Milan Cathedral, three years ago?” “Sure, Marina, they went around the world.” “Well at the time I thought it was a sign of civil liberty allowing them to stay on the area in front of one of our most famous churches ... how disgusting, Yaron, I was such a hypocrite, but so were the priests and politicians! They kept saying “poor people, they were there to pray”, but now I can see very clearly that they were there to send a strong and clear message of domination to the world.” “Marina, you were a child, and now you are honest enough to force yourself to form your own opinion. You are great, you must stop being embarrassed, you must be proud of yourself!” “And you don’t know how I feel free now that I’m no longer a prisoner of that hypocritical cowardice called politically correct! And I must thank you and only you for this, Yaron.” “No, Marina, because until one month ago you didn’t accept my ideas. You haven’t changed your mind because you love me, but because you love the truth, and this honours you. And you are right to be courageous my love, because
  • 187. 188 cowardice doesn’t save one from Islamist violence. As Winston Churchill said, An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” “Help, Yaron, we’ll all be eaten ... Perhaps not, though, because there’s one thing we can all hope for, that Israel kills the crocodile before it eats us all.” “That’s true, Marina, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because in the world only we Israelis are truly fighting Islamic terrorism. Even America, with Obama, is not really defending itself. Let’s hope in the next president, and let’s hope he doesn’t arrive when it’s too late.” “Yaron, I have the shivers, how can I say goodbye and stay here on my own with these thoughts? Please console me, my love.” “Pray for an earthquake in the Iranian nuclear sites, Marina. Pray with me, let’s both ask our Creator to protect humanity from the threat of an Iranian nuclear power.” “Right, Yaron. I’ll pray for that until I fall asleep, then.” “Yes, me too, my love. Speak tomorrow.” “Speak tomorrow, my darling.” *** That day Yaron’s battalion had to free an Arab village from terrorists, who from inside the houses had shot sprays of assault rifle against the cars with the yellow Israeli number plate, and many Jews had risked getting killed. Fortunately, Palestinian terrorists are famous for their bad aim, and the only car they had hit was empty and parked, but the child seat inside had been pierced by the bullets. What if the baby had been sitting there? That afternoon, after the previous day the Israeli air force had located with precision the houses from which the sprays came, Yaron’s battalion had been sent to strike the terrorists. For all of that morning, two Tzahal helicopters had flown over the area where the terrorists were hidden and they had thrown hundreds of leaflets, to warn the population that in the following afternoon it would have been dangerous staying in that area. This respect for civilians was admirable, but obviously the leaflets were read also by the terrorists, so Yaron and his group knew that they will have to be very careful. The time to get into the houses that had been pointed out from the air force had come, the soldiers had split in couples to look over each other’s shoulders and they got into a low decaying block. Yaron was with Ilan, the French lone soldier who often supported him, and the first apartment in which they entered was empty. They patrolled it completely, moving all of the furniture to find where they had hidden the assault rifles, and, despite the haste in looking for the weapons and the fear of being attacked by a terrorist, they managed not to break anything. But they didn’t find the weapons, and evidently that apartment was not the base of a terrorist. In the second apartment, they found in a corner an old man who was shivering from fear. Ilan, who couldn’t speak Arab, tried to calm him with his hands, while
  • 188. 189 Yaron who instead knew Arab preferred not to waste time speaking. The old man understood Ilan’s gesture but he shook for the whole time of the inspection. At the end of the patrol, which was futile because they hadn’t found the assault rifles, the two soldier left the apartment: Ilan was first and Yaron behind him. At that point, the old man said whispering, “Jews! They have many weapons but no courage!” Yaron turned towards him to stare at him, and answered, “Lots of weapons, lots of courage, and a conscience. You don’t even know what conscience means.” When they were both out, Ilan asked Yaron, “What did you and the old man talk about in Arab, Yaron?” Yaron told him and Ilan commented, “Ah, would he have preferred that we destroyed his house? Or that we killed him?” “Ilan, you come from France and you don’t know their mentality, but they think a man who respects other men is a wimp, a sissy, they despise him.” “It’s the same in France, Yaron. In my high school I had some Arab classmates, and in History hours they used to take the piss out of Israeli people for this. They said that only imbeciles could still have problems in Palestine, in spite of all of their weapons. I wasted a whole lot of words, trying to explain the truth about Israel’s history and the Jewish values, but they never had a slightest doubt, because knowledge is useless without open-mindedness. At least, all of these discussions were useful for me: I was so passionate that I decided to come here to help. You don’t know how proud I feel to belong to Tzahal!” “You reminded me of my Marina. Even she hated us, and she could have not had a slightest doubt, and instead she’s doing a great job with news and on herself.” “That’s because she knows how to use her brain! And she doesn’t use it only to store data or, worse, lies! Not like my Arab classmates ... You explained her the history of Israel, and she’s researching information by herself and building a personal idea. I don’t know if she will become a defender of Zionism, but at least she doesn’t see any more Israel as the source of all evil in the world! You’ll see her soon, right, Yaron?” “Yes, if she has decent marks at school, she’ll come in February.” “Come on, there’s not much left. And let’s hope in a good report!” “She’s studying like crazy, she’s close to C, so she’s aiming for B in all subjects.” “Eh, it was nice when we used to pass the afternoon studying, right, Yaron?” “Yeah. But it’s good to defend Israel, Ilan.” “You’re right, no regrets!” Then, at night, Yaron and Marina spoke on messenger as usual. “How was your day, Yaron, my love?” “Fine, precious, it was day of exercises, nothing special.” “I don’t believe you anymore when you talk to me about exercises, Yaron. Maybe you scare me more by always telling me about these exercises, and I think you are in real danger. If today it wasn’t an exercise, Yaron, I beg you, tell me.”
  • 189. 190 “Ok, love, it was not an exercise, but nothing went wrong neither to me nor to anyone else in our battalion. We had to find terrorists who were shooting to cars with Israeli number plate from the houses in a Palestinian village.” “And did you find them?” “Yes, in the third house that me and Ilan patrolled there were four terrorists, but we understood there was something wrong, because of the noises we were hearing. So we warned other four patrols and they came to help us, so there was ten of us as we went into the house. Just enough time to understand that there were no human shields, and the terrorists didn’t even have time to shoot. There was an arsenal in that house, Marina, you should have seen it! Assault rifles, guns, grenades, knives, there was enough stuff for an army.” “Did you think about me, Yaron?” “Of course, love. Apart from the fact that you are always in my heart, I spoke about you to Ilan when we got out of the second house we had patrolled, because I was thinking about how much you are studying to really inform yourself about Israel.” “No, love, I meant if you had remembered I always tell you to be careful, not to risk.” “Of course, precious. Keep calm, little one: you see, nothing never went wrong. And we’re twenty, Marina! Nothing will ever happen to us, we’re better equipped and better trained. And we are also better motivated, because we care about our people. Do you remember I had already explained this to you, my love?” “Yes, it’s true, Yaron. But you also care about their people: so you’re more exposed, because you’re better people.” “Here you are, Marina. This is why I spoke about you with Ilan, because their people hate us because we are good. I mean even common people, not only terrorists who hate us just for the sake of it. But the common people, those who I hope would never shoot us. I’ll show you an example. This morning the helicopters threw leaflets in Arab on the blocks were we went this afternoon: we made to give the civilians the possibility to go in a safe place.” “But you put yourself into danger, Yaron!” “Indeed! I mean, just a bit, but don’t worry, love. But these things don’t create in their people some type of thankfulness or respect, they only foment hate. We are also always careful not to break anything, because it’s not sure that every signalled house is a den of terrorists. We do it to respect the civilians, but their respect towards us is always less, as if they could only respect violent people. Today, when Ilan and I came out of the second house, the shaking old man who was inside there and to whom we did nothing at all, said that we, the Jews, have no courage because we don’t use weapons!” “Did he want you to kill him?” “Indeed! It’s absurd, Marina!” “And did you answer him?” “Yes, I told him we have courage, weapons and a conscience, and that they don’t even know what a conscience is.”
