this is not a hotel: the first day
January 26, 2009 § 3 Comments
the first day:
we arrive at the tel aviv, israel airport. after a couple of hours they deny us entry to the country and insist on sending us back to the states. we ask to speak to our embassy. the airport folks tell us that we will have to go to detention if we want to talk to the embassy. and off we go.
first stop in detention, we meet the basement gremlin, slick black hair, thick horn rimmed glasses, no older than 30 and with a posture that makes his spine look like a jungle gym. he sits with the luggage, watches cable. his veins flow nicotine. he looks like you just caught him masturbating behind his desk and he’s not embarrassed to be causght. just a creepy smile and beady eyes behind layers of thick spectacles.
baby girl and i share a room with a platinum blond russian mama, natasha, and her elementary school-age son, maxime. our husbands are sharing a separate room. she cries for hours. hiccups and tears. maxime has a cold. there is a grey blue inhaler next to the cough medicine. all of their medicines have hebrew writing.
she offers aza a strwberry, a cookie, chocolate, corn chips, potato chips. i gather the bits of food on our side of the table. aza takes a quick and passing interest in each offering and then returns to her games. she cries. she laughs. she dances. she climbs into my lap. she slides off.
a piece of bread, a smile, introductions. aza and i huddle on one bunk bed. natasha and her son, on the other.
a pregnant black woman stops me in the hallway. we are from austria. our passports are austrian. they think that they are fake passports because we are black. they want to send us off to austria but keep our passports. i told them fine. send me to austria but give us our passports. my husband tole them this is the reason that the arabs are bombing you. this is too much stress. i told them i am 8 months pregnant and if i give birth here they will have to pay the medical bills.
she says: they hate us because we are black.
el compa calls the embassy. they say that israel has the right to deny entry to anyone they would like. they give us a list of israeli lawyers. we ask to call a lawyer. the guards tell us that the two of us are only allowed one phone call. and we used it to call the embassy. we cannot call a lawyer.
the food here is awful. the best is the fresh fruit: apples and oranges. the partial loaf of bread and the packaged hummus. the tea when its freshly brewed. i give aza most of the fruit and bread, the cheese and pressed meat i strip from the sandwiches and throw away the soggy bread. tear pieces of the tuna sandwich. she asks for chips, french fries. apple juice. they dont have juice, they tell me…just watered down tea. i give her most of it. she is hopped up on caffeine.
i am supposed to keep her quiet and calm. locked in this room with windows that are cluttered with a view of strips of trees and security vehicles, police cars, army tanks adorned in hebrew. everything that hebrew letters touch i hate.
they are bombing gaza tonight. all of the television news is in hebrew or russian. and i dont see any landscape on the screen that looks like the charred ruins of a firecracker fight writ large across the night sky. instead i hear the words: hamas. gaza. in every other sentence out of the mouths of well-dressed women sitting in a television studio somewhere in a country i am not allowed to enter.
the guards keep the door ajar for us mothers.
that evening aza starts calling for papa and running down the hallway crying in front of his door. i ask the guards to please let me him out of the room because she is crying. they accuse me of taking aza in front of el compa’s door in order to make her cry. and demand that i walk only a few feet from my door.
that night they turn off the lights. natasha speaks no english. i speak no russian. so through mime and mimicry i learn that she is from st petersburg and runs a salon and works as a nail technician. she has a big house in russia and her son has asthma. they have been in prison for seven days. her husband’s mother is israeli and they were visiting her. they have a lawyer but everyday the lawyer has no news for them.
the next morning: 5:30 am the guards turn on the bright lights and tell me that my plane is about to leave. i look at the luggage tags and tickets and tell them they are sending us to the wrong country on the wrong continent.
the guards tell us to go back upstairs to our cells.
the peewee fucktard guard looks down on me from his steel stairway and says: yes, well you will be spending your night in prison and i will be at home in my bed. and i say: yeah, well,i wouldnt like your job either.
so i go back to my cell. my headache banging against aza’s whimpers and light sleep. my heart is hanging on a vein like a grandfathers clock.
everytime aza starts to softly cry, natasha says: shhh…aza… maxime is sleeping…