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From the bomb shelter to the Dead Sea

We were fighting the bed battle. The “why do you always have to hog the blanket” – “why do you take up so much space” – the “take your elbow off my pillow” one. We were tired and dawn was just breaking, so it was a battle fought in silence. I reclaimed my pillow under his elbow. He kneed me closer to the edge of the bed. The race for territorial control over the mattress left us both more alert than we otherwise would have been at 5.25 am.

At 5.30 the Tzeva Adom (Color Red) alert sounded. Two-toned sirens began to wail. I had always wondered whether I would hear them at night, given that I am a heavy sleeper.

There is no missing these sirens. This type of alert indicates there is an incoming missile. I reached for my pink slippers, remembering what a former boss said was the Number One Rule of Conflict Zones: Always wear shoes. The neighbors were making their way down the stairs to the bomb shelter. Until a week ago, a closet blocked the entrance to it. The space has now been cleared and we all file in. Elijah stands near the door as the siren goes quiet.

Seconds later, we hear the rocket hit the ground. A muffled boom, followed by another. In Walking Israel, former NBC News Tel Aviv Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher narrates his passage through coastal and southern Israel as such:

An elderly man sitting alone calmly informed me, as the stranger in town, while we waited for the rocket to hit. “If it’s a quiet thud, it means it fell in a field. If it’s a sharp crack, it fell in the street. And if it’s a whine and a whoosh, you’re dead!” We all laughed and cocked our ears like terriers. I hadn’t learned this from walking down the coast, and I wondered which was closer to the true nature of life in Israel – lazing on the beach with a book or running to the bomb shelter with a baby? And if it’s a bit of both, then truly, this place must drive you crazy – like a serial bungee jumper guessing when the rope will break.

This excerpt notwithstanding, the premise of the book is not to scare: Rather, it is a book motivated by a journalist’s desire to bring the “other Israel” to light. Martin Fletcher chose to walk away from reporting on the conflict and, instead, walk the entire length of the Israeli coast from the Lebanese border in the north to the border with Gaza in the south. This is distinctly not the conflict trail, though the writer unearthed plenty of conflict, strife and sorrow along the way. Along these stories, Fletcher told the stories of natural beauty, human kindness, humor and normalcy.

Like anyone who has experienced that Israel, I too surrender to its beauty. This weekend, an old friend of Elijah’s came to town and made it his business to bring the beauty to us, or us to the beauty. We drove and drove: from the sandy hills of the Negev Desert to the Mitzpe Ramon crater, to the southernmost tip of the country, to the lowest point on Earth, to the beaches of Yafo. We touched the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean in 24 hours. We saw a pink, full moon rising behind the Jordanian mountains and over the Dead Sea. We bobbed happily in saltwater.It was magic – and it is magic that feeds my faith in humanity when the sirens rouse me from the bed.

17 Comments

  1. Sara: Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I am drawing an immense amount of beauty and learning from your e-course and I am sending all the good study vibes I have to you and the LSAT. I hope we can traipse around Be’er Shevah (and places much prettier than Be’er Shevah) one day.

    Noel: I do believe in magic – the very magic you described in your own post on messengers and dragonflies. I am doing my best to stay safe and your sweet words are the best support I could ask for.

    InkyTwig: Never apologize for not stopping by here – it is a pleasure to have you whenever you can make it. I hope you are feeling better and am sending healing wishes your way.

    Jennifer: Thank you both for your lovely words and for the reminder to look for the little things in life. They really do make life magical.

  2. I have to say that I am truly amazed by you. Your strength and your ability to still see the beauty in this world. I personally live by the saying “Look for the little things in life, that make life worth living”. So many people focus on the negative, while yes, situations are neither black nor white and there are problems in the world, but one must always remember that there is good with the bad. How are we ever supposed to make the bad go away if we ourselves cannot find the good. Oh gosh i’ve rambled a bit, but anyway I love this post not only for it’s story but for your heartfelt worlds. Your faith in humanity that continuously reminds you and has reminded me to find the good.

