Harriet Gimpel

Looking out the window

Looking out the window, 10:30 PM, and I know there are no waves in the bay below. Yet, I see movements and shades of contrasts in the darkness that look quite like fierce waves, as I sit by the lamp on my bedside table tonight in Cyprus.

Through the glass of the sliding door to my balcony I catch the darker, closer reflections of the metal bars at the edge where I didn’t hang my bathing suit, lest it fall, in the absence of any wind, from the sheer weight of the water still trapped between its fibers. Suddenly, instead of the movement in the water urging me to see waves where there are no waves, I see the majestic, long, tall outlines of the date palm. I move my head to observe from different angles. The waves remain where there are none.

Perspective informs me as the night grows darker. It is the lights. Deceptively, lighting on that salty water, led me to perceive waves. Waves where there are none. Now I understand. Yet, the image remains. It remains for me to see as a whole and to understand its composition. It remains for me to see as a picture with parts in conflict. It remains for me to take apart the harmony in order to understand it can be recomposed, and understand that I am in conflict with the disharmony deep within a self of mine hanging over the rail where I can lean and look over the edge of the balcony towards the sea and let the water gently caressing the sand, receding, and repeating the motions, carry me without a wave to where I can look back at the balcony.

What was that all about? Communicating, of course. Just between me and me. Not in a group. No dynamic. Just me. Indulging in isolation.

What was that all about? Everything must symbolize something, but I can’t say I know what. Does the balcony I look back at, represent stability on its edge? Part of a building, external but guarding me from the sea that could ever so gently take me to other shores. Shores of my mind, or shores in other coves? Perhaps it is the insecurity that the balcony represents facing the certainty of the salty sea.

Again, what was that all about? I ask myself. Another day of news from Gaza to Lebanon with Qalqilya and Jenin in between. Sometimes I accept the futility of reiterating my thoughts about my expectations for applying values of justice and human rights.

Innocent lives lost to get a terrorist is societally no longer any more than a wet bathing suit hanging over the balcony. Whether my Israeli partner in discussion concedes to that is inconsequential. With the rising hum of “such is war” in the background, my argumentative energies are rechanneled to a more harmonious interlude. There, we hopelessly beat our arms against silhouetted waves because to see waves you need light, and it is dark. I know that Haim articulated some of the saddest of thoughts that filled this harmonious interlude. I was busy arguing about the injustices, so I didn’t see the depth of the ravine. We compartmentalized the pieces and lingering in one spot distracted me until I reached his spot. Same results – sad.

What I am trying to say is I am struggling to get to know this person – me – who is struggling to find an anchor for hope.

Here I am in Cyprus, a professional retreat for our binational team. We are about 10 Israelis and 10 Palestinians from the West Bank. We have separately been through so much together in the last eight months. With impressively, professionally facilitated sessions for this long weekend, we get to see each other head to toe, not just head to shoulder, in Zoom measurements. We get to mingle, talk, go out to dinner, and then engage in exercises aimed to train – to listen, to reflect, to question, to check our interpretations.

Maybe I am engulfed by my disappointment in what has become of my people and what I thought to be its role in its destiny to an excessive degree. Maybe that interferes with my ability to embrace the other. But no. I simply cannot embrace this self as the whole I thought it was destined to be when that self sees waves in the bay where the salty sea water has no waves.

Harriet Gimpel, June 22, 2024

About the Author
Born and raised in Philadelphia, earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1980, followed by an M.A. in Political Science from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harriet has worked in the non-profit world throughout her career. She is a freelance translator and editor, writes poetry in Hebrew and essays in English, and continues to work for NGOs committed to human rights and democracy.
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