This place is surreal. There is no other word for it.
Thankfully, my cleaning lady was here, so she took charge immediately. “Come here, under the stairs with me,” she called, as I followed her into the corner of my living room away from any windows. “Hurry.” You’re supposed to take shelter within 15 seconds of the siren going off.
We cowered together under the stairs for a bit, but soon the wailing stopped.
“It’s okay now,” she announced. “It would keep going if it wasn’t.”
Only problem was, I was just about to leave to drive over to Arab east Jerusalem, to my part-time job at the bookstore of the American Colony Hotel, a historic hotel favored by journalists, diplomats, and politicians smack dab in the Palestinian part of town.
“Can I still drive over there, do you think” I asked her.
“Of course,” she replied.
“What? No problems at all? ”
“Nothing,” she said, and then proceeded to explain how life just goes on here no matter what, how Israelis just keep putting one foot in front of the other. She said that even during the days of suicide bombings here, during the second Palestinian intifada uprising, Israelis took public buses anyway, even more than she did, and this is a woman who lives and works by public transportation.
Now I’m not saying that my cleaning lady, a Chilean Christian who lives in the Old City and has been here about 25 years now, is an expert on Israeli behavior (although she very well might be) but she’s got a point.
With that in mind, I take off for the American Colony, less than 10 minutes after the air raid siren. Lots of traffic, as usual in the afternoons here, getting through the congested tunnel that leads from the west to the east.
But not a thing is different in the Jewish part of town. And not a thing is different in the Arab part of town.
Daniela Deane, a former Washington Post reporter, is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem.
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