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Love Beyond the Fence
Claudia Radici
claudia.radici.123@gmail.com
Copyright © 2013 Claudia Radici
All Rights Reserved
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Summary
Chapter 1..........................................................................................................
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Chapter 1
“Help! Aiuto! Help!” “Yalla! Yalla! Yalla!” It was almost night time in the small
village of Dayr al-Hatab, in...
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military control, while the civilian control is Palestinian. It’s not a safe place for
girls alone in the dark, especial...
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saw the plight of the Palestinians, who must pass through the wall every day,
morning and night, to go to work.”
Yaron l...
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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 d...
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beautiful that it seemed to gently impose proportions, as if everything around
were to lay about in harmonious curves.
B...
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spread hatred against the Jewish state, to the point where they justify the
elimination of the only free and democratic...
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“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 t...
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left their homes to escape the war unleashed by the Arab states against our
nation, created not even a day before. And ...
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“Call them as you wish, Yaron. However, it’s always the same story. You're telling
me that you have integrated many Jew...
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Welcoming them would be suicidal madness, they would immediately take
advantage to destroy Israel.”
“Well, maybe ... Bu...
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“That’s what they say they want. “Two states for two peoples” is just a refrain,
that they have been repeating since 19...
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beg of you, whatever I say, - Marina thought to herself and looked for a second
into his eyes, before trying to concent...
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“But you came all the way here to film a wall, you just looked at the part you were
interested in and ...”
“But I thoug...
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“Yes but? Colonists? Stolen? And even if that were true, would you justify a
massacre of children, entering into their ...
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groups as before. Eyal, Paola and Lucia talked to the soldiers who tried to explain
the Hebrew alphabet to the girls, w...
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weeks before had escaped a night assault at the school where he studied and
slept. A Palestinian gunman killed three of...
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“You’ve never been nasty. After always hearing the same lies being repeated you
began to believe them, that’s normal.”
...
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“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 ...
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Yaron spoke to his friend in Hebrew, “Eyal, they’ve got a point in Saudi Arabia,
don’t they?”
“They certainly have!” Ey...
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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 ...
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Then they chose a sandy area where to lie down. Yaron tried to indicate some
constellations to her and some reference s...
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“Yes, I saw a whole family, right here in this area, on the road to Itamar. They
were magnificent, really, a thousand t...
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“Oh, but there aren’t any shooting stars, you were right, Yaron!”
“Well, we can pretend that that plane that just passe...
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“Ugh, Yaron! I’m racking my brains to find thousands of words for a complex
question, also in English, and you answer m...
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“Ouch!”
“Sorry, Marina! But these things are terrible ... what are they? Medusa’s snakes?
Do you also have your protect...
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“The word circumspect is fantastic, I have to mark it down.”
“Yes, when someone pisses you really off ...”
“Circumspect...
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“Ugh, Marina looks at everyone like that. I hope your friend doesn’t get any
illusions. Come on, let’s go and look for ...
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They reached Eyal hugging and they followed him to the jeep without detaching
themselves. They sat in the same places a...
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Paola continued filming the fence, and began excitedly recounting in Italian how
they had spent the past few hours, “Gu...
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The girls were surprised because the airport, that only until a short time ago was
a military one, was very similar to ...
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was left for them to be together. “Just a second, Marina, I’ll be right back. Order
also for me in the meantime, ok? Pi...
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“I absolutely agree with you, girls. I’ve been eating them for almost twenty years
and I still haven’t managed to disti...
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“You don’t have it here in Palest ... Israel, whatever it is?”
“Briscola? Yaron, ever heard of briscola?”
“Briscola? No...
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“Translate,” Eyal came back into the discussion with his usual calmness, and
Lucia answered him in English, “Oh, Eyal, ...
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“Sure! They definitely sing about the Lord’s marvels, with all that beautiful nature
around, happy, together ... my God...
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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 percanggahan pendapat dan minda. Di masukkan juga unsur memusuhi islam... ambil iktibar.. dan protect ISLAM...

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Love Beyond The Fence

  1. 1. 2
  2. 2. 3 Love Beyond the Fence Claudia Radici claudia.radici.123@gmail.com Copyright © 2013 Claudia Radici All Rights Reserved
  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?”

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