Israeli Bedtime Stories

by Nava Semel

"How did you arrive to Israel?" I used to ask my parents as a child. We were told again and again that we're the "new children". Hebrew was the ultimate language.
Therefore, my new immigrant mother and father didn't read any bed time stories.
Yet, before putting out the light they were recalling strange tales of the remote places in Eastern Europe where they were born. I could envision everything; a river frozen in the winter (I haven't seen snow in my life), dark woods (I saw only pines planted by the National Jewish Fund), gray sky, so different from the sharp yellow light that surrounded me.
Strange names were whispered: "Shtetel", "Hassidic", "Yiddish". But we already loved in Hebrew and cursed in Hebrew, wearing short khaki pants and our bodies embraced by the unforgiving sun. Tel Aviv, a white sandy city with housing projects for more new immigrants, was built in haste.
How could my parents replace their old lives? How did they find the way to this almost forgotten land? I remember myself cuddling in my bed, trying to figure out the mysterious way in which they came. My mother never mentioned the holocaust, yet I always knew about Auschwitz.
Under the fragile layer of new life there was another story, not meant for young ears. An invisible page, burning with great pain and loss. I can see myself covering my head, threatened by this nightmare, letting my imagination run loose. Perhaps my mother and father had secret wings and flew to Israel? When I grew up I made this vision into a book called Flying Lessons.
Now I sit in the park where I used to play as a child. Tel Aviv is changed. No more sand, only traffic jams. On this small island of nature a music conservatory was built not long ago. I close my eyes, stretching on the bench, as if it's my childhood bed, and listen to my children playing an old tune.
Israeli summer. My mother hardly got used to the unbearable heat. I watch the birds flying around me. I've no idea where they come from. I know now that my parents have no wings. They don't know how to fly. Only to survive.

P.S. And there's no real fall here. Evergreen trees.

Published in Lilith Magazine USA.


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