Israel’s landscape is expansive, yet my view has narrowed.
From the bay window in my dining room at Beit Yattir in the South Hebron Hills, the view is lavish. Beyond this hillside, past the tall grass of the back yard, the landscape drops away into rolling hills, still green from the late rains. In the first small crease of valley, the local Arabs' olive orchards spread out, dark green against the lighter colors of orderly plowed fields beyond. The Jewish village of Susya's red roofs form a circle in the middle distance, and at the northern horizon, on the low mountain ridge, sits Hebron, a long jumble of white houses, with Kiryat Arba to its right.
Looking out into this view and the wide sky that frames it, I think with some elation, Yes, here I am in Eretz Yisrael!
— and I recall days in a Jerusalem apartment when I forgot where I was and imagined myself still in Los Angeles or New York.
This bay window was a gift we made to ourselves when we remodeled our little house in summer 2000, clucking over how the builders had neglected to put a window to the view. A few months later, the current war broke out, and though the landscape hasn't changed, it seems more ominous now. The road that runs through it like a river, connecting us to Jerusalem an hour away, is not completely secure, and several neighbors have returned from errands or work with bullet holes in their cars, one with shrapnel wounds in his hands and chest.
In response to recent escalation in the fighting, our village of 60 families, right at the Green Line, has increased its shifts of guard duty and offered gun practice to those who want it. Recently, the village served as a staging area for Israel Defense Forces forays near and into the Arab Palestinian town of Yatta, visible six or eight kilometers to the west — once a place where local Jews marketed, but dangerous since the first intifada 15 years ago.
My unimpeded view of hillsides and sky is going to be interrupted soon — by me. Sitting in the evening at our dining room table with the light on, I have begun to feel like a target for anyone out in those fields with a rifle. If there were an armed incursion into the village, my house, perched at its edge and brightly lit at night — we stay up late — would be an obvious objective. Burglars, goes the conventional wisdom, shun lighted houses, needing to do their work undisturbed, but terrorists, who want someone to kill, seek the light.
Facing the blunt truth that Arabs may try to murder me, I am going to cover the window not only with curtains inside but with bars outside and put bars on all the other windows, too, surrendering my victory over city-dwelling friends and my own city-dwelling past. Just the thing I moved to the country to avoid — metal bars with their stupid faux
fleur-de-lis decorations that make one feel like a prisoner in a tenement.
Sadness and disappointment keep me company as I bow to necessity, but not far beneath lurks anger. I had faith in peaceful coexistence once. Now, looking through my window at the eternal landscape, I realize how much my view has changed.