  • 190. 191 “You’re great, Yaron! You know you remind me of a book I’m reading for school? It’s by that German author who also wrote “Reunion”.” “Fred Uhlman. What a nice book, Marina.” “You’re right, Yaron! And the film is even better, have you seen it?” “No, my love. Shall we watch it together in February?” “Precious, I can hardly wait! Days, weeks, fly past faster than the wind, because I need to see my boyfriend again!!!” “How sweet you are, but I distracted you from what you were saying.” “Ah, it’s true, Yaron. There’s this other book written by him, called “No Coward Soul” and dealing with Nazi Germany, and at the beginning, in the first page, there’s this sentence ... wait for me, I’ll go and look for it and I’ll write it to you, Yaron.” “Go, Marina, I’ll wait for you.” “Here, Yaron: He was too kind, too weak, too good, and youngsters dislike the good and the weak. They expect and respect authority, discipline and fear.” “You’re right, Marina. Let me say that it’s not like this only for the Arab culture, but also for the European and American culture. Here, instead, arrogance doesn’t take root: you’re not cool if you’re violent.” “Instead we have this myth, Yaron, you’re right. We should rehabilitate this idea that the other person is sacred, that it must be respected in all ways, first of all. Or I think we will destroy ourselves, or we will let the Islamic extremists destroy us.” “No, Marina, it will not happen. I am convinced that we are not at the mercy of these negative forces, there’s something inside us that will guide us to save us.” “Like Purim feast?” “Exactly, the Lord will support our minds and hearts, as long as we let Him do it.” “Yaron, you must always tell me these things, I beg you, because I really need them.” “Precious, my Marina, be strong, little one, everything will be fine. Think about how many good things we are amazed from.” “Like our love, Yaron, It was really a surprise! A bias trip, full of hatred and violence, that changed into the most wonderful and surprising encounter I had ever made ...” “A patrol night, which by definition has no good surprises, this time instead ... I found my Marina! My Marina ... goodbye precious, goodnight love. Speak to you tomorrow.” “Goodnight, Yaron, my precious.” *** It was Tuesday night, and Marina told Yaron about the result of her researches. “Hello, Yaron, my love. Today I studied the subject you told me about the other night, the current persecutions of Christians in the Arab countries. I was shocked, TVs don’t talk very much about these information, and I hadn’t realized
  • 191. 192 what was happening in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria.” “And don’t forget, Marina, how they persecute your people in the Gaza Strip and in the villages of Judea and Samaria which are under the Palestinian Authority.” “You’re right, Yaron, I read an interview to a family of Christians who has just escaped from Gaza. We will leave the Strip with no Christians, just like you left it without Jews. And not only the Strip, the Christians are escaping in mass from all of the Arab countries, just like you Jews were forced to do in 1948, when Israel was born.” “And now that in the Arab states there is anarchy, caused by the Islamist Winter, you really are in serious danger. The Islamic extremists are really making an ethnic cleansing, a genocide, a crime against humanity.” “What I have read is shocking, Yaron. Arab terroristic groups are assaulting, predating and destroying everything that is Christian: churches, shops, houses! They kidnap and torture Christians in order to make them convert to Islam, and they thrash the Muslims who convert to Christianity.” “It’s really like this, Marina. And by now you have no other possibility other than escape, because the Western governments aren’t moving a finger for you. Let me quote Mordechai Kedar, that intellectual of ours about who I had told you, talking about the Islamist Winter: The only state in the Middle East where the number of Christians is not decreasing is the state of Israel.” “True words, Yaron, even this time you are an island of peace in the middle of savagery. You are the only ones who respect us and who love us. Listen to these words, Yaron: Riccardo Pacifici, who is the president of the Jewish Community in Rome, said them, when Gilad came to receive the honorary citizenship. “It is not possible to celebrate fully when there are still others who are suffering. A few days ago we decided together with the Mayor and the Presidents of the regions of Lazio and Rome, to switch off the lights of the Coliseum to remind people that Christians in Nigeria are still being killed and we cannot be silent.” I felt like a worm, Yaron: the president of the Jewish Community in Rome made a plea for us Christians! And we Christians, do we ever say something official for you Jews? Look, Yaron, only Magdi Cristiano Allam doesn’t make me feel ashamed of being a Christian.” “Marina, you mustn’t feel ashamed, you are preparing all of these researches and you show them to your friends. You see you are doing official things to defend us and to spread the truth about Israel.” “Yes, I try, but my friends are only six girls.” “One does what one can, Marina.” “I could share these researches on the Internet, Yaron! Of course, I had never thought about it! At least someone else could read them.” “Good idea, Marina!” “So tomorrow I’ll do so, precious.” “No, love, tomorrow you need to study for your Latin test.”
  • 192. 193 “You’re right, or I risk not being able to come to Israel in February! Just because I want to see your country without the ideological blinkers with which I had seen it last time ...” “Of course, it’s just for that, Marina, don’t worry ... for a moment I had thought you were coming for me!” “Never, Yaron! My trip has nothing to do with these stupid romantic sentimentalities ... Yaron, I miss you so much, my love, I’m looking forward to see you again in February, I feel like crying if I think there’s still a month left.” “Hold out, precious, sooner or later January will pass. And sooner or later we’ll be always together. Goodnight love, speak to you soon.” “Goodbye, Yaron, my precious. Sleep tight, love.” *** It’s Tuesday night, and like every Tuesday night Marina told Yaron what she had read that afternoon on the state of Israel and the Jewish people. “Hello Yaron, my love. Today I did the most painful research, for me, as a Christian. The history of the Christian persecution of the Jews. It is a thousand- year history, since the onset of Christianity. It is based on an absurdity that is just too ridiculous for words, the accusation of deicide against your people. We had already spoken about it, Yaron, do you remember?” “Sure, my love.” “It’s totally absurd, Yaron! And it led to incredible, monstrous, diabolical persecutions! You were massacred, exiled, isolated in ghettos, discriminated against in all the different ways for centuries and centuries! And then, with Nazism, we just shut up! Especially us Catholics: Pope Pius XII didn’t even say a single word in your defence! Look instead what happened in Bulgaria, which was an ally of the Nazis: the Orthodox Church officially invited the Orthodox Christians to oppose the deportation of the Jews, and thousands of people poured into the streets twice, to prevent the SS from loading the Bulgarian Jews onto the trains of death, and by doing this they saved them all! The 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved by the courage of the population and the Orthodox Church! The Metropolitan Bishops Kiril and Stefan, Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, said to the Bulgarian rulers, “If you deport the Bulgarian Jews we will lie down on the railways lines and prevent it!” Why instead did Pope Pius XII not say anything? The Catholics should have opposed this anyway, Pope or no Pope, but can you imagine if Pius XII had defended the Jews officially? If he said that he too would have lain down on the railway tracks to stop the trains of death?” “I think history would have been different, Marina.” “God, Yaron, I never asked you if some of your relatives had been persecuted by the Nazis.” “There isn’t any Israeli that hasn’t had at least one ancestor that has escaped from the Arab countries or from Nazi Europe, Marina. My maternal grandfather,
  • 193. 194 who married my Russian grandmother who had escaped from Communism, had escaped from Syria in 1948. And my two paternal grandparents escaped as children from Nazi-occupied France, their two families didn’t know one another and they met during their escape. It’s a terrible story, Marina: they walked for months in the woods, at night, under the snow, with two small children. Every once in a while a shepherd would meet them and give them some food and let them sleep in the stables, two families hid them in their home to allow them to rest for a few weeks, the second of these families was able to obtain false documents that allowed them to travel to Israel. But their grandparents had died, they couldn’t survive the walks in the woods.” “Oh God, Yaron, it’s terrible. You don’t know how embarrassed I am, because I am part of those people who persecuted you.” “Everyone had persecuted us, Marina, but we are still here. We always remind ourselves of this at Passover, our Easter, when we celebrate our liberation from slavery in Egypt. Three thousand years ago we crossed the Red Sea and its waters parted to allow us to pass, and we are still fighting the same path towards liberation. Most of our people had the courage to enter the sea, and we know that history will not swallow us. We must fight to survive and to remain free, because each one of us still has a task to perform.” “Yaron, you have such marvellous things inside! And not only you, my love, they belong to your people! How could we Christians have persecuted you?” “But you have now taken many official steps nearer to us.” “Yes, of course! Like in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI went to Israel and spoke in Bethlehem, in front of one of the few concrete segments of the fence that protects you from Palestinian terrorists, and he said, “In a world where more and more borders are being opened up – to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges – it is tragic to see walls still being erected.” But he didn’t explain whose fault it was that the wall was there! He was there, in the middle of Palestinian flags, saying something like that ... what was the message that entered 99% of the Catholics’ brains, Yaron? That the poor Palestinians suffer so much because of this wall built out of pure spite by the Israelis! Look, Yaron, my heart bleeds twice, because the Pope is like a father figure to me, but seeing him making such a big, serious, dangerous mistake, I can’t keep quiet only because I love him! And anyway in 2009, I had also believed in that speech at the wall, Yaron. These things poison so many Catholics and perpetuate the myth of the pseudo-Palestinian pseudo-refugee, and wash away the reality from the hearts and brains of the people! The reality of Israeli Jews blasted to pieces in bars, nightclubs, shops, schools! The reality of Israeli Jews bombed every day by kassam missiles! The reality of Israeli Jews with their throats cut in their own bedrooms by Palestinian terrorists! Yaron, my concluding sentence today is the same as last Tuesday: the appeal of the President of the Jewish Community in Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, to stop the massacre of the Christians. Because it’s incredible that you are always left alone, and you are still by our side.”
  • 194. 195 “It’s not true that you have always left us alone, many of you love us and prove it to us, I told you. One in particular, has proven it to me very much ...” “And she would live to show it even more, but words are not enough, Yaron.” “We’ll see each other soon, my little one. One fine day we will be together forever, remember this, my love. Good night, sweetie, speak tomorrow.” “Good night my darling, sleep well.” *** A few nights later, Marina wrote to Yaron happily: “Yaron, my love, thank you! You gave me a wonderful surprise!” “So you received the Maccabeats’ new songs, Marina?” “Yes, my love, they are wonderful, I cried all day!” “Marina, your heart is too soft, I must be more careful with the next gift.” “No, Yaron, I can’t believe that Kol Berama and Habeit didn’t move you also!” “They are wonderful, Marina, they are my favourite. Kol Berama has such lovely music, I feel like I can turn around and see you here.” “It also makes me feel nostalgic, Yaron ... I feel very sad, but it’s also full of hope, as if he says, “Look, it’s true that you are not nearby, but you will be soon, and it will be wonderful!” A little like HaTikva at Ciampino, that’s the effect.” “It’s true, they are two songs with a sad melody, that then fills with enthusiasm for a moment.” “Habeit is also a little like that, even if there is less enthusiasm. It’s lovely, though.” “Rau Banim is the happiest.” “Wonderful! Also Yavo fills me with joy, but Raù Bannì is happiness in song!” “Raù Bannì! Lovely, like you call it, Marina.” “Yaron, don’t translate them! I want to continue thinking that Raù Bannì is an old bricklayer who eats rocket salad, in Italian is seems as if that’s what he says, when there is the piece Waka Waka. And I want to continue thinking that the words of Kol Berama are full of nostalgia, and you are singing it to me to make me come back soon. What did you do today, Yaron? Tell me, so I stop being sad.” “This morning we found a tunnel under the fence. It had not been finished yet, but a few meters more and they would have been able to go underneath the fence, and considering what we find in the trunks of the cars, it’s better that they cannot escape our checks.” “An underground tunnel, it’s exactly what I need until my hair grows back!” “Oh come on! My darling, you’re beautiful like that, really!” “How sweet you are, thank you Yaron. If you still love me with the shaved head then it means you REALLY love me.” “Of course I REALLY love you, Marina. If you think about it, perhaps it would have been harder to love you with dreadlocks, and yet I loved you anyway, with that hair that shouted Free Palestine!”
