West Bank Aria


West Bank Aria

By Ann Rosenthal


She gets out of the airport taxi. As the air conditioned air dissipates, heat hits her like a wave. Israel in July. “Thank you,” she says in schoolgirl Hebrew. The taxi driver waves away the proffered note. “No charge,״ he smiles.
Danielle holds it out again, baffled. The taxi driver shakes his head. “Buy yourself a drink,” he says, in words that Danielle’s Brooklyn-trained brain struggles to process. It isn’t just the language barrier. It is the cab driver refusing a fare. This isn’t how it works in New York.
“You join our army. My daughter starts in six months. Maybe you’ll train her, teach her good English.” He laughs, revs the car, spins the wheels down the road. Daniella looks at the hundred shekel note in her hand. It glows back at her, like a promise of family. Yes, she breathes, enlisting was the right, the better, the wiser thing. To be a mensch, among other mensch, Israelis and international volunteers. To defend the Star of David. This, this is what it means.
She tucks the hundred shekel note into her bra, and vows to wear it like a talisman, to defend herself and her home-at-last heart from harm.
He leaves the rude immigration staff at the airport like a bad dream, climbs into the waiting taxi. It’s cooler than he expected. Of course, December. The season when the donkey and the baby wandered, all that jazz. A thrill comes over him, to be in the Holy Land. Ben Gurion airport rises up behind him, like a squat mushroom from the desert. Already, Marco dislikes it, a sign of concrete Israeli hubris. We made the desert bloom. And poured it out in blocks, sand into concrete. Bringing millions from all over the world, in order to kick out the Arabs. He stalks past the line of waiting Israeli drivers and picks the one at the end of the line, clearly Muslim. “Salaam,” he says, and the man’s face crinkles in friendly welcome. Yeah, thinks Marco, that’s right, I am one with you.
“You’ll sleep here.” The barracks are better than Danielle had expected. She is again welcome, it seems. The corporal speaks to her in English and thanks her formally for volunteering, before showing her to her bunkbed. “Hebrew lessons start tomorrow. Three-month course. It’s pretty intense. You speak anything at all?”
“A little. I read it better.”
“That’s good. You’ll pick it up. Everyone does. You have family in Israel?”
Daniella shakes her head. “Just New York. And Russia, I think. But we don’t know them. They could have emigrated here, but we wouldn’t know.”
“That’s a pity. But that means you’ll be a Lone Soldier. There are special benefits. Longer leave, that kind of thing.” He winks. “I’m sure there will be a queue of boys waiting to teach you Hebrew and show you around.”
“I need a hostel. Somewhere cheap. You know a good place?”
Having exhausted his one word of Arabic, Marco is now speaking English. He tries to sound as casual and American-rock-star as possible, to keep his Italian vowels under control.
“I know plenty. You Jewish?” the question comes casually. Marco hesitates, for a fraction of a second. “No.”
“I know a good place. In the Old City.” The taxi driver winks. “Are you married? Children?”
“No, not yet.”
The taxi driver laughs. “Plenty foreign women in Jerusalem.” Marco laughs back, with a practiced smirk, as if the idea is interesting to him.
“How many internationals do we have for tomorrow? Do we need another van?”
Mohammed shrugs. “I don’t think so. We have only the Germans, two of them, and a couple of Czechs. All the young ones are going home for Christmas.”
“Pity. The protests are bloody good media at this time of year.” Ahmed sucks his teeth with a world-weary air, as if he will be commanding an eager crowd of journalists from CNN and the BBC, rather than a couple of jaundiced local radio reporters. “Olive groves and donkeys and shepherds. Just what the Christians love.”
Mohammed’s phone pings. “Oh, hang on. Some kid just turned up at Freedom Hostel. Italian. Seems keen. Wants to know more.”
Ahmed nods. “Excellent. I want the whole front row to be international if possible. Up there with the peacenik Israelis.”
“Good photo op?” Mohammed is new to the role of media relations although, like Ahmed, he has been running pitched battles with the IDF since ten years old. Ahmed laughs at his naiveté. “No, dumbass. Internationals in the front row mean the conscripts won’t want to shoot.”
“Tomorrow. Your squadron will be on duty along the wall-building route. They’re trying to wear us down. It’s not working, of course.” Danielle nods smartly. She is quite aware what an honour it is for an international volunteer to be in the infantry, and how many female soldiers find excuses to avoid being assigned to the occupied territories. Danielle feels differently. She didn’t cross the world and slog her guts out learning Hebrew in order to spend two years in education or catering.
