Wednesday, July 03, 2019

We’re a couple of weeks into a shiputz (renovation) of the larger home above and to the side of our rented “grandmother’s apartment.” I’m fine with that. Or rather, I was fine with that. Until the other day. When ten days had turned into two weeks and counting.
Don't get me wrong. The necessary precautions are all in place. There is a shomer on guard for the duration of the renovation. (There has to be, by law.) Dov locks me in every morning as he leaves. But still, this is a country where many of my people are killed by people who look and sound a lot like these workmen. It is disconcerting to hear their language, Arabic, all around me as I sit at my virtual desk in my home.
This street is quiet. If sound comes through my window, it is generally birdsong. When it is not, it is children playing in Hebrew, or adults speaking in Hebrew or English, depending on where they were born. If an Israeli neighbor is in on the conversation, we speak Hebrew, for we are in the Jewish State.
The shiputz, however, has stirred the air of the neighborhood, and changed my milieu. Instead of the quiet, calm sounds of my street coming through the window, I hear the workers, above and around me, shouting one to the other. Instead of “Chanah” or “Avi,” I hear, “Raed, Raed,” followed by a guttural flow of Arabic, unintelligible to me.
A workman will call down from the rooftop to another workman inside the kitchen. Someone will call from a car to the people on the roof. This is a lot of shouting for my street. And it is shouting in Arabic, the language of the people who kill us.
For a moment, this is disconcerting. And then it is not. For this is life in this country, after all.
It’s my life, at any rate, and this is just how it is a lot of the time. Maybe if it been our shiputz, we would have hired Jews. You pay more, but you help your own people and it’s a safer choice. It is not, however, my shiputz. It is cheaper, moreover, to hire Arabs, so that is what people do.
At least that is what my landlord did.
It is upsetting, but as there is nothing we can do about this, we just get on with life. I with my work at home, my husband out and about with his work as a handyman, which leads him to no regular location.
As for my fleeting moment of agitation, I knew what had brought it on. It was my chance meeting with a neighbor. The caterers had called to ask if she wanted a security guard at her son’s bar mitzvah party. She hadn’t thought about it, but now wondered if she should have thought about it. Would my husband be carrying, she asked, and I said he would. She’d ask a few more people just to be sure, and I thought that was fine and told her so: “Nothing will happen.”
And I really meant it.
But since I am a writer, I am susceptible to any suggestion: my imagination can go a little crazy. This means that six hours later, once work and chores are over, the loud construction workers having gone home for the day, I have time to think. That is when the “what ifs” begin inside my head.
The what ifs go something like this:
What if an Arab worker walks down the staircase leading to my mamad (reinforced shelter), sneaks through the open window, and grabs me by the throat?
What if, like Dafna Meir, I am cooking supper, when he walks straight in through the front door with a knife?
What if he comes into the house while I am in the shower, and when I open the door, he is there, and covers my mouth with his hand?
The scenarios flash by and fear takes hold. For a moment it is fierce. But only for a moment. And then, like the workers who have knocked off for the day, it is gone.
I play a stupid game on Facebook and forget all about it.
That is until the next time.
For instance tomorrow morning when the workers spill out of the truck to begin the day, puttering and drilling all about me. Shouting, “Raed, Raed,” as I fold the laundry and the what ifs flash by. What if he comes up from behind? What if he has a gun?
I think these thoughts for a moment. Then I put them away with the laundry, where I cannot see them.
Hidden out of sight and out of mind.

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