I can’t believe it’s still 99 degrees down here. That’s 37.222 Celsius! But I’m cool as an Israeli cucumber in the air-conditioned Red Sea, housing evacuees from the Gaza envelope kibbutz, Nir Oz. The people living their lives there suddenly lost dozens of beloved friends and family. (CNN said one woman and her daughter, “held off Hamas by barricading themselves into a safe room using a vacuum cleaner and a rolling pin.”) Dozens of others they loved were snatched away to Gaza, so survivors sit all day in the hotel lobby looking at their phones.
From my perch, a chair near wherever the children play, I’m watching all and taking in as much as I can. There’s a couch where a pillow fight has broken out. Bigger kids versus everyone, upholstery be damned! And you know it’s going to escalate and somebody will start crying. I mean, fun’s fun until somebody falls off an armrest…
One boy continues bashing away. “Hellooooo,” says the trauma specialist. “This is gonna stop.” The kid pushes with his cushion against me and I say, “I’m gonna wrap my arms around you…” It’s fun with the thing in between us, so he’s cool with that and asks me out of nowhere:
“Do you know Sonya? She was my English teacher.”
“She’s teaching here?”
“No,” he says, “but she’s still my teacher.”
Tapping me from behind, a tiny girl – 4, maybe? – tells me, “This canal you’re walking through is very dangerous.”
A crevice in the couch where the pillows were before the kids yanked them out. This is no fancy divan or loveseat. Doesn’t even have springs under the padding for real support. But it serves her story.
“How come it’s dangerous?” I ask.
“It’s the bad people canal and if you walk through here you get hurt.”
“Well, you know what? I’m gonna walk through the bad people canal because I know there’s gonna be a good people canal.”
“No you can’t go, you have to have soldiers with you.”
“Will I be safe then?”
“But you have to have a soldier with you. We’re safe but that’s where the bad people are, locked in there in the bad people canal.”
The toddler speaks again of the dangerous parts of the couch. I say, looking at my watch, “You have a minute to tell me about the bad people. Go!”
I’m counting down as she goes on.
The canal, the danger, guns and shots.
“Okay!” She’s finished for now.
One of the fathers comes over to say, “Okay, we’re leaving.”
And two of the kids say, “okay,” and they have some more water and are leaving. I begin singing, “I’m leaving…on a jet plane…”
And then another kid jumps on top of another couch.