  • 195. 196 “You’re right, Yaron. If I think how many times I shouted that ... I was really a sheep in the herd.” “I already said you were a cute sheep, Marina.” “No no, Yaron, I was also nasty. You should have seen me at the demonstrations, I even burnt Israeli flags. Not the real ones you buy in shops, but white sheets with strips of blue paint making up some sort of Star of David. If you burn a real flag it’s a crime, and we were cowards, we didn’t want to be guilty of a real crime.” “Luckily you have really changed, my love. It’s to your credit. The other day when you received the ELAL card, you were in heaven because you felt like an Israeli, can you believe it? You have come a long way, Marina.” “It’s true, Yaron. Luckily I met you.” “You must have fallen for me really hard in September, someone like you falling for someone like me ...” “Yes yes, Yaron, I fell for you the moment I saw you. And now I’m trying to atone for the horrible things I used to do. Today I bought spray paints with the colours of three walls, on which I had written horrible things about your country, and I’m waiting for it to rain so that one night I can go and, under cover of my umbrella, spray over what I had written. And I also want to cancel another two horrid things that I’ve seen, but I didn’t do those.” “Be careful, if they catch you writing on walls it’s a crime isn’t it?” “Yes, that’s why I must wait until it’s dark and it’s raining. When I wrote them I wasn’t risking anything, the police is afraid of us when we go around like crazy people to break cars and shop windows.” “Darling, look how you have become better, what a wonderful person you have become. You have really experienced our Teshuvah, the path we follow to ask for forgiveness, doing the opposite of what we have done in the past and for which we are sorry. Nonetheless, Marina, you weren’t a violent crazy person even in September, I knew straight away that you were sweet.” “Did you see a small good seed inside my heart, like we said in Rome ... thank you my love. How wonderful it is to be forgiven in this way, Yaron, because words alone, at times, last very little. Anyway, my next gesture for forgiveness will be this: I’ll boycott kebabs! The other day I did a research on boycotts, remember?” “Certainly! Since then I have only bought Danone, Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson ... but don’t ask me to boycott kebabs, Marina, they taste too good!” “No come on, Yaron, support me in this!” “No way, Marina, on some things I will not budge.” “Like football and kebabs?” “Exactly.” “And you will make no little exception?” “None.” “Not even for your sweet Marina?” “No.” “You’re terrible! Impossible! You’re unbearable! Disappear from my life!” “Ah, my sweet Marina ...”
  • 196. 197 “My terrible impossible unbearable Yaron ... I can’t wait to see you again, my love.” “Me too. Be brave, my love: not long now.” “Report card permitting.” “Sure it will be great, and we’ll see one another soon. Bye sweetie, good night.” “Good night, Yaron. Speak soon.” *** The next morning Marina would receive her report card, and only if she had passed all her subjects would she be able to go and visit Yaron in Israel. “Yaron, my love, I’m desperate! What if I’ve failed just one measly subject?” “No, darling, it’s impossible! We calculated the average marks over and over, every night, and there wasn’t even one subject where you risked failing. You got an average of B and C for everything!” “But you never know, Yaron, perhaps one teacher has given me D because he wants me to study more during the second term.” “Come on! They only work out the average, they don’t interpret!” “I hope so. And the history teacher, Yaron? Perhaps she just doesn’t like me because of the things I said to her about the pilgrimage.” “Don’t worry, darling, she won’t lower your average because you contested her pilgrimage!” “Help, let’s change the subject, otherwise I won’t even be able to sleep, if I think that I risk not coming to see you ...” “Marina, don’t worry, tomorrow your report will be fine, ok? And then, my love, listen to this, I must tell you a wonderful thing that happened to us today: a pair of peacocks entered the base this morning!” “Really? But they don’t even fly, how did they get in?” “We were wondering, but we don’t know! At the end we were in two groups, those that said they must be able to fly a little, and those that said that they must have climbed up the fence that surrounds the barracks.” “I’m sure the person on guard this morning need glasses, if he wasn’t able to see two peacocks climbing over the fence! And they have wonderful colours, eh, you really can’t miss them!” “Only the male is all colourful, and his tail was up all the time. Instead the female looked like a chicken, an ugly scrawny chicken. You should have seen her, Marina, she didn’t even look at him! He was preening, his tail was up, it was beautiful, gorgeous colours under the sun, he was walking round and round the female who was not only refusing to look at him, but was even turning her back on him! And after a while that he had been walking in circles, she just walked away, she disappeared from his sight!” “He must have been upset, poor thing!” “No no, he didn’t even notice! He was too busy showing off!” “They must be stupid, Yaron, two stupid chickens!”
  • 197. 198 “Really, Marina, a faded hen and an elegant chicken! And you should’ve heard them scream!” “Scream? Don’t they cluck like other chickens?” “You wish! You should’ve heard them darling, it was such a noise, like a cross between a siren for red alarm in the barracks, and a cat that has his tail closed in the door.” “Ah, how awful ... just thinking about it set my teeth on edge!” “Poor baby teeth ... also that lovely baby tooth that I comforted in Rome, when we played our table football game?” “That too, Yaron, poor thing.” “I don’t want to think about it, my love, then it’ll be me who won’t be able to sleep.” “Yaron, you’re my darling, you know? You make all my fears go away.” “I love you very much, Marina. Sleep well now.” “Good night, Yaron. I love you so much.” *** Then it was the day of Marina’s report card, the day Marina and Yaron had waited for so anxiously. That night Yaron’s first question was, “So how was your report? Marina my darling please-please-tell-me-you-passed-everything!” “C in everything, and B in mathematics and Latin!!!” “Oh great!!! My love, I can’t believe that you will actually come to me!” “And my parents said I could stay one day more, as a prize for my great results!” “Marina, that’s wonderful! We’ll be together for four days! Thank your parents very much also from me!” “Yaron, they think you’re wonderful! When they saw my report, you know what was the first thing they said? Not “Good girl, what lovely marks you got, well done”! No no, instead they said “That boy is really good for you, Marina”, together! And they can’t imagine how true that is, Yaron.” “Darling, I’m in heaven, you are really coming here! And you’ll come for four days!” “Today was a glorious day, Yaron, l passed it imagining I was with you, and it won’t be long now and it will be true! And what did you do today my love?” “This morning we confiscated a whole lot of stuff at the checkpoint, nine tines of beers filled with explosive, and two boxes filled with nails, of the type the terrorists use in suicide missions. They put the explosive in a belt with the nails, to kill as many people as possible and destroy the bodies of the victims as much as possible. The nails we found this morning were like those we used to find for days, as children, on the pavements near the places were there had been attacks.” “Oh God, Yaron, have you ever seen the victims of an attack?” “Yes, Marina. Three times. Once, on a bus: I was on a bus going to school, without Nitzan because I told you my parents would separate us, like all the
  • 198. 199 parents in Jerusalem were doing at that time to avoid losing both kids. I had almost reached my stop when I heard a huge noise, we were all shocked and after a few minutes we heard the sirens of the ambulances, at least twenty drove past. I thought of Nitzan and I lost it, I got off the bus on my own, I was ten years old, the other passengers were paralyzed with fear, like statues, and I ran to where the ambulances where. Marina, you can’t imagine the hell. Blood everywhere, pieces of bodies on the floor, burnt bodies on seats. Darling, enough, better not to say any more. And I don’t want to speak about the other two attacks that I saw, one in a market and one in a shopping centre.” “Oh God, Yaron ... they are so full of hatred towards you ... it’s terrible ...” “My Marina, it’s really terrible ... attacking people at the market, children on buses ...” “The only consolation, Yaron, is that those monsters are burning in eternal flames.” “But not all of them you know? Some survive. Do you remember that I was saying that? All that’s left is a larva with no limbs and no eyes but their only regret is that they didn’t kill enough Jews. They become Palestinian heroes, squares are named after them, they give interviews to say how they are sorry to have killed only seven Jews in a restaurant. It’s disgusting, Marina.” “God, Yaron, I love you. I need to see you, my love. To see that you are fine and that you comfort me.” “You don’t know how much I need you, Marina. Bye, darling, speak tomorrow.” “Speak tomorrow, my love.” *** One week before leaving for Israel with Marina, the four boys who wanted to frame Yaron met in a park. Not the one in front of Montelungo because they didn’t want to risk meeting the girls, so they chose a park that was a little further away. They were Jacopo, Tommaso, Emilio and Nicola. Mauro and Tano weren’t there because they didn’t want to risk being reported for aggression to a soldier, and so earned the contempt of the other four, who were today deciding on how to implement their plan. In the last three months they had been busy trying to earn Marina’s trust, enduring her mini-conferences on what she calls pseudo- Palestinian pseudo-refugees. As if these four gave a damn if no Arab state wanted them, if they were born after the wars, if they were used by terrorists as human shields, if the money destined for building houses ended up in kassam missiles for the Gaza Strip and in villas for Hamas leaders, if they are killed outright if they don’t fall in line with the regime: as if there could be any subject in the world that would make the four of them change their minds about the Palestinian refugees and Israel! But they had listened to her so patiently, and asked leading and pertinent questions and made interesting comments, they had avoided participating in anti-Zionist manifestations for months, and now finally she was
