A Protected Room of Our Own

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. glassdoors 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.

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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19 Responses to A Protected Room of Our Own

  1. Donadio, Emmie says:

    Dear Judy, You need to acknowledge that there are pompous overweight politicians on both sides. There are so many people who assume that Israel is wrong in this, we don’t need to give those folks more ammunition. It’s as if only Israel is inflicting damage in the current warlike situation. The Gaza/Palestinian deaths are always being compared to the “no civilian casualties” in Israel, is if only if there were equal numbers of dead would this be an even-sided/even-handed conflict. Israel is ALWAYS blamed in the western press, for everything. But I have read that Hamas is launching missiles from homes, mosques, schools, etc. . . ., insuring that civilians will be killed in response. (They are not dead, however. They are martyrs, right?) It is positively maddening to listen to the news reports we hear on our most reliable radio station — NPR [which some in the past have called National Palestinian Radio]. The one Palestinian teenager’s death was covered extensively, while the 3 kidnapped — and dead — Israeli boys were almost never even pictured in the newspapers. IS it Jewish to blame your own leaders and not the enemies who wish to annihilate you? I don’t get it! PL Advise. And may we live to be, respectively, 70 and 72 and see each other often until then! All my love, Em Shabbat SHALOM. With hope for it, in any case. XOXOX


    • Dear Em, Yes, of course there are pompous overweight politicians on both sides, all over the world, in fact. I specifically don’t like those who become overweight once they get into power,
      especially if they develop a liking for expensive cigars. Yes, it is Jewish to blame our own leaders, ever since the Jews complained about Moses. I would blame our leaders less today if I felt they were seriously interested in a 2-state solution, but I don’t believe them at all. Once Hamas started firing rockets all over Israel, I totally support the Israeli Air Force bombing the launch sites, the places where the missiles are stored and the men who are firing. I think this is called self-defense, no? Why the world criticizes us for defending ourselves is another matter/ Do we have to wait until 125 Israelis dies before we kill 125 Gazans? I am not at all apologetic that Israel developed an anti-missile system – Iron Dome – that is protecting Israel’s citizens, as well as Palestinians in Bethlehem and Hebron when the rockets are aimed there. In general, the picture is not black and white. This round of fighting takes place in a context of hatred and vengeance. Living here, I am less sensitive than you are to the issue of “ammunition.” Both sides do despicable things, but I will always defend Israel’s right to defend herself. Hope this helps a little. Happy BD and may we live to be 100 and 102 and still be able to see each other often and remember each other’s name. Much love and Shabbat shalom, Judy


  2. Jane says:

    I actually think your last line sums it up–” 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.

    I am not anti-men– I deeply love and admire many. But the need for power and wealth that drives both the Hamas and Israelis in power to these ends is ….not sure I can find the right word so you can fill in the blank. Here in the US we don’t have to look too far to see how it plays out against women, people of color, the gay/lesbian community- all in the name of one god or another.

    So glad you made it through yesterday and am hoping your birthday is a real celebration of you, Judy. Keep writing and sharing how you see it– I look forward to the posts,

    Love, Janie


  3. Joan Leegant says:

    Judy, thank you for giving us a small glimpse of the everyday– and of course your always thoughtful commentary. I love reading your posts. Hugs to you. Joan


  4. Eve Tal says:

    Dear Judy – I do so agree with you! I hope you celebrated your birthday without having to lie on the floor once again. Shabbat Shalom – Eve


  5. Judith says:

    So powerful, Judy, an excellent piece of writing.


  6. Marianne Friedman says:

    Judy, You outdid yourself! You are so right on about the leaders on both sides. I am sending it to friends here in the US and in Israel.

    Our grandson Benjamin, Jennifer’s son, is on his way to his base and then quite possibly to the border with his computer for Intelligence. Read swear word here.



  7. Shosh says:

    Nobody says it like you, Judy. I would add that the massive public support for the government during military action versus the divisiveness and fractiousness of peace efforts make war inextricably more attractive to the politicians you aptly described – even if we assume they are not so cynical as to pursue this course fully consciously. I say to them: STOP THE WAR!


  8. estherhecht says:

    I was asked to sign a petition by the American group Jewish Voice for Peace. It made no mention at all of rockets coming into Israel, as though Israel woke up one morning and just decided to bomb Gaza. I refused to sign. And, like you, I blame the men on both sides who make women’s and children’s lives a misery because they are unable to come up with a better “solution” than war.
    May this year bring us many more excellent pieces from you.


  9. Macabee Dean says:

    The time to worry is when the Hamas learns how to aim their rockets. Until then, driving in Israeli traffic is much more deadly. Even today, you shouldn’t worry about the rocket which has your name on it–only that rocket inscribed with: To Whom It Might concern.


  10. Thanks for your comment, Macabee, and your calming words.


  11. djnnlbrn says:

    I came across your IDF piece via Brain Child and I am so glad I clicked on your link at the end of the piece. I am an American who has been sitting in my living room watching what unfolds in Israel and Gaza and I am so grateful to YOU for helping me understand.

    I am praying for you friend. Thank you for your insight, thank you for your testimony. Thank you for your words.

    And, at the end of it all… Thank you for pointing back to the fact that we should live and love like neighbors.

    God bless you Judy. Thanks for writing.


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