Thursday, June 15, 2006

Oasis

At night in Ein Gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea, I sleep in the crevice of golden old moonlit stones, a view of the salty sea lapping so low, the slow bottom of the earth. Coyotes howl under the desert moon, and in the day ibexes scuttle up the rocky hills. There is a hidden stream in the wadi that we hike to after squeegeeing the Judean dust off the tile floors of the youth hostel at the break of dawn. Tali and I take off our tops and sit under a waterfall, crabs scuttling over our thighs.

Yossi is a security guard at Ein Gedi and his father was a rabbi from Bombay. I am nineteen and we lay on the grass at night under that wide desert sky, so dark and so light. One of the German girls volunteering there shows me how to climb up to a cave where it is said King David hid. I climb barefoot up the rocks and then I crouch in that cave with its Hebrew letters carved on the walls, evidence that a long time ago someone was trying to put into words the dryness of this dusty, silent cave so near and so far from that bubbling, noisy oasis.

When Yossi goes to practice his karate alone in the wadi, I sit in the compound with Mahmoud and we drink sweet mint tea, and watch the ibexes climb up and down the rocky hills, or butt heads. Tali is seventeen so I become like an older sister to her, and she is jealous that I am with Yossi, and scared to go into the Army so she plans to feign insanity.

Yossi is dark and speaks perfect Arabic and shouldn’t have told me that besides being a security guard at Ein Gedi, he works for the Mossad, but he does. He goes on missions in Gaza, where Mahmoud lives, wearing a kaffiyeh. We are in his room and I sit on top of him and slowly move and remember the crabs, the waterfall, as I look directly into his wide eyes.

"Have you ever killed anyone?" I ask him, moving so slowly, and his wide eyes narrow.

Yossi is number two in karate in Israel, and is saving money to go to Japan and study Zen meditation. I don’t let myself really get to know him, so instead he is my spy, my security guard whom I seduce to stop guarding the youth hostel for a few dark moments under the moon, my Jew and Arab, an Indian with something Eastern European about his eyes, more religious than I am. Every day he goes out to the wadi alone. There is a limit to how much I can seduce him, and I want his discipline.

When he returns, he shows me karate moves, and his eyes are hard as stones.


dead sea

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