“There are overnight protests every night at the moment. They’re working us in shifts. We clear one lot of awkward sods overnight, and by dawn there are another lot. But the night-time protests are easy to handle. They just lie down and let us break their legs.”
Danielle laughs at the patent exaggeration. Her commander gives her a sharp look and continues. “In the daytime they march. When we clear them, they throw stones. Not just stones, either. Your squadron is going to manage the upper half of the village. You are to command from the hill. Support our troops as they meet the marchers head on. Do you understand what that means?”
Danielle nods. There is only one way to support from above. If her colleagues are attacked, she needs to provide covering fire.
“And look, it’s almost Christmas. You’re from the States, you know what that means. One of the reasons I’ve put you girls up there is that I don’t want trigger-happy macho heroes giving the Palestinians any more martyrs than we can avoid. Blood in Bethlehem, that kind of headline, the media office are on our arses to show restraint until the New Year. So you fire if you see us attacked, and not until then. You got it?”
Danielle nods again. A small frisson of excitement runs through her frame. Fire, but only in defence. If under siege. This is what she has trained for. This is why she came.
From the moment he comes through the hostel front door, Marco feels at home. The clock is broken, running an hour fast. Then he realises, this is East Jerusalem. Palestinian time. The TV shows local footage. A boy has been shot in Gaza. Silence falls across the room for a moment and a large Dutchman shouts, “Bastards!” A pan-European roar of agreement. Marco feels the same giddy rush of blood as when Lazio score a goal. This is my team, he thinks, looking around the room. These guys think the same as me, they are not afraid to say so. Fuck you, Israelis. Look at these men and women from all over the world, well, all over Europe, showing up to show you what we think of your heartless shooting of innocent kids.
Mohammed finds him an hour or so later, and sounds him out gingerly about whether he wants to join the demonstration tomorrow.
Marco laughs. Seeing these heroes of the international community, how could he not want to join? Wasn’t this the reason he came to Israel, to find out what was going on and if he could do something to help? He’s not here to buy crucifixes from Bethlehem.
Mohammed explains that there is a van leaving at eight in the morning, and that they will go into the West Bank by a back road. They will hide their banners under the seats, and if they meet a checkpoint they will say they are visiting churches. They should pose as religious tourists and must avoid engaging the Israeli troops in discussions about politics.
It is all unbelievably amateurish, but Marco is hooked. He would have joined the protest anyway, but the idea of spending more time with Mohammed is particularly intriguing. Nothing will happen with that, of course. This is a traditional society. But a boy can look, can’t he?
Mohammed knows that it is his job to be friendly to internationals, but he is particularly alert to the long lashes and lively laugh of this Italian one. Nothing will happen, of course. It would be suicide to make a pass openly here. When Mohammed wants local companionship, he goes to Tel Aviv for a couple of nights. He wonders what he will do when the wall is finished. He can hardly scale a twenty foot barrier every time he wants a blow job.
They chat for a few minutes. Soccer, the status of Jerusalem in international law, soccer again. Marco is sensitive enough to the traditions of Arab male friendship not to read anything into it when Mohammed’s arm touches his a couple of times.
Then it is time for prayer, and Mohammed excuses himself politely. He prays publicly on his prayer mat in the hallway with the other locals. This is because he believes, but also because it is what a heterosexual man would do. Then he goes back and bids Marco goodnight. They will see each other in the morning.
Danielle squats in the back of the truck. They are the last truck in the convoy and she cannot see much between the canvas sides. The truck bounces. Potholes.
“Shit!” Nahu’s arm jerks. Blood. For a horrible moment, Danielle thinks he’s been shot. This isn’t supposed to happen. Too early for violence. The intifada kids are still sleeping in.
Then reason takes over. There was no gunfire. It must be an accident.
“What happened? Stop the fucking van!” she shouts to the driver. Nahu points wordlessly to the side of the truck. A jagged piece of metal, sharp as a knife. Probably torn off a few days ago by a Molotov cocktail. How did the mechanics miss it? An accident waiting to happen, and now it has.
The truck judders to a stop. Danielle looks around automatically for the first aid kit. It isn’t in its usual place.
“What the hell?” She rummages in her pocket for a field bandage. At the sight of it, Nahu winces.
“We need disinfectant.” He’s right. Who the hell was responsible for checking the supplies? They are the last truck. There’s no one behind them to help.
