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Where are the soldiers?

After the Intifada broke out, I would avoid switching the television on if the children were around. It seemed as though the only images on the screen were images of violence, images of blood. I didn't approve of what was happening in my country, and I thought it would be wrong to let my children see these things of which I did not approve.

Whenever the soldiers entered our village, I felt the same way. They should not be there. I therefore preferred that my children should not see them. Our house is set a little to one side of the village, and we were generally spared the worst of the harassment. Usually, it was enough for us to keep the children at home.

Then one day, the soldiers drove right up to my house. It was around the middle of the afternoon. I could hear them getting out of their jeeps and standing around, just outside our living room window. My son, Ibrahim, who was only four at the time, asked if he could see them. At first, I said no. But he kept on asking and asking, until in the end, I had to give in.

I lifted him up on to the window sill.

-- There are the soldiers, I said. Do you see them now?

Ibrahim hesitated, then answered me:

-- I can't see them.

-- Of course you can! I insisted. They're right there outside. Look!

Again, there was a short pause. Then Ibrahim turned to me and asked:

-- Where are the soldiers?

Puzzled, I stood up and peered out of the window. There in the road outside our house were dozens of Israeli soldiers. Some were moving to and fro quickly and decisively, as if preparing for some imminent event on which the issue of the day might hang, which might even change the course of history. Others were just loafing around as if they had all the time in the world, joking to try and break the boredom, or gazing sullenly at the ground, their faces closed to everything around them.

While we had been having our tea, an entire regiment seemed to have gathered in our street.

-- There are the soldiers! I declared, triumphantly, and I jabbed my finger at them, as if I to tear a hole in the veil I had myself woven before my son's eyes.

-- Oh, Ibrahim replied calmly, those aren't soldiers. Those are just ordinary people, like us.


words: Peter Snowdon, Belgium (gourna films)
first published in Dérives (in French language)

image: Ira Joel Haber, New York (online gallery)


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BluePrintReview - issue 26 - identity