I answer, half-way between asleep and awake, looking at the clock briefly to see what time it is. It’s close to midnight and it takes me a few seconds to realize where I am and why my mother is calling me at this hour.
“Where are you?” She asks me sounding concerned but trying to play it cool.
“I’m asleep in bed; at least I was until you woke me up,” almost immediately regretting my catty response to my quite obviously worried mother, regardless of the fact that I have just been roused from my deep slumber.
“So you’re OK?” she asks at which point I am awake enough to remember that her cause for concern had to do with the fact that I had attended a wedding that evening in Psagot (the same place where a few days later a 9 year old girl, a Jewish resident of Psagot, would be shot by a terrorist in her backyard).
“Ma, don’t worry so much,” I hear myself telling her. “Why wouldn’t I be OK?”
“Well, you know, the roads are crazy these days,” she says to me nonchalantly, not really saying what’s on her mind, not wanting me to think of her as being too overprotective or neurotic.
“Oh Ma, don’t worry so much. I am fine,” I tell her, trying to allay her fears, all the while just thinking about sinking back into my bed for some much needed sleep.
“Sorry to have woken you Dev. Go back to sleep,” my Mother’s voice sounds much calmer and more subdued than before.
“Have a good night. I Love you.”
She hangs up the phone, and within moments I am fast asleep, our conversation over almost as quickly as it began and almost completely forgotten….
…until tonight, as I stand at the foot of my son’s bed, arms crossed across my chest trying to be as serious and loving and calm and angry and rational and strict as I possibly can be within these next few minutes of misunderstanding that are about to take place between us. He barely notices that I am there, all the while occupied, playing a version of an electronic baseball game on his phone.
“How was your day?” I start off, trying to show him that I am not just there to criticize.
“Do you have any homework today?”
“Is it true you and your friend went down to the Wadi to play and that you also went into the Arab vineyards and let one of the Arab farmers give you some grapes?”
He looks up from the baseball video game he is playing and answers me, “Uh huh.”
“Why would you do that?” My purely mother-like tone kicks in, mama nagging at its best. “Don’t you know how dangerous it is to go outside of the boundaries of Efrat and, even more so, to go onto Arab property?”
“Why shouldn’t I? He was nice,” he said, referring to the Arab whose grapes he partook in, all the while not really looking at me and paying more attention to his video game than to our conversation.
“Why shouldn’t you? WHY SHOULDN’T YOU??” I ask, my voice escalating. “Well, because it’s dangerous. He might have been nice to you, but it doesn’t mean that everyone will be and when you leave the borders of our Yishuv you are not protected.”
“Protected? Ha!” he says. “Ma, you know the guards in our Yishuv don’t do anything anyways. And besides, I have been there before.”
“You have? When?” I ask him very concerned that his escapades may have been going on for longer than just this one instance.
“We once went on a day trip there with our school, right through that area,” he smugly replies, all the while continuing to play his baseball game. ‘Steerike’ I hear the virtual umpire yell and I feel like telling him to stop rubbing it in.
“You went on a trip with your school but that was with an armed guard and other adults around, not alone; this is not the same thing. And anyways, you can’t just leave the borders of the city and wander around. That’s not our land.”
“Of course it’s our land, Ma. Why can’t I go there? YOU go wherever you want. YOU aren’t scared.”
“It’s different,” I try to explain. “And yes, it is OUR land, but within our land you still can’t trespass on other people’s property.”
Phew. Nice save. I then continue on, trying my best, all the while standing there with my arms folded across my chest:
“I AM scared, not all the time and not of everything but I am scared. But more than anything else, the thing I fear the most is that something will happen to you kids. Don’t you remember what happened to Koby Mandell? Do you think he and his friend Yosef ever thought that their day of fun in the Wadi near their Yishuv of Tekoa would end the way it did??”
“I know, Mom. But we had fun,”
I congratulate myself sarcastically on my fabulous parenting skills all the while trying to calculate how much therapy my son would need to help him overcome his newly established fear and anxiety of being killed at any moment.
On the other hand, what choice do I have considering that his feelings of fear might very well be the only thing that will keep him safe and close to home? Could it be that making him aware of the conflict that exists around him, at the young age of twelve, is more important at this point than hugging him and telling him that everything will be OK.
“So why did you do it???” I ask him once again, as if it matters at this point.
He yells back at me in a voice that tells us both that we are done here, “BECAUSE IT WAS FUN, MOM!”
At this point I head downstairs and start to make supper for the little kids, while in the background I hear his door slam upstairs and I know that we wont be talking about this anymore tonight. I try to be interactive during dinner, all the while lost in my feelings of worry and love and hope beyond all hopes that this somewhat flawed moment with my son at the very least served its purpose and will keep him safe.
Once supper is done, I sneak away up the stairs to check up on him. I watch him from the doorway to his room. He is asleep in bed, barely visible under his blankets, but I can still see him there and I feel that feeling of relief knowing he is safe at home. And as I stand there watching him breathing in bed, the memory of a similar voice from a few days before replays itself strongly inside my head:
“Well you know the roads are crazy these days….go back to sleep….I love you.”