Katya, the quiet Russian, points across the road. “Clinic. We could get some there.”
Danielle doesn’t read Arabic but the waiting ambulance and the crescent on the door makes it obvious that Katya is right.
“Stay here. Cover the troops.” There isn’t any real danger, but Danielle follows procedure for dismounting in hostile terrain.
Watching her step carefully, she goes up to the clinic entrance. There, the ambulance driver and paramedic watch her approach with wariness. She smiles and uses English. “We have an injury. Disinfectant?.” She makes a gesture of unstopping a bottle, then washing a wound. They look at her, expressionless. Callous bastards, she thinks. Typical of Palestinians not to respect the Hippocratic oath.
The clinic door is half open. She pushes her way inside.
“I need disinfectant.” She would like to demand medical care, that a doctor come outside, examine Nahu, and give him stitches, but she knows it is probably dangerous to suggest it. Better to patch him up herself and get him back to the army base.
A doctor comes out into the hall. His expression, above a dramatically bloodstained white coat, is carefully neutral. “Yes, we have disinfectant.”
Danielle is baffled by his appearance. This is a small clinic. Is he trying to perform an operation?
“Follow me.” He goes into a side room. Danielle follows him. An Arab kid of fifteen or so is lying on the bed. His head is bandaged but blood seeps through. His trousers are also covered with blood.
Danielle gives an involuntary gasp. “What happened?”
The doctor looks at her expressionlessly. “This is a protestor. He says he was lying down in the path of the wall overnight. He says the army broke his legs.”
“He says?” she asks. The doctor’s caution is puzzling. This is not the wild exaggeration of the Palestinians she has been led to expect.
“That is what he and his friends tell me. They tell me the same stories every morning.”
“They’re lying.”
“I am a doctor. I was not there. I can only tell you that he has a blow to the head and two broken legs.”
For the rest of her life, Danielle remembers struggling to stand straight and keep her jaw slack and casual, as if she does not care. She forces a smile. “How are you doing now?” she asks the boy.
The boy’s eyes bore into her with undisguised hatred. She holds his stare politely, determined to keep smiling and brisk. The doctor waits in silence. After a few moment the boy makes a sound of quiet contempt and turns his face away, towards the paint-peeled wall. Danielle tries to keep her voice even and calm. De-escalate, whenever possible. Show courtesy and respect. Remember they are people, too.
“My soldier needs disinfectant. If you have any to spare.”
“Here. And here is some gauze. And a proper bandage. You need to bind up that wound carefully. I would come and help, but you can see I have more serious injuries to attend to here. You are welcome to leave your wounded soldier here, if he wants to join the queue.”
As the battered minivan pulls up outside the clinic, Mohammed notices an Israeli truck disappearing into the distance. That is odd. Perhaps surveillance, perhaps a booby trap. It’s never happened yet, but who knows what the occupiers are capable of. He checks the parking lot carefully before letting his passengers out.
“What’s this?” Marco looks sleepy and lethargic, the way most young internationals are at this time in the morning. Before Mohammed can speak, one of the Germans answer. “Hospital. We come take photos of whatever has happened overnight. Put them online.”
The minivan empties. Marco wanders behind the Germans, who have brought a large camera and are taking loud clicking photos of all the wounded. The wounded. The wounded. Marco cannot think clearly, he drank a lot of beer last night. But there is blood. Everywhere. And wounds. Soft welcoming eyes from boys and men, who point at their broken bodies and speak in Arabic. A doctor in bloodstained clothes translates. “They were protestors. They lay down in the path of the wall last night. They say the army broke their legs and heads.”
“The IDF?”
“That is what they say. I am a doctor. I wasn’t there. I can confirm they have wounds to the head and broken legs.”
Marco shakes his own, undamaged, head. He tries to look nonchalant, or properly shocked and sympathetic, as the Germans do. This is not what he was not expecting. But at the same time it is the opposite. A mirror can reflect what you expect, and still horrify. You can know of things and not know them, understand a newspaper report at the same time and not grasp it. The words of the doctor break through his headache like shards of broken glass. It is as if he has been playing a computer game, some World War Two animation, and suddenly the screen has shattered, and he finds himself standing in the battlefield, pixelated machine gun and all.
Outside he lights a cigarette. The ambulance driver smiles at him. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Does this happen, often?”
“Like this, every day.”
They are laughing. As if it is a game. This is not a game; there is an injured child in there, don’t they realise? Marco is absurdly angry with them. He takes a breath and collects himself. Let them laugh if they want. I am here only for a day or two. They have to live it. Maybe laughter helps.
