Haim Watzman
Necessary Stories

Roadblock, Holes Part 6

illustration by Mizmor Watzman
Illustration by Mizmor Watzman

Once they passed Ofakim, where Ruth had cousins, she no longer knew where they were. Etti continued to drive, her eyes intent on the road, glancing occasionally in the rearview mirror at Ezra’s red Audi trailing them. No one spoke. Naama looked out the window as always, although with an occasional glance at Akatziya.

They were no longer on a highway. The road was narrow, just two lanes on each side, then one. Haphazard tamarisk trees and an occasional erect date palm stood along the margins of the road like sentries. Ofakim had been half-deserted, full of soldiers. The Hamas terrorists had marauded through the town for hours on end, and it took the army a few days to hunt them all down. Most people who lived there had fled.

Road signs announced kibbutzim and moshavim. Patish. Urim, where Etti made a right turn. Tal Or. And then a roadblock. A bearded reservist in full battle gear stood in the middle of the road, a few meters in front of a concrete block, and a set of accordion spikes extended across the road. Other reservists were positioned to the rear on either side of the road, one next to a Land Rover that served as an improvised barricade. An APC stood at the ready just beyond. It took Ruth a minute to realize that the soldier standing in the hatch was a woman. Two other women, reservists also, it seemed — their faces showed signs of age and maturity — stood alongside.

At first Ruth thought that Etti intended to ram down the barrier and drive on, but she braked almost at the last minute. Ezra, behind them, slowed in synchrony. The reservist stepped forward and held out his hand, signaling them to stop. He looked Etti’s car over, then the red Audi. He motioned to Etti to roll toward him, and to Ezra to remain where he was. A dusty and dented sky blue car, smaller than Etti’s, approached from the opposite, Gaza, direction. The Audi’s door opened. Ezra emerged, his phone in his hand, and stretched himself.

“Are you from around here?” the reservist asked, leaning down to Etti’s open window.


“Sorry, from this point on it’s a closed military area. You can’t go in.”

“I can.” Ruth saw Etti’s temper rising and put her hand lightly on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m going to see where my son was killed.”

“I understand, but that’s not possible. You’ll have to go back.”

“I’m not going back.”

“You need a special permit from this point on.”

“So I’ll get a permit. Who do I call?”

The reservist looked back at his friends and shrugged. He had encountered this situation before, Ruth thought.

“OK. In the meantime, I request that you pull over to the side, so as not to interfere with authorized vehicles.”

Etti pushed away Ruth’s hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

In the meantime, Akatziya had gotten out. “I need to get to my guys,” he told the reservist, then gave a unit number. “I’m called up.”

The reservist nodded and gave him the thumbs up. “OK, wait here, we’ll find out where they are.”

Etti pulled the car over as requested. There was a deep gully by the road. Ruth was afraid to get out. Etti came over and helped her. Naama slowly opened her door, looked around, and stood up. The reservist was talking to Ezra. Ezra was gesticulating, pointing at Ruth, speaking loudly.

Etti took her by the arm. “Let’s go hear what the shithead has to say.” Ruth resisted, then gave in.

“Come on, be a man,” Ezra cajoled the reservist. He clapped his arm around the soldier as if they were best friends. “We can’t let women run things now.” The reservist pushed Ezra away. Ezra held out his arm and Ruth saw that what she had thought was his phone was a pistol. He waved it in Ruth’s direction.

“She’s been kidnapped, don’t you see? That Yemenite woman. She’s after her money. She ruined our marriage. What would you do if it happened to you? Now she’s taking her to Gaza. She’s got her under her spell. Can’t you see that?”

“He’s a turd!” Etti shouted at the flummoxed reservist. “He beats her! She threw him out!”

“People,” the soldier said, “I’m here to man an IDF roadblock, not offer couples therapy.”

“Look at her, she’s frightened out of her mind,” Ezra shouted. “Come back to me, Ruth. Come back right now, before it’s too late.”

An elderly man in fatigues emerged from the tiny car on the other side of the roadblock and approached them. He surveyed the scene and stood for a moment listening to Ezra’s harangue. He walked toward them and addressed the reservist.

“Tzvi Barzel. Lieutenant colonel, reserve intelligence officer in Division 98. Can I help?”

The reservist rolled his eyes. “I need a psychiatrist, not an intelligence officer.”

Barzel drew his phone from his pocket and winked. “I’ll get you one.” He turned to Akatziya. “Who are you?”

“Akatziya. Reporting for duty. Need to find my unit.” Barzel asked which unit. “No problem. They’re outside Hoshea. I’ll take you there. And who are you ladies?”

“That one’s my wife,” Ezra said, pointing with his pistol. “She’s been kidnapped by that other woman. The tall skinny one.”

Barzel gave Ezra a firm slap in the face and with his other hand grabbed the pistol. Ezra, caught off-guard, didn’t even resist. Ruth screamed. Etti guffawed. Ezra cursed.

“I don’t talk to guys who shout at me with a weapon in hand,” Barzel warned. “I shoot them. Consider yourself lucky.” He turned to Etti and Ruth.

“My son. Dvir. He was killed. At that Hoshea place.” For the first time, Ruth heard Etti’s voice break. “I came all the way from Jerusalem. I need to go there. I need to see.”

“I told her she can’t,” the reservist said. “Those are the orders. No one passes without a special permit.”

Barzel turned to Ruth. “And who are you?”

“She’s my friend,” Etti said. “She’s trying to get away from that shithead.”

“Got it. And the girl by the car?”

“That’s Naama,” Etti told him as if no other explanation was necessary.

“Jerusalem, you say? Maybe you know Ella Agasi?”

Ruth nodded, and her eyes opened wide. “Ella? I know her from the pool.”

“She was here a few days ago.”

“Give me my gun back,” Ezra demanded.

Barzel stared at him. “What gun?”

“Don’t play games with me. I don’t care how many felafels you have on your shoulder.”

“Get in your car,” Barzel ordered. Ezra wavered, then turned around and got in. “Now turn it around.” Ezra complied.

“And now,” Barzel smiled, “you will drive back to Jerusalem as fast as your fancy car can take you.”

“Give me my gun.”

“You can pick it up from the police station in Ofakim,” Barzel said. “That’s where I’ll hand it in, when I file a complaint.”

Ezra, one hand on the steering wheel, his body taut, leaned out his window and looked the old soldier up and down. He looked as if he was sizing him up to fight. But then he his body sagged. He muttered something under his breath.

“When?” he said. “When can I get it back?”

“When the war’s over,” Tzvi Barzel told him. “When the war’s over.”

About the Author
Haim Watzman is a Jerusalem-based writer and playwright. He is also one of the leading translators of Hebrew works into English, with more than 50 books to his credit. An archive of his stories and more information about his books and translations can be found on his website.
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