  3. I’m so sorry I’m late getting to your blog. Being sick and forth and back to my mom’s has made me behind. I worry about you and pray you are well. As Brandee said, so glad to have found your blog. We are all thinking of you and so grateful for your view of the world. Thank you Roxanne.

  4. I am so glad to have found your blog. I feel like you are my window to the “real” world. The pictures are lovely. My husband commented, “They look like Arizona.” That, they do.
    Stay safe, and know that there are those around the world that wish you well.

  5. What a gorgeous post and photos. This made me want to cry in both sadness and joy (does that make sense): “It was magic – and it is magic that feeds my faith in humanity when the sirens rouse me from the bed.”

    Please be safe, Roxanne. The world needs you and your words.

  6. Beauty,

    So glad you were able to retreat for a bit to the seas and see that incredible moon. I think of you daily, of the bombs and the “peacekeeping” missions of the you-know-who. Every time I sit down to study for the LSAT I am inspired by you working in conflict zones and know that I too will be there, someday. Perhaps we will meet on a street in Bershiva one day… xo

  7. Michelle: Thank you for your love. It means the world to me and certainly helps both me and Elijah get through the hard times.

    Shawna: Wild and raw beauty is exactly the way to put it. Ironically, we did not even know it was supposed to be a “supermoon” because we had not been on the internet. It was such a privilege to witness it rising.

    Akhila: It is a strange, sometimes maddening dichotomy, and I truly hope you get to witness it. I relate entirely to your point about “too many travel wishes, too few days”, but that is motivating me to keep fulfilling them…

    Mary: I really cannot wait for the day that you experience the bliss of floating in the Dead Sea. I had visited it without swimming in it twice and even touched it once, but neither of those experiences compared.

    Celina: Love back at you. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts.

    Mamacita Chilena: I could not love that name more for you, “mamacita.” I also really like the notion of photos as a tribute to love and peace. Now that is something to stirive for…

  8. Roxanne, I’ve been thinking about you too. Thoughts are with you for safety..

    This post made me feel like I was there. My heart actually started pounding when you said you heard the rocket hit the ground.

    But your photos are a beautiful tribute to the love and peace that can be found in this place.

  9. Definitely been thinking about you with all that is happening in Isreal these days. Your hopefulness is inspiring.

    One day I’ll get to Israel and float in the Dead Sea. It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time. Your photos stir that desire even more so. Beautiful.

  10. Thinking of you, and I hope all is okay and you continue to be safe – living in a conflict zone once again!

    This post is lovely, and I love those photos. Absolutely stunning. There are just so many parts of the world I have yet to explore and I feel, there’s just not enough days in my lifetime to do so!

    It’s interesting how a place so beautiful can also be a place where one moment, bombs are falling and you are running to the bomb shelter. It is a strange dichotomy, I think, and there are no easy solutions to conflict.

  11. I’ll be praying for you Roxanne. I hope you keep safe.

    The pictures are gorgeous. I’m jealous of anyone who saw the full moon because it was cloudy here in Chicago, and we didn’t get to see it. I’m doubly jealous of you for getting to see it in such wild and raw beauty.

  12. Thank you for the kind love and support, C, katieleigh and Kim. Although we are rattled, we are trying to keep a positive mindset. Your sweet thoughts are most definitely helping.

  13. Thinking of you often with news like this, and so glad that before the rude awakening you had a long, strong dose of love and beauty. I loved the pink on the mountains so much, and the pink moon was as perfect as moons can be.

  14. dear Roxanne,

    I enjoyed this post so much (but then I always enjoy all of them). I spent part of last summer trekking from the Sinai to Israel and the West Bank, and I hadn’t realised how much I was missing that land and the humanity of its people before reading your words! I

    Your photos are spectacular as well (short technical question: what camera do you use?).

    Warmest greetings from the Maghreb

    C

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