Nahu has been delivered back to the army base. His cuts are superficial, and he gets some friendly shtick from the medical orderlies about there being easier ways to call in sick. Danielle promises she will look in on him later. Nahu grins at her and she realises his friendliness and willingness to help her with pronunciation and grammar has not been entirely without motive. The truck sets off again. But they are behind a group of Palestinians now, a large group carrying placards. Fuck. The demonstrators. They have lost time, they will not be able to get to the heights before the protestors. Worse, they could be trapped if more come behind. Danielle scans the crowd nervously.
Pictures of Barghouti. One of the terrorists. Baseball caps. Signs in English and Hebrew. “We come in peace.” “Don’t shoot.” “This is a non-violent demonstration.” Danielle wonders who they are trying to kid, and whether they think they are waving their placards at Hamas or the occupation. Behind them, she can see shadowy youths, faces already masked against the tear gas, hanging back in the alleys and moving forward in parallel with the march. They are not quite part of the protest but not separated either. Biding their time. The peaceful protestors are just pawns. Willing ones, too. They know what will happen, that violence will break out on both sides in an hour or so.
“We should go back.” She speaks to the driver. “Find another way.”
He shrugs. “How?”
She looks behind. A fat snake of men and boys stretching behind them up the road. He’s right. They cannot reverse without risking injuries. Show restraint. Let’s hope they do the same.
The crowd walks on, then stops. Ahead, Danielle can see a barrier, then a lone soldier. Combat gear. Holding a loudspeaker. Flanked on both sides by his men. She looks around. The other soldiers are sweating and pale. This is not where they are meant to be. She looks up at the hills. Are there other snipers there to take their place? Will they just fire indiscriminately or will they see there are trapped soldiers in the middle of the crowd?
A cry goes up in English. “Israelis to the front!” For a moment, Danielle thinks they mean the truck, but then a group of pale-skinned pensioners in comfortable shoes are ushered forward.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” one of them says reprovingly as she passes the truck.
“Go home and knit, Grandma,” snaps Katya. They glare at each other. Then the elderly group moves forward like a wave cresting over the angry crowd. To her astonishment, they do not stop at the front but continue walking, hands in the air. The soldier comes forward a few paces, gesturing with his rifle for them to return to the crowd. They stop walking but do not retreat.
“They’re brave.” Danielle speaks without thinking. The other soldiers look at her. “I mean, our soldiers,” she corrects herself hastily. The sweat runs down the back of her neck.
It is clear that the troops up above have not seen them. Danielle prays the Shema. Ok, so now we will be tear-gassed. That is okay, not life-threatening. “All right, everyone, we won’t be here for long. When the troops open fire, live or gas, we scatter and take cover, do you understand? Keep your weapons with you, but don’t engage. Not even if you see them throwing bombs. Leave them. We don’t want to waste your lives. Make your way backwards and we will regroup up there at the bend of the road, all right?”
She speaks harshly and is aware that her accent is stronger under stress. But the group nods, grateful that they have a clear protocol now. Always give orders in an emergency so that they believe you have a plan.
It won’t be long now. The soldier is speaking on the radio. Just a few moments and then someone will give the order. Everyone will run for their lives. No great risk for now, remember that. The army will show restraint. It is nearly Christmas and we are close to Bethlehem. But the Palestinians will scatter in fear, and then we can escape.
In the silence, Danielle finds an image swim into her mind. She considers it, and realizes it’s a photograph of her great-great-grandmother Yulia. Why on earth is she remembering that now? It shimmers in her head like heat on a road. Oh, that is right, because Yulia always told her great-grandmother, who always told her grandfather, who always told her mother, who always told Danielle, there is nothing to be afraid of as long as you stand up for yourself. Don’t let others push you around, and you will come to no harm. Danielle grips her rifle firmly. Don’t let others push you around. You will come to no harm. She looks at the silent crowd and wonders if they have been told the same.
Marco is standing close to the IDF truck, which seems to have lost its way and been swept into the demonstration by mistake. He wonders why the driver does not simply rev the engine, reverse, and force the crowds out of the way. Mohammed is a few heads ahead of him. The Germans are chattering noisily. Beside him, a small boy holds an onion. He offers Marco a slice.
“No, thank you. Not hungry.”
The boy shakes his head. “For gas.” He mimes rubbing the onion into his eyeballs. Marco can’t think of anything he wants to do less, but he politely takes the slice of onion. In front of him, the Germans put on gas masks. That looks like it would be of more use.
