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What would it be like to live with terrorism day in and day out? To bury loved ones week in and week out? What would it be like to be an ex-American, raising five children in Hebron, miles from the West Bank of Israel? Trying to keep herself sane in "a gyre of internal doubts and external turbulence," June Leavitt took to writing a diary, recording the appalling things that were happening around her. Storm of Terror begins with Rosh Hashanah in September 2000, the Jewish New Year, when Stage II of the Intifada broke out all over Israel. Ms. Leavitt writes firsthand of the tragic events of the ensuing eighteen months, when the Palestinians opened up the arsenals of weapons that had been given them as part of the American-sponsored peace process, and began to use them against Israelis. Hundreds of Israeli mothers, fathers, and children were gunned down on the roads of Israel. Israeli soldiers, waiting for rides, were blown up by suicide bombers; buses filled with civilians went up in rockets of fire, leaving chars and cinders of tragedy. Ms. Leavitt and her family knew many of the victims. Her daughter was drafted into the army as a combat soldier in Hebron just as the Arab uprising began. With a keen sense of the political blunders that, parading under the banner of "Peace Accords," caused the escalation of Arab terrorism and national trauma; with stirring references to biblical stories where the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict may lie, Ms. Leavitt has written a poignant and powerful narrative.
In the goldener medina, Isaac from Minsk knew Ida from Pinsk, and she became pregnant and had Claire.
And in the goldener medina, Joseph from Oppenheim knew Betty from Taubersbisopsheim and she had Jerome.
And Claire went out from her house in Brooklyn. And Jerome went out from his house on Sherman Avenue. They met and they married, and after eight years of marriage, Claire became pregnant and she had two children.
One child became a prominent real estate lawyer-handsome, brilliant, and rich. For his weekend pleasure he bought a small estate far out on Long Island and for the other days of the week maintained an elegant bachelor apartment in the most fashionable district of Manhattan.
The other became a settler in the West Bank of Israel. For years, to the disgrace and fear of her family, she has lived in the violence surrounding Kiriat Arba, a settlement near Hebron, with her husband and five children.
No one can believe that this brother and sister came from the same mother and father. As children, raised in a wealthy neighborhood on Long Island, they romped in the same large house, ate the same steaks broiled by the housekeeper, and went to the same posh summer camps even though they had a swimming pool right in their own backyard.
In June 1968 her brother Robert paddled on one raft and she lay back on another wearing her shocking-pink bikini, one hand plunged into the water, the other on her abdomen. She was putting the finishing touches on the golden tan she so desperately needed for the senior prom. She was determined to be the most attractive girl there. She had bought a brightly patterned silk lounging dress at Macy's on Thirty-fourth Street, after seeing it advertised in the New York Times. Her much older boyfriend, dapper and bronzed, would pick her up in his blue Thunderbird convertible. On his arm, she would be the envy of all.
Floating on the pool's calm, she was unaware of deep forces, within and without, that would change the surface of all things.
"Trunk's Packed?" Robert asked.
"Full to the brim." Her college trousseau had cost a fortune. For each dress or suit she had bought matching leather shoes.
"Are you happy about going to college?" her brother asked.
"Of course." She was going to major in journalism, then make a lucrative career of writing.
It was all so clear, a well-defined path with the landmarks all laid out for her by her mother before she died.
Kiriat Arba, Hebron, September 30, 2000
Phones don't usually ring on Rosh Hashanah. Instead, shofars are blown from every synagogue to remind us that the first ten days of Tishrei are days of judgment. The first of these is Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, when God balances the scales of good deeds and bad for each Jew and for the entire Jewish nation. Who will become rich and who will become poor? Who will live and who will die?
But this Rosh Hashanah it was difficult to hear the shofars over the sound of gunfire. More clearly, I heard the phone ring. Estie jumped up. She knew it was for her. I watched her go to the phone. At just about the same age I floated idly on the swimming pool in my pink bikini. She was in skintight knickers that hung three inches below her navel. Her navel was pierced with three jewels. We have been told that we have the same facial structure-a bit square in the jaw, high cheekbones, a sharp straight nose. But our coloring is different; she is pale with a freckled nose and light blue eyes.
Yet there are differences far less superficial. She's seen many people die. People she loved. At her age I was a sophomore in college; I was not serving in the Israeli army.
A few months ago, coming home one night from Jerusalem, I saw an ambulance pulled up in front of our house. Walking inside, I encountered a medic coming out of my daughters' room.
Miriam, Estie's younger sister, tried to comfort me. "Don't worry. Estie is all right. She's just resting."
"Resting? But what's she doing home? She's in training!"
Miriam replied, "When Yossi went to visit her at her base he found her not feeling well, so he brought her home. But when her fever went way up and she started vomiting, I called Emergency."
The medic said to me sympathetically, "She was bitten in the navel by a scorpion. It was a yellow one, the most dangerous kind, especially now, in spring. She has to get to the hospital quickly."
"She has to get to the hospital quickly." Dr. Baruch Goldstein muttered those very same words to us years ago when Estie had come down with a rare infectious disease. My head was spinning between past and the present. Now I heard the words, "I ordered an ambulance."
Once again, Estie was rushed to the hospital. This time her body was swollen and her fine-boned face was puffy beyond recognition. We sat by her bed for four days.
And when she got better, she resumed her training to become a combat soldier in Israel's first unit of women combat soldiers since the 1950s.
