The angels of peace are not watching the city tonight by Zohar Yanko from Israel

_87457769_030749268-1We wondered whether to close the main door or not.  Friday afternoon at Levinsky market, it’s the end of the week, the beginning of the year. A half a mile from here a couple of young men just hit the end of their short life. Another young man entered a bar on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street and shot them dead. He is still out here somewhere. My younger sister was nearby, so my heart and breath took a 40-second break until she answered “I’m fine. I’m safe”. Another year has started in Israel.

It’s January 1st, it’s cold and besides that, the assassin is probably still around. No one got up to lock the door, but someone threw over me a blanket. Never mind, I didn’t want them to think that I was somewhat panicking. I sat down on a wooden floor, surrounded by hundreds of herbs, plants, and flowers in all shapes and colors. The most enchanted plant shop at the heart of the market. I got there to buy rosemary and stayed, because a girl I know works there, because I didn’t have something better to do, because I didn’t want to be alone in a night like this.

A couple of young women who sat by me were drawing psychedelic labels for flowerpots. Someone was playing music and everything felt almost too beautiful. I couldn’t relax.

I checked the news on my smartphone, only to find out that special police units have been searching for the assassin from door to door all over the city, breaking in if there was no answer. The thought of policemen arriving at the market or my place at any minute, made me feel uncomfortable. For many, much too many others in this land, this is the normal state of existence.

The beautiful girl with the accent near me spoke about security and identity issues in modern times. We argued whether it’s possible to live under the radar. I promised my mom on WhatsApp not to go out to that night, though I knew that at some point I’d need to go back home. The assassin’s father identified his picture on the news and called the police, incriminating his son. Every few minutes I checked Ynet. As if they knew what was going on. Everybody in the room asked me to stop looking at the news. To chill. In my society, it’s weird, almost abnormal, not to look at the news every two seconds at such times. I put away my smartphone and tried to act cool. No one will come. Someone offered me a joint, and I didn’t refuse. Reality was not the best place to be in on the first evening of the New Year. I knew that those hippies were right.  I will lose my mind if I continue to watch Ynet’s videos of soldiers running in the surrounding streets.

I don’t like men in uniforms knocking at my door, even when I know that it is not me they’re looking for (This time they aren’t coming for the Jews). As I live in South Tel Aviv, I’ve already experienced it twice when they searched for people with dark skin or with an Arab accent. Twice I stood in front of them: a woman, alone, with strange pajamas and big messy hair. They screamed at me for not opening the door right away, checked my ID and left. Thank God for making me white like my Romanian grandma and not dark like my Syrian one. My father always told me to be thankful for that, although it didn’t help his mom back in the forties when men with uniforms knocked on her door and took her family away.

Later that evening I checked Haaretz. I saw that in 2006 the Israeli border police knocked on the door of the assassin’s cousin. They were searching for weapons, something went wrong and the cousin was shot dead, two bullets in his back. 2007 was the year I was recruited by the Israeli Border police but I never shot anyone, no one has ever shot someone that I loved, I never lost my mind as a result, and never ever have I gone to murder innocent people as revenge.

If they knock, we must let them in here. What will they say when they see this bunch of hippies sitting on the ground? Will they just leave or maybe check a few things before? Marijuana awakens paranoid thoughts in my brain. Shit. Maybe all they wanted was to go from door to door, so we all would know that they are here and everywhere, to go inside and look at us, this fucked-up generation. Sitting in our small rooms that we can barely afford, with no hopes for the future. All of us wore uniforms, all of us carried weapons, and now we just sit here like some escapists, smoking weed and speaking about Zizek and the times we lived in Kreuzkölln. Left wingers, traitors, nothing more than a pathetic, useless archetype of the 30-year-old Tel Avivian. It is not Berlin, and the war is no longer, and never was, something that happens far away. Israel was born out of war and continues to live in it, while much too many die along the way.

Later, we are still sitting on the floor among hundreds of plants, welcoming the Shabbat with our singing “Peace be upon you, the angels of Shalom…” like many other Jews at this exact moment all around the globe. It is one of the most beautiful and never-ending prayers I have ever heard.

The angels of peace are not watching the city tonight. If they still had faith in us, the grown-up children of this Promised Land, perhaps they come down from heaven and walk from door to door. Beg us to forget everything we learned from this sick society about what it means to be human.

But what do angels even know about being human?

Tonight, the first evening of this New Year, in this very old land, someone finally got up and locked the door. No angels are coming, no new beginning, no peace. Maybe an assassin, maybe soldiers, and maybe no one at all. So we will just stay here, alone and together as always, sad but singing among flowers. The prodigal children of Mother Israel, 2016.

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