As our ship pulls up on the shores of Tel-Aviv, the New York City of Israel, residents have their arms outstretched in welcome. I bend down and kiss the scorching ground of a land I have only read about in textbooks, and the 2,000 sweaty Jewish teens surrounding me are quick to follow suit. Although the surroundings are unfamiliar, I quickly identify a sense of intimacy.
Back in New Jersey, the words that jump off the front page of The New York Times gives my family goosebumps: Suicide bombing in Netanya killing five people at a shopping mall. That night, there is hardly a wink of sleep throughout the house. The language of journalism is universal; it tells stories that scaldingly make an imprint on the mind. It’s 3 am, but I can’t sleep.
I’m wedged snugly into my sleeping bag to steer clear of scorpions. The floor of the Negev Desert is known for its scorpions. I gaze up at the night sky, but I’m unexpectedly queasy, as though I possess an inherent fear. ‘Why did we send her?’ my parents cry softly, careful not to awaken my brother sleeping soundly on the opposite side of the wall.
Under his sheets, he, too, gazes up at stars; not those of the Negev Desert, but of Party City — “ the glowing stars fastened to his ceiling. My mother digs her fingernails into her skin, a sensation resembling the ceaseless pinching of scorpions.The sun finally breaks through, but it unfortunately brings no levity. On the bus ride to Jerusalem, I scan the headlines of the Israel Insider: Small explosives set off in London Underground stations and double-decker bus.
Yet all I see is: The violence isn’t just in Israel. It’s everywhere. It’s inescapable. It’s 3 am, and they are wishing I were back at home, underneath my floral-print sheets, out of harm’s way. It’s 3 am, and I’m fast asleep.
The violence is inescapable, so I might as well be kissing the scorching ground of Tel-Aviv and sleeping under the stars of the Negev Desert. That night, although Laura had zipped her sleeping bag securely shut, a scorpion had made its way into the plush cotton interior of her bag. Despite her better efforts, she couldn’t keep away the scorpions.
And despite even greater efforts, society can’t keep away the violence. So what made me think that I could avoid life by burying myself under floral-print bed sheets? I am an explorer — “ and, perhaps, a journalist with an addiction to culture.
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