  • 199. 200 there, friendly and trusting, admiring their open-mindedness, ready to leave with them in one week’s time and hand her soldier to them on a silver plate. The four friends were sitting on two benches, one in front of the other, and started to outline their plan. Jacopo began with the main warning, “No knives, guys, let’s not do anything that can risk us ending up in jail. To make him react we only need to insult Marina.” But Nicola asked him, “And how will we defend ourselves when he reacts? How will we do that without knives?” “There are four of us, shit!” exclaimed Jacopo, but Nicola wasn’t convinced and asked, “But Jacopo, he’s not going to shoot us, is he? They walk around armed!” “Oh come on!” Tommaso said, “He won’t be walking around with his army machine gun while he’s on leave!” So Emilio asked everyone, “But is he on leave? I didn’t think so.” “Certainly not, fools!” shouted Jacopo, “How can we get organized if you don’t even remember these things?” But Tommaso continued, “Of course he’ll be on leave when Marina goes to see him!” And Jacopo explained, “He has only two free days, and he wouldn’t have the first.” “And how do you know?” Tommaso asked. “I know because Marina said so!” Jacopo replied, impatiently. So they got to the first point of the programme, “So he’ll be armed, guys,” Nicola declared and added, “Fuck!” Emilio pointed out that he will also be in uniform, and this is essential for the four of them, because filming him in jeans and t-shirt would be detrimental to their plan. “Fuck, Emilio, you’re a genius!” Jacopo said sarcastically and then added, to remove all thoughts of knives from Nicola’s head, “But they don’t use the machine gun, they must absolutely be forced to, before they shoot!” “And we won’t force anything. That’s why we mustn’t have knives, Nicola. If he sees them, then he will use his machine gun,” Emilio pointed out. Tommaso also pointed out another problem linked to a possible knife, “And then you talk, Nicola, how on earth will you take a knife to Israel?” “I’ll buy one there, even a kitchen knife is fine!” Nicola replied, but Emilio said, “Certainly, because you think we’re going shopping!” Also Tommaso was against him, “Nicola, you’re out of your mind! We must draw him out immediately, at the airport!” “Not at the airport you idiots!” screamed Jacopo, “The whole army is there! We’ll walk out with them, tell them we’ll buy them a coffee to say goodbye, and while looking for a bar we’ll go into a dark alley. I saw on Google maps that outside the airport there are streets like that, it looks like an area full of underground passages, to walk to McDonald’s in the motorway.” Emilio became enthusiastic, “Ok, so we’ll get him into the alley, then we’ll break his face!”
  • 200. 201 “What are you talking about?” yelled Jacopo, “We must just make him react! But we mustn’t touch him, or we’ll into shit!” But Nicola didn’t agree, “I want to break the idiot’s face!” and Jacopo told him to shut up, “You’ll end up in jail, fool.” “And how can we provoke him without touching him, Jacopo? By sticking out our tongues?” Emilio asked, making them all laugh except Jacopo, who answered, “Shitheads. We’ll do something to Marina. I just said that, fools.” Nicola was enthusiastic, “Great, Jacopo! Even better! Let’s break her face!” “We won’t break any faces, Nicola!” Jacopo explained, exasperated, “Because none of us wants to end up in prison.” “Sure, Nicola,” Emilio interrupted, “Jacopo is right. We’ll insult her a little, push her around, he’ll throw a punch, we’ll film him, that’s it.” “Right, Emilio. Then we’ll all shake hands and arm in arm we’ll all go send the film to the news channels,” Nicola said. “Let me point out again, Nicola,” Jacopo said, “that there are four of us.” “That’s right, Jacopo, if he feels trapped he’ll shoot all four of us!” Nicola said and added, “And then who’s filming can’t start fighting, he must film!” “That’s true, Nicola,” Jacopo said, “But you three will be fine.” “Us three? And you have already appointed yourself the director? That’s easy, eh, Jacopo!” Tommaso said. “What the hell are you saying?” Jacopo said, “The film must be done well, the only thing we are interested in is his reaction. You needle him until you get a reaction, he pulls a punch, a kick, until he gets some blood from your nose, and we’re ok!” The other three grew angry, “A punch, a kick ... easy for you, because you film! And you’re the biggest among us! Anyone of us can film, shit, you think we can’t?” “Ok, chickens, we’ll draw lots for who films,” Jacopo said, and Tommaso shouted, “Who are you calling “chickens”? You haven’t even thought about having to fight, you’re the chicken, shithead!” They drew lots to find out who would do the filming, using pine needles they found on the floor, and the shortest was drawn by Emilio who exclaimed, “Oh just great, guys!” “Oh fuck off!” said all the others, who were considering the real possibility of facing Yaron. At this point, Jacopo said, “So, having established who will film, let’s organize how to provoke that bastard. Nicola, seeing that you are the one who wants to use his fists, you don’t even want to get close to Marina, because it’ll end badly. Tommaso will attack Marina, a push and an insult, nothing more, ok?” “And why the hell don’t you do it, Jacopo?” Tommaso asked. “Do we have to draw lots for this also, Tommaso?” Jacopo asked impatiently. “I think we should, Jacopo,” Tommaso said. They grabbed another two pine needles and Tommaso drew the shortest one, so he was the one that was going to attack Marina.
  • 201. 202 “One last word, guys,” Jacopo said, “All four of us must travel with our keffiyehs on, in place, so that in the film we’ll see the Zionist aggression against unarmed pro-Palestinian pacifists.” Before leaving, they briefly summed up the main point in their plan: the soldier will be armed, they won’t even have a knife on them, they’ll persuade the soldier and Marina to enter an alley with the excuse of offering them a coffee, and Emilio will switch on the camera which he’ll always keep hidden because if the soldier sees it he could shoot. At this point Tommaso will insult Marina and push her, the soldier will react, and Tommaso, Jacopo and Nicola will continue to provoke him without touching him until the soldier has a reaction that is appropriate for the film. If the soldier’s reaction is excessive they’ll block him all together, except Emilio who will have to continue filming. “The most important thing is this: we must return home with a well made film of his reaction, which we’ll then pass off as an aggression, we just need to arrange the sequence when we edit it. And we mustn’t make him shoot us, but also not just receive a lecture or a shove!” concluded Jacopo, and they all left the park to return to Montelungo. The day after they bought a mini-video camera which they tested all afternoon to understand where Emilio should hold it, at the end they decided he would keep it in the pocket of a close-fitting, multi-coloured, and well-worn sweat shirt that had a zip-up pocket, and which Emilio used to go skiing. They attached it to the pocket with thin wires, and found a position from where the lens could film through holes in the old fabric without any obstacles. *** It was February 11th, 2012, the day before the great day. That night, Marina and Yaron could almost not believe that they were to see one another the next day, and that they would be together for four days. “Marina, my love, are you ready for tomorrow?” “Can you believe it, Yaron? Four days all for ourselves! We’ll be in heaven, my love!” “I can’t wait. It seems impossible. I won’t believe it until I see you with my own eyes, Marina.” “You’re a darling, Yaron. Do you know if we can be together even when you are not on leave?” “They still haven’t said anything definite, my love. They said they would let me know tomorrow, but they are hoping to find something so we don’t have to be separated. Let’s hope, Marina!” “Let’s hope, darling ... They are sweet, they are helping so we can spend a day together!” “Ah, since they saw the film of your welcome at Ciampino you’ve become everyone’s darling, here!”
  • 202. 203 “Do you remember how wonderful it was, in Ciampino? Tomorrow we must sing HaTikva in Megiddo, Yaron!” “Great idea, Marina!” “Let’s go over our plans for our four days together, Yaron!” “So, Marina: tomorrow, February 12th 2012, at 14h00, the arrival of the best person in the universe at the airport of Megiddo, welcomed by yours truly, and immediately transferred onto the bus to the barracks.” “Yaron, unfortunately I must remind you that after the arrival and before the transfer we must also spend some time to say goodbye to Jacopo, Nicola, Emilio and Tommaso.” “Oh shit!” “Come on, Yaron, you just have to shake their hands.” “Only for you.” “Just a minute, ok? Then they’ll go off on their own.” “But why the hell must they travel with you? Are there no other flights to Israel from Italy, the whole year?” “It’s just by chance, and it makes them happy. We are all flying, so we’ll spend the four hours together. Jacopo has become my puppy dog!” “Yeah, well ... in September you said he was a rabid dog, remember, Marina?” “He’s changed, Yaron. People change, I’ve also changed a lot since September.” “You were a good person and you remained a good person. He was a fool and he remained a fool.” “Listen, Yaron, I don’t want to defend him because I don’t give a damn about Jacopo, and I really don’t want to fight with you about him, but please believe me when I say he’s improved.” “Ok, well, I can’t do anything about it. Tomorrow I’ll have to shake his hand, and the hands of the other three.” “Come on love, let’s go on with our plans.” “Ok, darling. At 15h00, yours truly will leave for an exercise that is still unknown. At 19h00, candle-light dinner in the barracks. At 21h00, yours truly will transfer the best person in the universe to the country house at the kibbutz. At 21h30, yours truly will, sadly, have to return immediately to the barracks. The day after tomorrow, February 13th 2012, at 08h00, possible transfer of the best person in the universe to the barracks, thereafter it’s yet to be defined. The next day, February 14th 2012, Saint Valentine’s Day, at 08h00, transfer to Jerusalem of the best person in the universe and yours truly, on leave. Plans to be defined until 09h00 of February 16th 2012, time of departure of the best person in the universe and of the complete laceration of yours truly’s heart in each atrium, ventricle, muscle, fibre.” “Love, let’s not think about that, we must just think about these four days we will spend together! Do you remember when you would comfort me like that, when I was sad because the trip to Rome would have to end?”
