Be’er Sheva Burning

Apartment in Be’er Sheva Israel

No, a “two room” apartment does not mean a “two bedroom” apartment. What it really means is an itty-bitty living room — dining room — kitchen, and bathroom crammed right up next to a small bedroom that has no door. It means incredibly hot autumn days and freezing cold nights. It means paper towels taped over a hole in the front window that had all of the insulation necessary to keep small rabid kittens from crawling in at night.

It couldn’t have been midnight as I laid on my bed, watching my laptop screen light up half of the city of Be’er Sheva, somewhere in the Negev desert in Israel. It would shut itself off eventually. But of course, that magic moment of blissful darkness wouldn’t happen until I was half frustrated out of my mind.

The shutters covering my bedroom window were tightly shut for fear of things that go bump in the night. But don’t get me wrong, even when my neighbors weren’t launching random rodent-wanna-be-cats at my apartment, I still would want that particular window closed; my upstairs neighbors were divinely inspired to throw their post-rotted delectables out their window into a three foot walkway between a short concrete wall and my wonderful accommodations. So, considering the aroma of rotting hygiene products, the former contents of a very active garbage can, and the occasional kitten carcass strewn about, I decided to keep that particular window closed.

I should have known not to answer the door in the middle of the night. However, when someone is hammering on your door, yelling in Hebrew, then Arabic, in the middle of the night, something might just be amiss enough to investigate.

No one was there when I opened the door. After miraculously evading a carving knife just thrown out of one of the windows above me, I proceeded to the other bottom floor apartment to see how much of reality I had lost touch of. I tossed the knife at what I think was a cat, (or a rather large and crusty rat), and started trying to decipher the myriad of curses being kindly exchanged between downstairs and upstairs neighbors.

Only God really knows what would happen if there was peace in the Middle East; I can see everyone killing themselves instead, and it would probably involve teeth. The downstairs neighbors were “Jewish”-ish, (the makhmir Jews wanted nothing to do with them). At any rate, they were Hebrew Israeli, college kids, and scandalously living together; yawn. My upstairs neighbors inspired me to reconsider functional marriages in ways I never knew possible. I could never tell who was getting the better end of it. I mean, she was absolutely not the Western stereotype of a passive-aggressive housewife. He knew — and the entire neighborhood knew — when he was coming up short, (in every sense); and, someone was a really bad aim when they threw dishes. He was the strong, very strong, silent type. So, to say this situation was a little explosive would be totally insufficient.

The house was on fire.

I don’t have a clue what it was — oozing down the side of the house–grease, liquid cat carcass, sewage, I didn’t really care. Just the same old, same old — except it was dripping down onto some lights bolted onto the house. Secular Israeli’s all around me, religious Jews shouting from across the street — all I could really decipher in the chaos of Hebrew and Arabic was that they didn’t think I should be a using the water hose to put out an electrical fire.

That’s when I noticed it. One of my neighbors had stolen the really nice long garden hose — that I had just bought — and replaced it with this one: a cracked and crumbling tube of malevolent irony. I sprayed everything–especially the thorn bushes. I slammed my door, went back to bed, and quietly recited the curses the firemen started shouting when they arrived.

Feeding Feral Kittens, Be’er Sheva Israel

e.s. kohen
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ed.20180102.07 (Minor edits.)