The Palestinians stand in patient silence. An Israeli radio crackles. L’chaim. Inshallah. What Allah wills. To Life. Then the guns begin, from the hills.
He is running now, and his grandfather with him. Not his Italian grandfather, the one he knew and loved. The American one, the Jewish GI, the one he never met. The one who fucked his grandmother and left her pregnant, so the family was ashamed of her, like he is ashamed now of his terror at the sound of gunfire. He wants to stand his ground like Mohammed, who is running forward with the Germans, but his legs are taking him in a different direction. Backwards, to the side. He finds a wall and crouches down. Out of range, but still there is the tear gas. It burns so he cannot think straight. He would run further but he is afraid of the bullets. Anyway, his legs don’t seem to work. He always thought he was brave, and now he knows he is not.
He rubs the onion against his eyes. It makes no difference; it might as well be a piece of paper. But it is better than not doing anything at all, so he continues. Next to him, a youth runs up, carrying a flaming bottle, and hurls it forward. Calmly, with expert skill, like a professional tossing a baseball onto the field of play. Marco is immediately outraged: The fucker! This is supposed to be non-violent! What will they do to us now?
He sees the Germans up ahead of him. Crouched behind a half bulldozed wall, they are photographing earnestly. Easy enough, if you have protection for your eyes and throat. He watches in horror as the youth strolls past him a second time. This time he carries a can, with the same flaming rag stuffed into its neck. Marco watches with horrified fascination. The can soars into the air. A flying kite of death. This time, he has been spotted. A bullet raps out. The youth flattens himself, pulling Marco down with him. They fall together in a crazy mess of splayed limbs. The bullet makes a hole into the wall above their heads.
Now Marco’s legs work, and he can run. He turns and runs, as far and as fast as he can. A taxi pulls up. Marco feels a surge of joy. “How much?”
The driver shouts, “Get in!” He obeys. He is driven up the road. They must be out of range now. Women are watching the battle from the sidewalk, toddlers in their arms. The taxi driver pulls to a halt and gestures for him to get out. He fumbles in his pocket for money, but the taxi driver impatiently shoves his arm away, and drives back towards the clouds of smoke.
Marco sits on the sidewalk and breathes heavily. It is so good for his lungs to feel clean air again. An elderly woman bends down and points at his arm sympathetically. He is grazed, bleeding, but he didn’t know.
Then he sees Mohammed. Walking slowly, earnestly, searching for something. Is he insane? Out in the road, like this? He is an obvious target. But he stops and looks at every knot of crouching men. Marco has a horrifying realization: He thinks I’ve been injured. He’s looking for me.
“Here!” Marco shouts. Mohammed looks up. His face creases with relief and he waves. Cheered by the sight, Marco runs to meet him, and they embrace. But now there are soldiers running forward along the road. They are firing. Only into the air, but still. Mohammed grabs Marco by the arm and pulls him down into the ditch.
The air is dank. They are on top of each other, and there is the sound of guns and the sting of tear gas  and the shouts of the troops as they search.
On the road, there is a commotion. A boy has been shot in the chest. Marco remembers seeing him throwing stones. He looked about ten. Now he is a screaming lump of flesh. His friends carry him backwards towards the clinic, where the doctor will not agree to say what he has not seen and cannot confirm. The Germans run beside the boy, taking photographs. A press photographer follows them in a flak jacket. “Great! Get the picture!” a voice shouts in English.
Marco looks across at Mohammed, who is watching the scene calmly, or with the appearance of calm. Marco doesn’t mean to move but he is suddenly slumped against Mohammed, like a child seeking warmth. Neither of them mean to kiss but there it is, just like the gunfire, ripping the place and time into pieces. You cannot return a spent bullet to its rifle. Nor recall love or tear gas, once it has spilled out into the world.
After a couple of seconds,  Mohammed pushes Marco away harshly. He wonders what the hell has happened to him. Here. In public. In the West Bank. Has he lost his mind? Is it not enough to risk death daily at the hands of the occupation, does he want to be dragged away for hanging by his own people as well? But it is too late, they have been spotted. A shadowy figure is screaming obscenities at them both in English. “Hands up!”
To his huge relief, Mohammed sees that it is an Israeli soldier. God be praised, I will live, he thinks, and then feels a surge of primitive shame, as if he is a traitor for wanting to be captured by whoever will let him kiss men and stay alive. Oh, and it’s a woman, he notices a few moments later. Imagine that.
