The first part of Who Will Die Tomorrow? (a real short piece actually) is below. You can read the rest up at The Deepening.
When the second Intifada (means “uprising”) rained down upon Israel in the year 2000, a long protracted terrorist war broke out where hundreds of innocent civilians were murdered, coming to its end when Israel finally invaded many Palestinian towns and villages in Operation Defensive Shield during the last days of March 2002. Our unit, in which I have served as a battlefield medic for over 20 years was called up immediately. Due to our expertise in warfare within towns and cities, where trained, armored foot soldiers must do most of the fighting, we were sent to Jenin.
Jenin had and still has the reputation, rightfully earned, as being the seat of terrorist activity. We were there for three weeks, from the beginning to the end. Afterwards, with a literary agent, I managed to interest a major publishing house and great editor in the story of Jenin. For whatever reasons, the book “Three Weeks In Jenin” was canceled.
The following is a chapter from the beginning of the book Three Weeks In Jenin. It tells of an event that took place three weeks or so before my call up and entry into town.
What is this city-village named Jenin? Perhaps below will explain it best.
In a landscape that could one day contain sparkling streams careening down small waterfalls into dark brown woods and flourishing green fields — in the midst of this beauty — lies a small city named Jenin. It is a place where one can experience the sweet smell of fresh blood mixed with that acrid odor of numbing fear, the sound of bombs exploding and guns firing, the sight of gaping wounds and mangled limbs, the touch of cold steel allowing less than a second of thought between killing or being killed, and the bitter taste of bile in the mouth. …Three weeks in the biblical village of Ein-Gannim, known currently as Jenin — a personal Armageddon encountered within a city where hate runs rampant even as the greatness of God is declared while in His name death is dispensed with a serene smile.
It always seems to begin with a phone call in the middle of the night. Possibly within the scheme of things, the divine scheme, if there is such a notion, no hour or minute takes preference over the other. Yet vindictive fate is jealous of those peaceful hours during sleep’s forgetfulness, and, with calculated spite, destroys our stolen tranquility.This is all part of a true story which details the events that lead up to and encompass Operation Defensive Shield from 2002, and subsequently the war during three weeks in Jenin where I was a medic.
That night, actually early morning, of March 8th, more than three weeks before Jenin would enter into the scheme of things, I fell asleep on the couch. On those nights when the body refuses to find sleep’s pleasure in bed and its magic lure fills me with fear, I gravitate to that couch. Some may call it an inner voice, or a message that the soul receives, but that the brain refuses to recognize. Still, when the couch beckons, and the body acquiesces to that call by falling into a deep, troubled sleep, an inner ear is always listening for soft, ghostly footfalls during dream’s pandemonium.
A ring of the cell phone at two AM. Instantly and completely awake, adrenalin surging, blood pumping wildly its echo in my inner ear…. With three rings to answer before voice-messaging takes control, the “Hello” comes out at the end of the second.
It is Debbie, my ex-wife. You don’t live with a woman for twenty-two years without learning the nuance’s in her voice. “What happened?” I ask, realizing how stupid this sounds. Of course something has happened.
“Did you hear about the terrorist attack?”
Debbie knows I don’t react well to surprises, good or bad. Her voice, that tone, tells me she does not have time. Yet she is trying her best to not just come out with it, giving the chance for me to acclimate and my brain to react without immobilizing panic.
We have had seven children together. Six are still alive. Having shared that roller coaster ride to hell and back, both together and separately, I immediately wonder if six has just become five — morbid thoughts always ready for that ‘something else’ to happen. Always expecting it. “What attack?”
“In Atzmona,” Debbie answers, and then stops waiting for it to sink in. The brain does a quick check. Six kids, but none even near Atzmona. The two little ones are sleeping upstairs. What the hell is this about?
Debbie knows I have not made the connection. So she rushes on, no time left.
“Eli is still alive, but hurt. Don’t know how badly. I am going to get Shalhevet, and then drive down to Ashkelon where they took him to the hospital. Will call you as soon as I know something.”
I stare at the dead phone. Trying to catch up. Shalhevet whose name means in Hebrew, “flame”, is our eighteen-year-old daughter whom I call “bubela” which loosely means ‘doll’. Eli is Shalhevet’s boyfriend. They are childhood sweethearts and have been in love forever and ever it seems. …Says it all as far as I am concerned.