I Had No More Answers
Yasmine Halevi (+Video)
Following a protest, an Israeli woman realizes that justice in Israel-Palestine will not be achieved in her lifetime. With mixed feelings, she resolves to take her family to safety.
The taxi arrived at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Four fluttering hearts, a prosperous household and a lifetime reduced to six suitcases. Homeless at last.
It is early. The sun winks, still pretending to be well-meaning. The radio is playing Friday morning feel-good songs as the van glides over the soft hills and the wind blows on our faces through the open windows. To our right: orchards of persimmons, guava, plums. To our left: pomegranate, almonds, peaches. This is probably my favourite road in the whole country.
Exactly three years ago on this very road, I was driving my kids to school. Another “war” had just begun, and the dusty air was heavy with tension and fear. My country was once again smashing babies in Gaza, but I was trying to stay positive and convey business as usual. The night before, bullies swarmed the shabby local mall, looking for Arab workers and shoppers to terrorize and beat up to assert their supremacy. Then they threatened to rape and kill whoever argued with them on social media.
My phone blinked: “We want to organize a protest today, can you help?”
An urgent vigil took place that afternoon. Usually, members of our ragtag alternative community did not attend protests, but that day we came to stand against the manhunt, almost all of us wearing casual flip-flops. At first, I had mine on too, but on my way out of the house I paused, picturing previous scenarios of confrontation and police violence. Uh-oh. If the earth started shaking, I needed to be able to run. I’d recently bought a pair of light but sturdy hiking shoes. I wouldn’t trip in them.
Having heard about our protest, the bullies came to demonstrate on the other side of the street, protected by the police. They swore, roared, sang, made hideous gestures. Their eyes were glaring. Their mouths were spraying unrepeatable hate speech. From behind the police barricades, unable to move, we responded with our songs. I didn’t need those hiking shoes after all. The flip-flops would have been enough.
One could say nothing dramatic happened that day, except that my kids were with us too. They knew about such people, but had never seen them in action. Now I saw the situation through their bewildered, innocent eyes. That evening, I had no more answers for them. The situation was not going to change. I had to find a way out.
So here we are, driving away from it all, on our way to the airport. I’m filled with happiness and disbelief. The driver turns up the volume on the radio. “Redemption,” a catchy love song, fills the cab, and I can’t control the tears of gratitude starting to flow down my cheeks. When I look at my partner, I see he is crying too, but his are tears of grief. If you were one of the masters, life wasn’t bad here. The emotional song muffles our sniffling and hides the little drama from our excited kids in the back seat.
At the airport, we find out three of us need an entry permit. The Canadian embassy is already closed for the weekend, and we are sitting on a mound of luggage that the desk agents refuse to check in. Eventually, they agree to send our suitcases as far as Warsaw for us to take care of during the stopover.
Our suitcases arrived in Vancouver—all except the one containing our shoes. The only pair I had upon my arrival were those loyal hiking shoes that I had worn for the flight. Not that cool now but still comforting. As always, they are my first choice when the earth under my feet is shifting.
Yasmine Halevi came with her partner and two children to Vancouver four years ago. She works as a translator, and she likes to read, write and sing.