Our home is not a house but a shack offering two small old rooms without air conditioning and no heat but a plug-in device that little warms us on cold Palestinian nights. My ancient pickup truck barely runs over unpaved roads in and around our crowded village, and I can’t use the excellent highways Israelis have built for their settlers.
“I wish we had a nice place on the hill, Najib.”
“That’s a fantasy,” I say.
“Your father lived there.”
“Not since 1967. He died here just as we will.”
“You could ask them,” says Akilah.
A few weeks later I’m stuck at a checkpoint – as usual – and the guard says, “Get out.”
“What’s the problem?”
“You’re the problem.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“There’s been another terrorist attack.”
“Nearby. Give me your ID.”
I hand it to him and say, “I condemn terrorism. What happened?”
“One of our soldiers was hit by a rock.”
“Is he all right?”
“You want to get hit with a rock?”
“Who threw it?” I ask.
“A young animal.”
“Too many questions. Old enough to be a criminal, maybe twelve, and next time he’ll throw bombs unless we intervene. You people do love bombs, you know.”
“I’m sorry for the soldier. But, please, sir, I need to go to the hill.”
“It’s for Jews and tourists only.”
“I have work up there.”
“I’m a carpenter. I need to make repairs.”
“The apartments are new. Who called you? Give me their names and phone numbers.”
“They didn’t give me a phone number. They just said come to Apartment 312 and fix the roof.”
“They have maintenance for that,” he said. “Just a minute.”
The guard comes back unsmiling – he didn’t smile before but is more unsmiling now. “I talked to the manager. He said you’re a liar. Step out of that tin can.”
He arrests me and I’m driven in a fortified van to a facility several miles away.
“You tried to deceive us to gain access to Jewish property,” says the officer in charge.
“In that regard, let me correct you, sir. My family owned a pleasant house on that hill for thirty years and was evicted without compensation.”
“Another lie. Where’s your deed?”
“It was confiscated and destroyed in 1967.”
“Doubtful. What were you going to do up there?”
“I just wanted to visit and relive memories of a happier time.”
“You better live in this time and stay in your place, down the hill.”
“Fine. Good day.”
“Don’t move. You were plotting a terroristic act.”
“I was not. Look at my truck. I’m a carpenter.”
“One who lied about having work on the hill. You’ll probably go to prison for three years.”
“I demand to call my lawyer.”
“You don’t need one. There won’t be a trial.”
Thankfully, I only spend two weeks in jail, the first without a phone in solitary. They punched my face several times but bruises had lightened when I got out. Akilah was crying, “Forgive me, Najid, our home is fine.”
“Maybe it isn’t.”
Three months later I put on my Los Angeles Lakers T-shirt and have a friend drop me off at the checkpoint close as I can get.
“Your ID,” says the guard.
“I’ve misplaced my passport, I’m afraid.”
“You’re a Palestinian.”
“I’m an American.”
“You don’t talk like one.”
“I’ve lived there almost ten years and became a citizen recently.”
“When you find your passport, bring it here. Right now, looks like you’ve got quite a walk.”
I smile, turn around, and reach for my cell phone.
“Hey, American, where’s your luggage?”
“At my friend’s house.”
“What’s his name, address, and phone number?”
“Respectfully, I think he’d rather I not say.”
Those efficient guards and their computers figure out this is my second attempt to visit the settlement on the hill. Evidently, I don’t need a lawyer or trial this time, either. While serving six months I’m several times pummeled pretty good but don’t need medical attention, which I doubt would’ve been available.
“Don’t try this a third time,” says the warden.
At home Akilah says, “Promise you’ll never do this again.”
I do some research to learn how they get their blessed garbage off the hill and make detailed plans and ride in the business end of the garbage truck and, while being inundated by contents of the first dumpster I grab it and am lifted out of the truck and head first into the dumpster. Both lids slam and inside it’s dark and secure while I recover from the blow to my brain. Perhaps ten minutes later I brush off my blazer and slacks and adjust my tie, and lift the lid, peer around, and scramble out.
I put my left hand in my pocket and whistle as I walk to the sales office.
“Good morning,” I say to the young woman on duty.
“Good morning, sir.”
“I love the view up here. Some relatives recommended this wonderful place.”
“Do they live here?”
“Used to, a long time ago.”
“This settlement is brand new.”
“That’s what attracts me. My wife and four children want a big, safe place. She looks at your website every day.”
“Where do you live now?”
“So, four bedrooms for only eighty thousand dollars,” I say
“That’s right. And tax benefits, too.”
“I like those buffer zones around the property, and the guards. They’re all Israel Defense Force veterans, I assume.”
“Actually, some are from other continents and rather new in our country. Where are you from, sir?”
“I, too, am from another world.”
“Your accent sounds like it’s from this region.”
“Don’t worry about that. My father was a prominent Jewish entrepreneur. He married a Palestinian woman, and I’m afraid I spent too much time speaking her language, especially after their divorce.”
“Would you like me to show you some of the units?”
What a beautiful place. Anywhere you’re high up you can see far and feel great breathing fresh air. We climb stairs and she uses a key to unlock the door. I check out the attractive dining room and living room with high ceilings, and the three regular bedrooms, all quite nice, and love the master suite with big closets and a picture window almost as large as in the living room.
“I’ll take it,” I say.
“Won’t your wife want to see it first?”
“She’s more ready than I.”
“Let’s go back to my office and start the paperwork.”
“My financial documents are at home.”
“Don’t worry. Nobody gets turned down here. Today, all I need is you ID.”