Only yesterday during the siren did I realize my room of my own is not protected: no metal shutters on the bathroom window, no metal doors on the sliding glass doors. The room of my own was so open to the surrounding Judean hills over which missiles were flying on their way to Jerusalem that I felt uncomfortably vulnerable. The Home Front Command had instructed citizens in a building with neither a protected room, a stairwell nor a bomb shelter, to lie on the floor, face down, arms covering the head.
When the siren sounded I looked at the smooth white pseudo-marble tiles on the floor. I was happy they were not dotted with ants, spiders or dirt from the plant nursery below. Only a film of dust. Though the tiles did not beckon me to rest my anxious cheek, I gave in to the force of gravity and stretched out on the cool floor, grateful this war was not transpiring in winter, when the floor is freezing and damp. Nose into the floor, arms over the head and expecting the worst, I soon realized there was no way I would maintain this position for the recommended ten minutes.
To my right was the fridge, empty but buzzing. If the rocket fell nearby and caused large objects to move, I reasoned, waiting for the faraway boom to indicate I was still alive, the fridge might fall on me. I did not want to be squished by a fridge, so without waiting for any more signals from outside, I took my fate into my own hands and crawled backwards on my stomach, a militant civilian. My clean white shirt and white slacks enabled me to imagine I was in camouflage. Surely no sniper nor missile with eyes would see me on the white floor.
Now my prone body “hid” opposite the sliding glass doors. Even though I’ve never served in the army, I knew this was not a safe position. Flying glass could easily cut my face. I turned towards the wall. But as soon as my hands were covering my brain, I realized this too was not safe. Shrapnel from the missile could easily enter my unprotected writing room of my own and lodge in my back. Didn’t Yossi carry shrapnel in his head from the Battle of Jerusalem in ’48, causing him headaches until his death three years ago? At various times during my long life, the beginning of which I am “celebrating” today, I have suffered from low back, upper back, hip and neck pain. I had no desire to incur any injury to any part of my back, especially the day before my birthday, granted not a big one, but a birthday nonetheless.
It was at this moment that I started thinking about the man, the Hamas man in Gaza, who was pulling the string or pushing the button or covering his ears while another crony was pushing the button or pulling the string. This man, I understood while lying on the pseudo marble floor, vulnerable as the geraniums below me in the plant nursery, would be very happy to see me dead. Why else was he firing these missiles and rockets all the way from Gaza to the Judaean hills?
I was angry at this man, his organization, ideology, his state of terror that he was spreading like a virus into Israel. I wanted the Israeli army to fire back and hoped one of Israel’s missiles would hit him on the run and neutralize him from trying to kill me.
And then I thought of Virgina Woolf, the woman writer who in 1928 verbalized a woman’s need for freedom, peace and a room of one’s own in order to write. She was addressing the women at Newnham and Girton Colleges at the University of Cambridge and probably could not have imagined that some woman in the maniacal Middle East would take her seriously eighty-six years later. And then I wondered if some woman in Gaza who was crouching under a table or next to a glass door, totally vulnerable, also felt from an early age the need to write. How could there not be such a woman there? Or many? And how much more difficult was it for her to achieve her dream.
The boom came indicating the missile had been downed by Iron Dome and in those few seconds after the boom when I stood up and took deep breaths I realized that only when we both inhabited a secure and safe space would we have the freedom and the peace to write. We both needed, not only a protected room of our own, but a protected land.
Upright, I was still angry, but now not only at Hamas who fired the missile. Now I was angry at the stiff, pompous, self-righteous, over-weight, macho Israeli male leaders and all the men on both sides whose imaginations were so narrow, fixed and frozen that they hadn’t been able to come up with a better solution to this conflict over a shared piece of land that demanded we live like neighbors, not enemies, no better solution than this tiresome old game they had been playing for generations like little boys who never grew up, never learned how to respect the other and to share their common ground.