  • 203. 204 “You’re right, sweetie, let’s just think about these four days together. You and me four days together, Marina, I can’t believe it!” “After all this time, Yaron ...” “We were really patient, my darling.” “We really were, Yaron ... it’s not like me, you know? I explode if I have three people in front of me in a queue. At the fifth minute of waiting I’m already in convulsions. You instead are really patient, Yaron.” “Well, in a queue I stay calm inside.” “Perhaps because you don’t know what Italian queues are like, Yaron! Old ladies who push in as if you don’t even exist, children who whine in your ears, dogs that pee on your ankles.” “Huh?” “Well, this last problem has never happened to me, but to Paola yes!” “How disgusting! Don’t tell me that that genius of her dog ...” “Rocky, yes! The one that got me lost in the woods! But the most impossible intolerable unbearable thing about Italian queues, Yaron, are the post office workers. To each person who must send a registered letter, weigh a parcel, wet a stamp with the sponge, they feel they can tell their life story, Yaron, and in detail! And they’re in nooo hurry!” “Then you would fit in well here in Israel, Marina: everyone is very efficient and super quick!” “Ah, you’re not beachcombers, you Israelis!” “Marina, your mother’s three syllables!” “How can you remember, Yaron?” “Eh, a nice word of three syllables is a joy forever. Bye bye Marina, my beloved three syllables, good night. And at last, finally, see you soon, my darling.” “Bye, my favourite two syllables, my joy forever. See you tomorrow at 14h00 at Megiddo airport. And I hope you will not send me back as a persona non grata, as soon as you see my hair.” “I can’t wait to ruffle it, my little one.”
  • 204. 205 Chapter 5 It was early in the afternoon of February 12th, 2012, and the plane from Italy had just stopped on the runway at Megiddo airport. Yaron, who had been watching it through the glass partitions from the time it appeared in the sky until it stopped on the runway, moved along the windows towards the door which opens into the arrivals hall coming from the runway. This door was always closed, and one had to wait for the official to open it with keys after having checked and let through only those passengers from flights which had just landed. The door was part of the glass partition, which was shielded glass allowing those inside the hall to see outside, while those outside could not see in. Yaron saw that the official was ready with the keys, but had not yet opened the door because the passengers weren’t close enough. The first person in the group was Marina, and seeing her in the flesh with her short hair made her seem even more beautiful than in the two photographs: in two months her hair had grown a bit and the skin below the hair was no longer visible, which gave her a bit of a harsh, almost military look in the full length picture, and in the close up, with her delicate child-like features, made her seem defenceless like a chick. Now the skin was no longer visible and one could see the lovely dark red colour of Marina’s hair, which was long enough to make her look like a wild kitten. Yaron was touched because she was dressed like in Rome, when he really liked her in black leggings and a short black skirt. And to see her dressed like this, her grey rucksack on her straight back held with one hand, walking towards him with long swift strides, in front of those four ugly guys with their keffiyehs and all the other passengers as if she were their general, with that cat-like hair, reminded him of a character from a fairy tale, a courageous and invincible fairy. Before the official opened the door, Yaron took the banner he had prepared for her out of his pocket: a white cloth as big as a scarf, on it written in red “Marina I love you very much" in Italian, Marina ti amo tantissimo, and he held it above his head with arms outstretched, just like those supporters in football stadiums. As the official opened the door, Marina was ready on the other side, and she strode through to find Yaron in front of her. In a split second she read the banner and threw herself into his arms, Yaron enveloped her with the banner, lifted her off her feet and moved her away from the entrance to allow the others to pass through, and he covered her in kisses. Directly behind her were the four from Montelungo, who were still gasping at how Yaron lifted and moved Marina and her heavy rucksack with ease, as if she were a two year old child. Furthermore, at Ciampino they were not able to get an accurate idea of his height, but here they could see that he was taller than them by at least a foot. They could only hope that he hadn’t brought his machine gun with him. But when Yaron moved away from Marina to take her rucksack and put it on his back, he moved the black band on his military jacket to make space for the rucksack, bringing the machine gun he evidently had on his back to the front, lying diagonally across his jacket. The movements of the rucksack and the machine gun were made in an instant,
  • 205. 206 with two simultaneous movements and the ease with which he had lifted Marina. The four of them exchanged a glance: Jacopo, Emilio and Tommaso looked like three dogs with the ears on the ground, while Nicola looked like a cat about to hiss. Marina had forgotten about the four of them and only thought of kissing Yaron, who instead remembered those from Montelungo but he didn’t care about letting them wait. Marina was the picture of happiness as she embraced him, and Yaron took her in his arms while they continued kissing, undisturbed. The four from Montelungo just stood there, silently, with their light rucksacks on their backs, rucksacks which they had prepared so carefully the day before, so as not to exaggerate with the weight, and avoid problems during the ambush. One, two, three minutes went by, and the four of them just stood there looking at Yaron with his machine gun and heavy backpack who continued to hold Marina in his arms, so they dropped their backpacks because suddenly they didn’t seem so light anymore, and just looked at each other exchanging perplexed glances. The only one who spoke was Tommaso, “Shall we leave it?” he asked Jacopo in Italian, but he responded showing four fingers on his hand as if to say, “There are four of us!”, and Tommaso shook his head and pointed to himself as if to say, “But I have to be the first one to go!”. In the meantime Marina and Yaron started singing HaTikva together as they had promised to do, and the four from Montelungo had to wait another minute and watch Yaron hold Marina in his arms while they sang the very song that gave the four of them hives. After another few minutes Marina remembered them, and still in Yaron’s arms she introduced them, “Yaron, Tommaso” “Yaron, Jacopo” “Yaron, Emilio” “Yaron, Nicola”. While still holding his Marina, Yaron shook hands with everyone without being too cordial, and each of them had the feeling that Yaron could have easily broken their fingers. Yaron wiped his hand on his trousers, put Marina down and walked towards the airport exit while hugging her, and the four from Montelungo picked up their rucksacks and followed them out. Marina whispered to him, “Darling, let’s say a few words to them, just until we get to the exit.” “Ok, honey, I’ll do it only for you,” he answered, and Marina started a conversation in English about how much hotter it was than she expected. The six of them spoke about this until they reached the exit, they went through the doors and, as they were about to say goodbye and go their own ways, Jacopo said to Marina and Yaron, “Guys, can we offer you a coffee?” Yaron was ready to say no but he felt Marina squeeze his hand and, since he understood that she was really keen on him getting to know better these four assholes, he accepted but with little enthusiasm, and suggested, “Let's go back into the airport, there's a bar there.” trying to get rid of them as soon as possible. For a second the four from Montelungo went into a panic, but Emilio had an idea and exclaimed, “No, the bar was filthy!” and Yaron thought that this one must’ve been also a sissy. The four from Montelungo walked two on either side of Marina and Yaron asking questions about the weather and Israeli cooking, all things that
  • 206. 207 Yaron would have happily not discussed, but he replied because he knew it made Marina happy. However she quickly got involved in the discussion to help Yaron reply, because things were carrying on too long even for her, robbing them of precious minutes which she would have liked to spend only with Yaron. And since there weren't any bars in sight, Marina decided to not waste any more of these minutes, hugging Yaron as much as possible and kissing him in between discussions about food and weather. With each kiss, her heart grew as she saw Yaron smile, because she could see how much he loved her by accepting these four whom he didn't like and were also wasting his time. Finally, after having turned into a few side roads, they saw a bar. The four from Montelungo froze because there were still too many people around, and once again Emilio made an excuse to go elsewhere, “Guys, but this one is even worse than the bar at the airport!”, and so they kept on walking while Yaron and Marina exchanged an exasperated glance and he whispered to her, “Shall we leave, darling?” but she replied, “Just another minute, please, Yaron.” He kissed her on her head and said, “You're beautiful with short hair, you look like a kitten. When I saw you on the runway, in front of all the passengers, I thought you looked a bit like a kitten, a bit like a fairy, and a bit like a general. And I am at your command: see how I'm accepting these pains in the ass?” “Yaron, don't tell me! What was I thinking when I asked you to accept the coffee? What a drag, let's hope we find a bar soon that suits Emilio.” “Listen, Marina, if we're not sitting at a bar in five minutes, we'll go to the bus stop, ok?” “Yes, Yaron, you're right, and who cares about my friends!” In the meantime they had turned about three or four corners, into narrower and more isolated streets, and they arrived at a corner which turned into an alley which the four from Montelungo chose as the ideal place, exchanging glances behind Yaron's back. As soon as Yaron saw this narrow, empty alley where Jacopo and Tommaso just walked straight in, he grabbed Marina, gave her a look which said “obey me” and he turned back holding his arm tightly around her shoulders, while he said to the other four, “We're leaving guys, it's late.” So Yaron and Marina didn’t enter the alley and started back towards the airport. The four from Montelungo were taken aback and rushed into it, agitated, without exchanging glances to see whether they should have started it or not, since their plan was already falling apart. Jacopo and Tommaso came back out of the alley, Emilio switched on the video camera in his pocket with the hole in it, then Tommaso pushed Marina's shoulder and said in English, so that Yaron could understand, “Slut, where the fuck do you think you're going?" Yaron twisted the arm that touched Marina, Tommaso screamed in pain and shouted in Italian to Emilio, “Emilio, is that ok?” “No, shit, it's too little!” replied Emilio, always in Italian, “What the hell can we do with a twisted arm? And fix your keffiyeh, Tommaso, it can't be seen!” Yaron quickly returned towards the airport with Marina, with his arm around her shoulders to guide and protect her. Marina was shocked to see the true face of
