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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Ulpan and the Intifada

I just finished my second day of Ulpan! I'm learning really quickly, I think (I hope). Readers, do not fear your inability to speak - Israel will make sure you learn, if you're committed to spending the time and energy. There are people in my class who didn't know the Aleph Bet (literally) when they got here, and now they're writing sentences. Everyone in my class is really fun - we laugh a lot, and people aren't embarrassed about their mistakes, which I think is key to the learning process.

Because I'm living in Beit-El, I have to take 2 buses to get to class (which means getting up at 6:00am - ichsa) - one long ride into Jerusalem (an hour) and then another short ride in the city (15 minutes). On the way home yesterday, I got on the short bus to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, where I would take my bus to Beit El. As I was sitting, I looked up and saw a man in a puffy black jacket sitting diagonally from me. He was speaking Arabic into a cellphone. I looked at him, he looked at me, and my stomach dropped. "This is it. This is the one that's going to get ME." An arab in a puffy black jacket, the exact puffy jacket I imagined all the suicide bombers (may they rot in hell for all eternity, those desecrators of The Name) wear. At the next stop, I hurried off the bus, about 3/5 of a mile from the Bus Station. I was totally freaked out. As I stood on the sidewalk, watching the bus go by, waiting for it to explode, I realized... it wouldn't, that I had misjudged the situation. So I thought "Wait a minute, every Arab around here wears a puffy black jacket, and winter's coming. Am I going to jump off of every bus that carries one of these guys?" On the other hand, I thought "But what am I supposed to do when I am afraid for my life, when I feel that someone is a threat to me? Ignore my instincts? What if I had been right?" I decided that it had to be somewhere in the middle. It was a bit of a depressing moment. I wish I were a little braver, but I wish I didn't have to be.
But then, on the long ride to Beit-El, I looked out my window at the gorgeous rocky hills outside of Jerusalem, listening to my walkman and reflecting on my new life. I saw a man standing on a hill above the road. He must have been somewhere between 15 and 19 (I'm not very good at estimating ages). As we drove by, I saw him hurl one rock, and then another, at our bus! He was too far away to hit us, so I don't think anyone even knew he was there, except for me. I was stunned. I was a target today, after all.


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