In Abu Dis, during the Eid, when the children have been given gifts, the parents take rest, and for two days the streets are run by boys with guns.
They stand next to boxes of yellow oranges and green cucumbers, and against the Jerusalem stone of homes, with black rifles strapped on their shoulders and pistols in their hands. They dash across filthy empty streets where on most days men drive their cars, racing from wall to wall. Sometimes the boys hide behind garbage dumpsters and shoot at the windows of passing vehicles. Sometimes they shoot each other.
Of course, the guns are toys, for who would give guns to boys?
“Bo bo bo (come here),” one of the teenagers says, parroting the Hebrew he has heard from soldiers as he points his plastic pellet shooting weapon at me while his friends smile, impressed. Before he says another word, I take my passport from my jeans pocket and pass it to him. He pretends to flip through, and gives it back with a grin at my one-upmanship.
I have also had thoughts of how it would be to be in the army.
Years ago, I had a dream. I was an Israeli soldier, uniformed in olive green, alone amidst urban battle. I was standing against an outer wall of a boxy building and glanced around the corner to see two Palestinians, one man and one woman, who I knew were ready to kill me. These weren’t anonymous fighters, but people I knew in real life, and even dreaming I knew they would never hurt me, if they could only know who I was behind the uniform. But I had to turn the corner. If I turned and spoke to them, they would shoot me before they could see who I was. So I had to shoot first, at my friends.
I did it. I turned and fired at them, hitting both the man and the woman. Rather than fall dead, or even begin to bleed, they sat speaking softly and smiling to each other, unaware of what I had done to them. But they had been shot nonetheless, and would surely die in a matter of seconds. I could not take back the bullets, and panicked at the thought that as they passed from life to death, they would see that it was me who had sent them there. In my terror and humiliation, I started shooting again, and as the dream went dark, fired round after round in prayer that I could kill them before they knew who I was.
When I woke up, the sky was already blue.