Goody Two Shoes Gets a Funny Feeling
It was my usual day of volunteering in Bethlehem. The sun was shining; the birds were tweeting; my husband was out of the country. Our neighbourhood in Jerusalem was quiet, as this was the last day of the Jewish Sukkot festival and therefore a religious day like a Saturday.
I wish I could say that is where it began and ended, but that day and the whole week before had seen several murders of Israelis and Palestinians. There were daily demonstrations, restrictions, riots, protests, house demolitions, and a feeling of sad dread and hopelessness. Helicopters kept us awake at night and were accompanied by a high military presence in the nearby streets.
Nevertheless, I checked the news and headed out to Bethlehem, deciding on a longer route with a quieter checkpoint to cross. Arriving at my destination, I parked the car in a place I could quickly exit from if need arose. The smell of tear gas was still in the air and made my eyes twitch.
People I worked with and met tried to carry on as normal, a fake cheerfulness, a work orientated attitude whilst keeping our ears alert for renewed demonstrations that always start right by the building. We even sang Happy Birthday to a member of staff and ate the lovely chocolate cake as if all was normal...but it was not. Hearts were heavy and concentration was low.
Suddenly at 2pm, I had a feeling, a sense, a compelling urge to leave my work and go home. No explanation, no apparent reason. I feared I might appear paranoid in the situation, fearful and a wuss. I was delayed forgetting things I had bought and left the fridge.
I obeyed my sense of unease and left, returning home.
Within 40 minutes of my departure, a 12 year old boy was killed by military fire very near to where I was. Large and angry protests ensued. Tear gas in huge amounts was dispensed, causing a cloud so dense it was impossible to see anything across the road.
The protests continued for hours. At home, although safe and sound, I spent the entire evening jumping from news channel to Facebook friends to news channel, desperate for information and assurance my friends were well and safe.
I am back again tomorrow. I need to stay tuned to that still, quiet, small voice. It is so important when there is not war waging around, but even more so when there is.
Heed: When you get that funny feeling/urging/extra sense, listen carefully and act...Looking like a wuss is the least of your worries...It was definitely the least of mine.