  • 207. 208 her friends, and she feared that they would continue and hurt Yaron. Suddenly she remembered that time in October when they had found out that Yaron would have been in Rome, and Nicola started talking about a crowbar. “What did they say, Marina?” asked Yaron, and, while she translated what Emilio and Tommaso were saying to each other, Jacopo grabbed her jacket to try and hold them back in the isolated area, and said to her in English, “Bitch, where are you going?” Yaron twisted his wrist and Jacopo screamed and let go of Marina’s jacket, and since Yaron had understood from the translation that those four didn’t have a problem with her but wanted to trap him, probably with a video, he told Marina to run to the airport and ask for help, and in the meantime he removed the backpack so that he could move more freely. Marina obeyed him immediately because she trusted him, even if she wanted to stay behind to see that nothing happened to him. In the meantime Jacopo was still screaming, “Shit, he broke my wrist! Enough like this, Emilio, enough!” and Yaron saw with relief that, as he had thought, no one was following Marina. Nicola started shouting, “No, two sprains don’t mean a thing! We need blood!” and he removed from a big pocket in his jacket an empty beer bottle, which he had picked up from the garbage just outside the airport. He broke it against the wall, and held it with the broken points facing outwards, threatening Yaron, lunging with the bottle, very agitated, and screamed, “Jacopo, Tommaso, hold him still!” But as soon as Jacopo and Tommaso saw the broken bottle, they ran towards the alley shouting, “Nicola, are you mad? Emilio, film everything!” Yaron kicked Nicola in the stomach and threw him to the ground, he stamped on the wrist holding the bottle-neck and Nicola let it go, then Yaron kicked the bottle away. Having sorted out Nicola, Yaron reached Emilio who had remained still to film everything, he gave him a kick in the balls that made him fall, he looked for the video camera, he took it out of the pocket of his fleece and put it in a pocket under his machine gun. Jacopo and Tommaso saw that Yaron had taken the video camera and immediately returned to take it back, while Emilio and Nicola were still on the ground. Jacopo and Tommaso tried to punch Yaron using the arms that Yaron had not twisted, one from the right and the other from the left, but with one hand Yaron blocked Jacopo’s punch, and with the opposite leg he kicked Tommaso on the knee so hard that it made a sound like snapping wood, Tommaso fell to the ground and Yaron, with the same leg, kicked Jacopo in the balls from below and made him crumple to the ground. The four of them were all on the floor and Yaron phoned Marina to see if she was ok, and she replied that she was on her way back with soldiers from the airport. Yaron looked at the four of them: Tommaso was lying face down, holding his knee, screaming and crying; Nicola, Emilio and Jacopo were lying on their sides, moaning: Nicola was holding his stomach, Emilio and Jacopo were holding their balls. Yaron went from one to the other, stopping at each one and put his foot on the part where they were hurting, and to each he said, “Tommaso, if you dare to
  • 208. 209 even touch Marina, you’re dead.” “Jacopo, if you dare to even get close to Marina, you’re dead.” “Emilio, if you dare to even look at Marina, you’re dead.” “Nicola, if you dare to even think about Marina, you’re dead.” Already with the first one, Tommaso, Yaron was tempted to crush with his foot, but he held back so as not to hurt an enemy on the ground. When two big jeeps arrived with Marina and six soldiers who were on guard at the airport, the four guys from Montelungo were still on the floor. They all got off the jeeps and Yaron immediately hugged Marina, and would not let her go because he saw that she was very scared. “Marina, my love, it’s all right. Are you ok, darling?” “Yes, Yaron, but I’m so sorry, it’s as though I drew you into a trap. How could I have thought that they were my friends? I’m so stupid!” “They are the stupid ones! Idiots, what the hell did they think they were doing? Pieces of shit, who used you, who abused of your trust.” “Yaron, I was terrified that they were going to hurt you ... I left you alone here with the four of them ...” “Four dickheads, they can’t even throw a punch. And the worst dickhead of them all is that Nicola, that shithead, he’ll really get into trouble. Anyway, I don’t think they’ll bother you anymore, Marina.” “I’m through with Montelungo, Yaron. I don’t ever want to go in there again, not even by mistake.” “Good, you don’t know what a relief that is for me!” said Yaron smiling and kissing her. Marina smiled at him, looked at the four on the floor and said, “Wow, four against one, and you destroyed them all! And two of them are almost twenty five years old! What a legend you are, Yaron! But how did you do it? With the fighting method ... which is probably Israeli ... it’s called krav maga, right?” “Krav maga, yes, it was invented by an officer in our army. But two kicks in the balls were enough, Marina.” Marina burst out laughing and hugged him, “Yaron, you’re great! And you’re all mine!” Then the soldiers from the airport called an ambulance for Tommaso who could not get up, and they made Nicola, Emilio and Jacopo get into their jeep to take them back to the airport, where there were two rooms for interrogating travellers found with dangerous objects or materials. As they were getting on, Nicola tried to break free from the soldiers holding his arms with a clumsy shrug of his shoulders, but he saw Yaron looking at him and he stopped struggling and lowered his head. While they waited for the ambulance, two soldiers from the airport stayed in the jeep with the three guys under arrest. Another two soldiers were outside with Marina and Yaron and with Tommaso who was still on the floor, because it was better that he be moved by the nurses with the stretcher so as not to make matters worse with his kneecap or ligaments, seeing as something seemed to be broken, by the way he was holding it. Another soldier picked up the broken bottle
  • 209. 210 and placed it into a transparent plastic pack, and the sixth soldier placed the video camera, taken by Yaron from Emilio's pocket, into another transparent pack. This soldier carried the two packs to the other jeep, and when Nicola saw him passing by with the video camera swaying in the pack, he wanted to cry and vomit, and since he couldn't hold back, one of the two soldiers in the car with him passed him a bag. Emilio turned away in disgust, and Jacopo, who thought he had organized everything perfectly, when he saw the video camera cursed himself for not having disguised himself better as a stereotypical Palestinian: not only with a very visible keffiyeh, but totally covering his face. When the ambulance arrived to take Tommaso to a nearby military hospital, Marina and Yaron climbed into the jeep that took them back to the airport. They laid a charge with the military command at the airport describing what had happened and signed the charge sheets, then they crossed the room where Emilio, Jacopo and Nicola were waiting to be interrogated. Yaron looked them all in the eyes and they lowered their heads, and, with the problems they would face with the military police, they would never raise them again. Finally, Marina and Yaron reached the bus stop to get to Yaron’s barracks. At the bus stop there were other soldiers and four old ladies, who smiled at the handsome young soldier and the beautiful girl hugging each other. Marina noticed them and said to Yaron, “Yaron, luckily I removed the keffiyeh and I cut my hair, otherwise they would be shouting Romeo and Juliet!” They winked at each other and Yaron mussed up her lovely head of short hair, and when the bus arrived they climbed on holding hands. Everyone got on the bus and there were only two seats left in the middle, Marina and Yaron took these seats and spoke about the four from Montelungo, “Which ones are almost twenty five years old, Marina?” “Jacopo and Nicola.” “And at that age, why are they wasting their time with such bullshit? Don’t they have anything better to do? Aren’t they studying? Aren’t they working?” “They are behind in their studies at the university, Yaron, they must have given five exams between the two of them.” “What assholes.” “Yaron, you’re great, you always told me not to trust them. And luckily you realized that they were up to no good, but how did you do it?” “I realized it late, Marina, we should not even have started walking with those guys.” “But I insisted!” “It’s not a problem, I should not have put you in danger.” Marina pretended to put on a serious face and said, “Soldier” giving him a kiss, “the court martial has declared you not guilty”, and another kiss, “because you are not of sound mind.” Yaron hugged her and said with a kiss, “Due to the presence of a person.” And they continued alternating sentences, hugging each other tighter and giving always bigger kisses with each phrase.