Soon she was sent to Hebron. Although she was coming home, we weren't happy. We wanted her far away from here, far away from the violence that has shaken this ancient city of mildewed stones. Many of our friends and neighbors have been killed and rest forever here beneath their oblong tombstones. And the people who live here fight to stay above the ground.
Just two months ago, on a Shabbat afternoon, one of Miriam's friends was grabbed and kissed by an Arab on the steps leading into Kiriat Arba. She managed to escape. When the word spread that a girl had been molested by an Arab and that the police hadn't handled it aggressively, the Jewish settlers of Hebron rioted.
Miriam took part in the riots, which Estie had to quell. Settlers threw stones at Arab cars and shop windows. The next day, in retaliation, the Arabs rioted, throwing bottles at Israeli soldiers. They burned tires and advanced on Israeli soldiers' positions. They began hitting and striking them with clubs and fists. Estie suddenly found herself separated from her unit. When she called for help on the military radio, she found she had no communication at all. The patrol that preceded her had failed to recharge the battery.
She considered firing her rifle but thought better of it. So five-foot-two Estie, who looked a little larger in her helmet and green fatigues, started screaming at the Arabs to back off. As she screamed, Miriam and the settlers were advancing on her position yelling that the Israeli soldiers were "castrated puppets of the peace." When they got close enough, some of the settlers even spit at her.
A few days later, exhausted, angry, and frayed, Estie came home for a rest. As soon as she walked in the door, an explosion erupted between her and her younger sister. "Don't you ever come down to Hebron again while I'm there!"
"Of course I'm going to come down! You think I'm going to let the Arabs take it over and not try to do anything about it?"
Miriam, her younger sister, towers over Estie. She is five feet nine inches tall with a head of massive curly hair. Miriam has become ultra-Orthodox and fanatically right-wing. She wears long sleeves and ankle-length skirts and prays with fervor three times a day. Miriam favors the transfer of the Arabs. Estie favors the transfer of the Jews.
Estie goes around with her three jewels showing. Often she has provoked the righteous anger of her older, religious brother, Yossi, and her younger, extremely religious brother, Yehoshua. When Estie once performed with a jazz group on television, I ran downstairs to call the two boys. Since we don't have a television, I was watching at a neighbor's apartment. One look at Estie on the screen, dancing in a sparse leotard and Yossi, followed by Yehoshua, stormed out of the apartment, hurling an oath from the book of Genesis. "What? Will we allow our sister to be made a whore of?"
Yehoshua (Joshua in English) became religious after the bus he was riding in was attacked by terrorists. He was twelve years old. Coming home from a soccer match in Jerusalem, he put his head on his knees to rest. When the bullets pierced the windows of the bus, one flew over his head and into the back of his best friend, Shalom. When Yehoshua picked his head up, he saw that two men were slumped over with bullets in their heads. One murdered neighbor leaned his head against his pregnant wife's shoulder as she yelled at him to get up.
That night, for the first time in his life, Yehoshua put a book of psalms under his pillow. Soon he put a yarmulke on his head. Then he approached the religious high school here and asked to be admitted.
So Yossi and Yehoshua tore down all pictures of the family in bathing suits and removed all CD covers they thought immodest. Yossi accused my husband and me of having too-liberal views which cheapened Estie.
So often I have felt like the helmswoman of a storm-ridden ship. This Rosh Hashanah I prayed for true peace.
We sat down at the festive meal. On Rosh Hashanah we eat all kinds of food whose Hebrew name or quality suggests the goodness we are asking from God-apples dipped in honey, so the year will be sweet; pomegranate seeds so we will be as numerous as they. We were eating morsels of fish head and uttering, "When you judge us, please place us as high as the head, and not as low as the tail," when the phone rang. Estie, who was on call for the army, grabbed the receiver. She didn't have to tell us the message.
Quickly she put on her green fatigues and the helmet with a ceramic shield that protects her head against shrapnel. She picked up her A-3 sharpshooter's rifle, and within minutes a military jeep pulled up outside our apartment house in Kiriat Arba, a few yards away from Hebron. The soldiers inside passed her a heavy bulletproof vest that weighs one-quarter as much as she does. She put it on and tried to smile. I wondered again why she had been so hardheaded, why she had insisted on being combat-ready when she could have done office work as a lot of young women in the Israeli Army do. But of course I knew why. Her oldest brother, Shmulik, is in an elite unit. Yossi was in an elite unit too.
The jeep pulled out into the street. As it did, I heard mobs of Arabs screaming just steps away in Hebron and border police with sirens and megaphones declaring a curfew. I went outside and looked over the ancient city where Abraham buried his Sarah and wept over her. I thought, We have raised all our children here?
And I answered, Here are all the friends I have in the world and all the enemies. Here Miriam and Yehoshua were born. Here we brought Estie when she was six months old, Yossi two and a half, and Shmulik four and a half. This is the only world my children know.
Below I see our Arab neighbor's house. Kais had been my sons' friend. With him, my three sons had raised and pastured their donkeys until the peace process put up barbed wire between us and the Arabs. In the valley I see the animal farm Kais helped my sons build-cages for rabbits and coops for chickens. Maybe they'll meet him on the battlefield one day.
Below on the street I see telling pillars of black smoke. The Arabs are burning tires.
For three days now Arabs have been shooting and fighting with Israeli soldiers all over the country. Several soldiers have been killed and scores of Arabs killed or injured. Roads into Kiriat Arba and Hebron are closed as Arabs take up the weapons that the Rabin government gave them as part of the peace process, and use them against us.