Marco and Mohammed stumble to their feet, hands raised. The small group of Israeli soldiers gesture Marco away. These soldiers are the group that was trapped in the Jeep earlier, watching the growing crowds with evident terror. Now they have their bravado back. They don’t want Marco, he is no use to him, but Mohammed can see they want to use him as a hostage. Not for long, just long enough to get him to walk in front of them, arms raised, with their rifles poised, while they make their way back to the troops. A human shield. Just enough to get them safely back to the tanks on the other side of the village, to the east. Danielle hates the idea. It is a technique that has been drummed into them is only for use as an absolute last resort, but there are homemade bombs and stones being lobbed at them from all sides, and it is better than being massacred on the way.
“No,” says Marco loudly in English, when he realizes what is happening. “You can’t do that.
The press are here.” He points at the Germans, raises his voice. “Here, look. They’re kidnapping him. We were just hiding, he hasn’t done anything wrong.”
The Germans turn around and focus their zoom lens on Danielle. She hesitates, uncertain. Katya whispers to her and shrugs. Then they are all walking together, back in the opposite direction, westwards towards the clinic, Marco and Mohammed, the Germans, and the Israeli soldiers. The Israelis point their guns,as if everyone is under arrest. Marco glances at Mohammed, but he is walking ahead, staring into the distance coldly. As if they have never met.
The clinic is full now. Wounded are waiting in the ambulances outside. Danielle places a mobile phone call to let HQ know what has happened, where they are trapped. Not to worry, we will send someone to get you out. Any injuries? Danielle starts to say yes, but then corrects herself. “No, none. Everyone is fine.”
De-escalate. Try to remain calm. Let them see you care about the wounded. Danielle orders her troops to start helping to carry in the victims, and to use basic field first aid until the victims can be seen by a doctor. Victims? she thinks. I mean terrorists. Bomb throwers. You can be killed by a boy with a stone, she reminds herself severely, looking at the ashen face of another ten or twelve year old who has turned up with a bullet wound in his thigh. Try not to hit the heart, that is the rule. Disable, if possible, rather than kill. She is glad to see the guidelines being followed. Still, it has been scary to see how quickly and violently the Israelis intervened before the demonstrators had even, I mean, they were just holding placards, standing there. They were non-violent until we attacked them, that’s true enough. And Jews were there, too. Israeli pensioners marching forward as if they knew something the rest of us didn’t, as if they were not just crazy senile peaceniks, but brave and young. They spoke to the army and then we tear-gassed them. Them, too. Even other Jews. They could have been killed, too. To protect the Jews, we threaten our own people. Shoot them, even, if they don’t give way. Here is one of them now, see?, with a bleeding hand and a blow to the head. He says it is a rifle butt, that the Israeli soldiers carried on hitting him even though he screamed out in Hebrew. A rabbi in the crowd came and shouted at the soldiers to stop. The rabbi has been taken into custody. With some of the young boys who were too naive and noble to know when to run.
“I hid in a cellar for five years in Holland,” the rabbi is saying loudly. “I dreamed of a state where we would be safe and didn’t have to run any more from guns. Look at me now. Look at us. Let the world see what is happening.” He is telling his story to the Germans, who are taking notes. Would a Jew lie? he wonders.
Danielle never met her Russian great-grandmother, but now suddenly she is confused. The old Israeli with the bleeding head seems to have the same face as the Russian peasant in the family photo, and her great-grandmother is yelling now at Danielle, not in English but in Yiddish, the ancient family language her parents made sure she could at least understand. She is saying something about being young but not foolish, not being afraid to say no, standing up for oneself not being the same as being afraid not to fire a gun. “Every human life is precious, have you all forgotten that?” she yells, as if she were a real person and not just a figment of Danielle’s exhausted mind.


Danielle shakes her head. The vision does not vanish but it becomes fainter, less insistent. Her ears buzz. She can hear the sirens and the groans and the sound of a distant Jeep. She will be back at the base soon. She squints so that the scene around her grows fuzzy. Now all she can see to focus on is the rough triangular bandage she is efficiently folding into a temporary sling.


Copyright © Ann Rosenthal 2019 

Ann Rosenthal was born in the UK and has worked in Israel, Kosovo, and most recently Cambodia, reporting from conflict zones. She holds the International Student Playscript Award and has published in multiple genres and outlets, including The Times, London and New Zealand Poetry, where she currently lives.

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