  • 210. 211 “Precisely, soldier, due to the presence of your girlfriend.” “The beautiful girl which the court can admire in the arms of the accused.” “And which the accused has not seen for three months.” “Three very long, endless months.” “And the court assumes that the accused loves her.” “Madly.” “And that in the presence of the abovementioned girlfriend.” “The accused completely loses his mind.” “And therefore all caution.” “And all control.” “And any inhibitions.” When Marina and Yaron got off at their stop, the four old ladies gave them a dirty look, grumbling disapprovingly. Marina didn’t understand a word but the sense was very clear, and laughing she snuggled into his arms and hid her face against his chest. They walked, hugging each other, to the barracks, and along the way they kept stopping to kiss, so that it took them half an hour to walk the three hundred meters to get to the military base. So, between kisses, laying the charge and the aggression, they arrived at the barracks four hours later than planned. Yaron had permission to be out for the time needed to fetch Marina at the airport and he was meant to go back on duty immediately afterwards, but he had informed the base that they had been attacked by thugs and that they would have been late. As they got closer to the barracks, Marina was surprised because she has imagined them to be like Montelungo: an old orange two storey building with windows surrounded by flaking white plaster, all ruined and full of cracks, like a large low decrepit liberty-style villa. Instead Yaron's barracks is in a low, long and narrow hangar type building, all grey, without any decoration but also without a crack. Marina also imagined it to be much smaller, “But it's big! How come there are only twenty of you here, Yaron?” “No Marina, there are about a hundred of us, five battalions with about twenty soldiers each.” They were met by guards at the entrance who greeted Marina so affectionately that she was moved, especially because she hadn't expected such enthusiasm and affection from strangers, which the guys from Montelungo had never shown her. Who knows how long those four had been planning to betray her, and how long they just pretended to be her friends. They entered the building twenty minutes before the return of the other soldiers, and Yaron took Marina into the dormitory to show her his bed. Marina jumped a few times to see the banner and the window with the view that she liked so much in the photo, and Yaron lifted her onto it. “But don't you have a stepladder?” “There's one behind the cupboard, but nobody uses it.”
  • 211. 212 “Yaron, it's great that you put the banner here! Will you give me the banner you made? So that I'll put it above my bed too. What a view, Yaron! It's beautiful!” Yaron glanced at the corridor, placed his hands on the mattress and jumped on the bed, “If they catch us, bye bye permit!” They stayed there for five minutes cuddling each other, then they got off because they didn't want to risk losing those two days all alone in Jerusalem, which they had been dreaming about for months. The other soldiers arrived and while the round of showers started, they all wanted to meet Marina and asked about how she had spent the afternoon. She briefly described how they had been attacked outside the airport and then asked how they had spent their afternoon, and the soldiers told her that they had trained at krav maga, and Yaron would have had to be there had he returned in time. “Ah, but he doesn't need it!” exclaimed Marina, “Today he beat all four of them on his own, and two of them are almost twenty five years old!” and Yaron told them about the video camera and the risk they ran of helping in the creation of another false defamatory film against their army. As they walked to the mess hall they continued talking about this, and when they arrived in the large mess hall and walked along with their trays to serve themselves, Marina saw that the cook came out of the kitchen and looked at her with a sly look, like someone who couldn't resist laughing because he had created some sort of joke. So Marina turned to Yaron and laughing said to him, “Yaron, what did you tell the cook? I think he has prepared a giant falafel for me.” “Ah, I don't know anything!” laughed Yaron putting down his tray and lifting his hands. But at that moment the cook reached the pot from which the perplexed soldiers in front of her had already served themselves, he grabbed his ladle with one hand and Marina's plate with the other, and he poured a yellow mush into her plate, exclaiming with great satisfaction in an attempt to speak Italian, “Polenta tarranna!” Marina burst out laughing and reassured the soldiers in front of her, “It's edible, relax, if the cook followed the recipe Yaron gave him to the letter ... isn't that so, darling?” They sat and ate and Marina, who would happily have done without, because she had never seen a cornmeal mush as soft and uninviting as this, took a large spoonful so as not to disappoint the cook, Adam, whom Yaron had only just introduced, and who had certainly cooked it with great fondness. She tasted it and was forced to exclaim sincerely, “But this is exquisite, Adam!”, and she ate more and continued to repeat that it was really good and complimented him, “I’ve never eaten a polenta taragna as good as this! It must be your cheese, I don't know, but it’s so delicate ... Ours is heavier, and in the end we find it difficult to get up from the table! But you must learn to say the name correctly, Adam: taragna, not tarranna!” “Tarhanna?” “No!” laughed Marina as she tried to correct him, “Ta-ra-gna!”
  • 212. 213 “Three syllables,” said Yaron impassively, and Marina dropped her spoon, plate and polenta and hugged him tightly. The others all started chanting in unison “let's see a kiss” and Yaron said to her, “We don't want to disappoint them, do we?” “Never!” she replied, and they kissed while the others drank a toast to them. Eyal came to greet her, because he had only greeted her fleetingly when he arrived since he had to run and have a shower, he hugged her and told her that her short hair was very nice, and Marina, a little embarrassed, said to him, “I'm sorry you and Lucia have not been in contact anymore, I thought something could have come of it. I'm sorry Eyal, I don't want to make you sad.” But he said to her, “But Marina, I'm not sad at all! You wouldn't want to compare the tsunami that hit you and Yaron in September with the nothing that was between Lucia and me?” “Good, I'm glad that you don't have any regrets. Because, you know, Lucia is my friend but in certain things she is even more of an hedgehog than me”, and winked at Yaron who stroked her hair, “from what she told me I never understood if the two of you spoke often or not.” “No, Marina, we must have exchanged about ten e-mails at the most, and all very general. What's the weather like, what are you studying, what are you eating. But she never told me about this wonderful polenta tarahna.” Marina burst out laughing but she was relieved to know that they had never said things of importance, because when Lucia said those things about the soldier on the wrong side, it had upset her. It was an ugly thing, heartless, and she was pleased that Lucia had not mentioned it to Eyal. Then they got up to get the second plate, and Marina burst out laughing when she saw that there really were falafel. “I must teach you to make cotolette alla milanese, Adam!” she said to the cook, “They’re not from Bergamo but they are delicious breaded veal cutlets and easy to make, almost like the polenta ... the polenta ...?” And she waited for him to finish saying, “Tarrah ... tarha ... tarhannah?” Marina laughed and said, ”But you really can’t pronounce the gn as we do in Italy, can you?” “Gnh?” “Forget it, Adam ... When I get home I will learn Hebrew, so that the next time I come to Israel you will be the one laughing at how I speak!” “Let me tell you, Marina”, answered Adam, “That I’m a little scared about teasing Yaron’s girlfriend. I’ve never been able to beat up four guys on my own!” Then Eyal rolled up Yaron’s sleeve almost to his shoulder and said, “Look at that, Adam! Pure steel!” Yaron tensed his muscle and winked at Marina, and she quickly covered it up saying, “Please, don’t show all this goodness to the female soldiers, otherwise when I leave ...” The other girls smiled fondly. There were only four of them and all very pretty, but you could see, and Marina had understood this as soon as Yaron had
  • 213. 214 introduced them, that they were not the type to go after a boy who was already taken. When Yaron and Marina sat down to eat their falafels, another soldier, Amos, came to the table. He was taken aback by the story of the attack with the intent of making a defamatory video. “After my military service I want to work on that. You have no idea, Marina, in how many way the Palestinians rig the photos and videos, or how they create the images they want by dressing people as soldiers or terrorists, make them pose, spray them with red paint where they think more effective, and the scoop is made. They sway the media as they wish, they supply false pictures and threaten those who don’t want to publish them.” “Don’t tell me about it, Amos!” replied Marina, “In Bethlehem, in September, I was with two friends and they stole our video camera, and made a sign like they would have cutting our throats if we tried again. That wasn’t just theft, that was proper intimidation! And we were there with our keffiyehs, to interview them about their difficulties caused by what I then still called the wall. We felt like three of them and instead ... Amos, have you ever heard of an Italian photo- reporter called Ruben Salvadori?” “No, Marina, never heard of him.” “His job is to document the Palestinian protests in Judea and Samaria. And over and above being a photographer he also studied anthropology at university, and he is interested in studying group and individual dynamics. He wondered about the role of photographers during these revolts and how the presence of the photographer can influence the events being documented. First of all he admitted with great honesty that, when speaking about Judea and Samaria, the only images that the markets want are dramatic, with fire and smoke in the background, and the Palestinian with his face covered, in a menacing pose, who glares angrily at his presumed enemy. At least that is the sensation received by whoever looks at the photo in the newspaper, but in reality, in the majority of situations, Ruben realized that the Palestinian in any one of these thousands of photos is not looking at an enemy, but simply at the photographer! The whole image is constructed by the photographer, because in this way he’s sure to sell it!” “What a great guy, this Italian photo-reporter, he is exposing them from the inside! So, Marina, these images aren’t only created from the fear to go against the Arabs or from the desire to nurture their mythology, it’s also a simple question of money! Of course, selling out like this is really sleazy ... This photographer is doubly great, thank you for telling me, Marina. I will look him up on the Internet.” In the meantime they had finished eating, so they said goodbye because Yaron told her he wanted to introduce her to his commander, who had given his permission for Yaron to go to Rome to see her again. Marina was happy to meet him, and along the way they stopped for a second to greet Ilan, the French lone soldier who had exchanged Yaron’s shekels into euros for the trip to Rome.
