Eva Salomon’s War

Jerusalem, Jan­uary 10, 1947

Ottawa Magazine - - BY THE BOOK -

It’s Fri­day af­ter­noon and the hour of long shad­ows. Of slant­ing light that brings out the tar­nished gold of Jerusalem stone. As the sun sinks, its am­ber rays fire the minarets in the heart of the Old City, bur­nish Suleiman’s walls, wash over tow­ers, crosses, and domes, glint on gun tur­rets, and glance off the up­raised bay­o­nets of the sen­tries on the Hill of Evil Coun­sel. Through­out the town, both old and new, the day’s de­cline brings a flurry of ac­tiv­ity. Jews rush home to pre­pare for the Sab­bath. Arabs flock to the call of the Maghreb prayer. Bri­tish of­fi­cials crowd into the bar of the King David Ho­tel to toast His Majesty with tum­blers of gin. Cit­i­zens of all three com­mu­ni­ties hurry their sep­a­rate ways to reach the safety of their en­claves be­fore the ve­he­ment dark­ness of a Pales­tine night de­scends.

In front of a bill­board at the cor­ner of Mamilla and Princess Mary Roads, a woman lingers. She wears a fawn-coloured tweed jacket with padded shoul­ders and a sheepskin col­lar and a smart, emer­ald-green wool suit un­der­neath. A gold scarf is tucked around her throat for a splash of con­trast and to fend off the stiff Jan­uary wind. Her trilby hat is an­gled stylishly, the brim slop­ing across her brow and tilt­ing to­wards the sky. She bal­ances on pumps with two-and-a-half inch heels, the high­est she could find at the shoe shop on Ben Ye­huda Street. She’s young, though not in the first blush of youth. A small woman— barely four foot eleven — who dresses to give her­self ex­tra inches. Paus­ing be­fore this bill­board on her way home from work has be­come a habit. The hoard­ing, plas­tered with no­tices in three lan­guages, is an is­land of san­ity in a city com­ing apart at the seams. De­spite the ten­sions, spo­radic cur­fews, the pos­si­bil­ity of an ex­plo­sion rend­ing the air any mo­ment, there’s much en­ter­tain­ment on of­fer . ...

But why doesn’t the woman get a move on? It’s time to leave, for the light is fad­ing fast. Be­hind the bill­board, be­yond the street cor­ner, lies an an­cient ceme­tery: a wide ex­panse of gnarled trees and over­grown bushes, where the Jerusalem dark­ness al­ways seems dense as bricks. Yet she dal­lies a bit longer to fish out a pack of ci­garettes from the depths of her hand­bag. To re­cap­ture the fil­a­ments of her nos­tal­gic dream and to avoid the chill ab­sence that awaits her at home. She floats away on her clouds of what-once-was and what-mighthave been, while the streets empty and the last shut­ters clat­ter down over the shops. Soon the towns­folk will have van­ished be­hind their closed doors, their own four walls. Soon clus­ters of sol­diers will be out on foot pa­trol, ex­chang­ing rude jokes to but­tress their spir­its. An ar­moured car — a be­he­moth with a gun-bar­rel snout — will rum­ble down the hill from the park­ing lot be­side the King David Ho­tel. The zeal­ous young men of the Un­der­ground will emerge from cel­lars and al­leys. Some of them have barely be­gun to shave. They are armed with home-made bombs and the fieri­est of con­vic­tions. Soon the game of the hun­ters and the hunted will be­gin. And that obliv­i­ous, day-dream­ing woman in the trilby hat? She is me.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.