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Be'er Sheva Burning

Be'er Sheva Burning
e.s. kohen

cmp.2009.01.07
ed.2013.12.03.04

No, a two room apartment does not mean a two bedroom apartment. What it really means is an itty-bitty living room—dining room—kitchen—bathroom crammed right up next to a small bedroom that has no door. It means incredibly hot autumn days and freezing cold nights. It means paper towels taped over a hole in the front window that had all of the insulation necessary to keep small rabid kittens from crawling in at night.

It couldn’t have been midnight as I laid on my bed, watching my laptop screen light up half of the city of Be’er Sheva, somewhere in the Negev desert in Israel. It would shut itself off eventually, but of course that magic moment of blissful darkness wouldn’t happen until I was half frustrated out of my mind.

The shutters covering my bedroom window were tightly shut for fear of things that go bump in the night. But don’t get me wrong, even if my neighbors didn't occasionally launch random rodent-wanna-be-cats at my apartment, I still would want that window closed; my upstairs neighbors were divinely inspired to throw their post-rotted delectables out their window into a three foot walkway between a short concrete wall and  my wonderful accommodations. So, considering the aroma of rotting hygiene products, the former contents of a very active garbage can, and the occasional kitten carcass strewn about, I decided to keep that particular window closed.

I should have known not to answer the door in the middle of the night.  However, when someone is hammering on your door, yelling in Hebrew, then Arabic, in the middle of the night, something might just be amiss enough to investigate.

No one was there when I opened the door. After examining a carving knife just thrown out one of the windows above me, I proceeded to the other bottom floor apartment to see how much of reality I had lost touch of. I tossed the knife at what I think was a cat, (or a rather large and crusty rat), and started trying to decipher the myriad of curses being kindly exchanged between downstairs and upstairs neighbors.

Only God really knows what would happen if there was peace in the Middle East; I can see everyone killing themselves instead, and it would probably involve teeth. The downstairs neighbors were Jewish, (though the “real" religious Jews resented them). They were Hebrew at any rate, secular college kids, and living together even though they weren’t married. The Arabs upstairs redefined domestic abuse for me in ways I never knew possible. I could never tell who was getting the worse end of it. I mean, she could really holler, but was a horrible aim when she threw knives. He was the strong silent type. So, to say this situation was a little explosive would be totally insufficient.

The house was on fire.

I don’t have a clue what it was oozing down the side of the house–grease, liquid cat carcass, sewage, I didn’t really care. Just the same old, same old—except it was dripping down onto some lights bolted onto the house. Arabs above me, Jews all around me. All I could really decipher in the chaos of Hebrew and Arabic was that they didn't think I should be using the water hose to put out an electrical fire.

That’s when I noticed it. Someone had stolen the really nice long water hose that I had just bought and put this cracked and crumbling tube of malevolent irony in its place. I sprayed everything–especially the thorn bush. I slammed my door, laid in bed, and softly recited the curses the firemen started shouting when they arrived.

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