  • 214. 215 “Thank you Ilan, with those euros Yaron offered me the best ice cream of my life!” Marina said to him, and Ilan replied, “That and much more for Yaron!” And from the way he said it, with a sincere smile and a pat on his back, Marina understood that Ilan really liked him, and for a second she thought that this soldier might have to defend Yaron during an attack if necessary, and she was certain that he would never shy away from that. Then she thought of Liran, the soldier who had saved Yaron when he was confronted by a Palestinian terrorist with a human shield, a child who was not even three years old. Yaron had told her about this in Rome. So she asked him, “Yaron, is Liran not here? That soldier who saved you from that Palestinian terrorist who used the small child as a human shield?” “No, Marina, he has already finished his military service, but we are still in contact. One day we will organize to go out, the four of us, because he is engaged.” “And are you engaged?” “Of course.” “I was afraid you just had a girlfriend.” Yaron stopped and smiled at her, he took her in his arms and kissed her, and the soldiers passing by made no comment so as not to disturb them. They arrived in front of the commander’s door and Yaron knocked, but here was no reply, and they stood embracing for a moment outside the closed door, and shortly afterward the commander arrived behind them and called Yaron. He turned with Marina and saluted, and the commander glared at him. Then the commander carefully looked at Marina who just stood there silent and embarrassed, and after looking at her for a while he said, “But it’s you! Hello, beautiful, let me hug you!” and he hugged her affectionately and said, “You cut your hair, you’re beautiful! Yaron sorry, but I thought that you had changed girl, after all the mess that I made to send you to Rome!” Yaron introduced them and Marina thanked him very much for Rome, but she just wasn’t able to give her condolences for the death of his son in Lebanon, because she saw he was so happy that she didn’t want to remind him of such a terrible thing, even if she was certain that this father remembered that tragedy at every moment of the day and had learnt to survive without losing his affectionate smile. Then the commander stroked her on her head and said, “You’ve certainly changed your look ... and the keffiyeh has gone ... Surely you didn’t do that for Yaron, did you?” Marina blushed purple and replied, “No, I’ve just changed my mind.” “And why did you change your mind?” “Because I got more information, I started having doubts.” “And who gave you these doubts?” “Yaron ...” “There you are, see? Ah, Yaron, don’t drive her crazy, take care of her!”
  • 215. 216 Then they said goodbye, and, when they moved away, Marina said to Yaron, “What a nice person! Shame though ... hmmm, did you see that I was unable to give him my condolences, Yaron?” “You were right not to make him sad, Marina, he was so pleased to meet you. You know, he hasn’t told anyone here at the base about his son’s death. He only told me, to explain why he was sending me to Rome.” “I see, so I was right not to say anything, because if he hasn’t told anyone it must be because he doesn’t want anyone to talk to him about it.” “It’s true, you’re right. Maybe in that way, if nobody talks to him about the death of his son, he might be able to forget about it at times.” “It’s obvious that he’s happy with you guys, he spoke to you very fondly. And he really gave us a wonderful present, letting us meet in Rome.” “And the day after tomorrow ... Jerusalem, here we come!” “That’s great, Yaron, I can’t wait! And tomorrow what do we do? Have you managed to find something you can do so that I can be with you? If not, if you have to stand guard at the checkpoint or if you have an exercise, I’ll stay all day at the kibbutz, maybe go for a walk, and then tomorrow night I’ll come back here for dinner if it’s not a problem for you.” “Tomorrow, Marina ... brace yourself ... do you want the good news or the bad news?” “The good news ...” “We’ll be together the whole day, Marina!” “Wow! So I don’t care about the bad news, don’t even tell me, Yaron!” “No, really, I’ll tell you so that you can prepare yourself, maybe you can borrow a toolbox from the kibbutz.” “A toolbox? Oh God, Yaron, surely I don’t have to be a mechanic?” “An electrician!” “An electrician?” repeated Marina and burst out laughing, “But if I don’t even know how to change a light bulb!” “Yesterday when they were working out ideas for tomorrow, in order to help me out seeing that you are here, this was the only thing they thought we could do together.” “But what did you tell them, Yaron? That I know how to be an electrician?” “No, of course not!” he said, laughing, “It’s just that you can’t take part in military activities for security reasons, and the only thing I can do tomorrow and have you close by is to fix the electrical system at the base. You’ll be my apprentice, ok?” “Apprentice electrician at your orders, sir!” said Marina, giving him the military salute, and Yaron took her into his arms, hugged her tight and gave her a big kiss. Then they went to the jeep because Yaron had a half-hour pass to take her to the kibbutz a few kilometers from the base, where he had booked her a room. They made the brief trip in the jeep in the cool night, the first stars appearing in the almost black sky. “How beautiful, Yaron, I feel like we’ve gone back to when we first met! And look at that beautiful hill all lit up! But are we going in the direction of the view you see from the little window in your room?”
  • 216. 217 “Yes, darling, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that! Tonight I'll look out of my little window, as you call it, and I’ll know that I am looking toward the little room where the sweetest and most beautiful girl in the world is sleeping!” “What a darling you are, Yaron! But can you imagine that in September we met by pure chance? It might not have happened, you could have gone past earlier or later. Apart from what would have happened to me, but I would never have met you! When would we ever have had another chance to meet, Yaron? When I think about it my head spins, I feel myself going towards the edge of a precipice without knowing it, walking backwards, with one foot already over the edge. And suddenly, I see you in front of me, I take a step towards you and I move away forever from the precipice.” Yaron looked at her in silence and then he looked at the road again and spoke solemnly, “Marina, it's the same image that comes into my mind when I think that I might not have met you.” and they remained silent for the rest of the trip, occasionally stroking each other's hair. When they got out of the jeep, Marina hugged him, kissed him and said, “We are two soul mates, me and you, Yaron.” “And we didn't meet by pure chance, Marina.” They walked along a path in the middle of a well kept lawn, simple and without flowers, and Marina said to Yaron, “You know that I still haven't understood what a kibbutz is, Yaron?” “It's an association of people who have chosen to share their work. It's typically Israeli, it doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. It's a village, almost always agricultural, where private property and money don't exist: each person works for the others and receives the fruits of the work of the others.” “But that's Jewish communism, Yaron!” “In fact it’s the only one that hasn’t created victims. If you want to leave, you just say goodbye and go, nobody will kill you or send you to a gulag.” He walks with her to her room and she really liked it, so small and simple, with the yellow wall and the blue painted hand-made furniture. It also had a small window, “Darling, come and see, the view is almost the same as yours! Tomorrow morning I want to see it with the sun! Look, Yaron, let me show you how I sleep!” She took the hedgehog-doll from her backpack and removed it from the scarf, she lay down on the bed without getting under the covers and played HaMalach HaGoel (the Maccabeats’ lullaby) on her phone, lay on her side and hugged the doll close to her heart while she pulled up her legs, put the other arm under her pillow and closed her eyes. Yaron sat beside her and kissed her on the forehead, then he kissed her again twice, worried. “Marina, you’re hot, maybe you have a fever ...” “No, I’m just tired, darling.” Yaron stroked her forehead and lay down beside her and hugged her. Marina hugged her doll and looked at him with a tired face, but with such a peaceful and happy expression that even when she closed her eyes again he hugged her as if she were his doll, and he didn’t dare do anything other than stroke her back and
  • 217. 218 kiss her hair while the song played, as though he were hugging something fragile, made of crystal glass, that if he were to squeeze too much, it would break. When the song ended, Marina opened her eyes, smiled at Yaron without moving and said, “I love you.” “I love you too, Marina. You have no idea how much I love you. I think about you continuously. And now you’re here with me, darling, it’s too wonderful, I can’t believe it. Little one, are you tired? It’s been a tiring day, hasn’t it? Rest well, tomorrow morning I’ll come and fetch you.” and added, in a low voice but with a happier tone, “And we’ll spend a romantic day together at the base fixing the electrical system.” Marina smiled at him and said, “And the day after tomorrow we’ll be together in Jerusalem.” “And we’ll have two days just to ourselves.” “And I know how much you love me, Yaron, because I also think about you continuously.” Yaron kissed her again and stroked her forehead. It really seemed to him that Marina had a fever, but she reassured him that it always happened to her when she was very tired: she just needed to sleep. So he got up and helped Marina get under the covers in the same position as before: on one side, with her legs pulled up, turning towards him. Yaron let the song play again and set it to repeat continuously, kissed her on her hair and on the mouth. Then he removed his airport welcome banner from his pocket and put it on her shoulder up to her chin, as though it were a small blanket. “Marina ti amo tantissimo,” he whispered in Italian with a kiss, and Marina replied in Hebrew with another kiss, “Yaron ani ohevet otha meod.” “Good night, Marina. See you tomorrow.” He sat on the floor beside the bed to stroke her on her side from her hair to the tips of her feet, which he could feel through the blanket, so small and thin that his heart was breaking at how defenceless and trusting she was. She was no longer the invincible fairy from the airport, now that her forehead was burning up and she had been betrayed by her friends. He continued to caress her until she fell asleep, he kissed her on her hair, her forehead, on an eyelid and a cheek and switched off the music, quietly closed the door and he returned to the base. It was late and he drove fast, not wanting to risk losing his pass, and arrived at the base just in time. *** The next morning, when Yaron arrived at the kibbutz, Marina was waiting for him in front of the entrance, sitting on a small blue bench, like the blue furniture in the rooms. She had had breakfast and as soon as she saw the jeep she jumped up and ran towards it. “You’re better, darling! You were right, you just needed to sleep!” said Yaron as he climbed out of the jeep to hug her, “Are you ready to be an electrician?”
  • 218. 219 “Absolutely ready, my love!” “Poor little one, with such a lovely sunny day maybe you preferred to take a walk through the kibbutz? I’ll come and fetch you for lunch, ok?” “Are you mad, Yaron? Take me to the base immediately, and I’m not saying that to be with you, but because I really want to learn how to be an electrician!” They arrived at the base and Yaron gave her a notepad and a pen to write down the things they were going to do during the day. “There you are, darling, the first two pages have the list of things to be done. On the first page there are the generic things,