My Jerusalem and Gaza Dream

I don’t usually dream this vividly or recall my dreams in such minute detail, so I thought this one was worth sharing.

Mori and I were visiting Israel. The dream did not take place back when Mori and I lived in Israel (she left in – I think – 1992, and I left in 1997); this was in the present, she and I were our current ages, and were just visiting. We were on a bus in West Jerusalem. Some of the buildings and scenery looked like Jerusalem as I remember it (I haven’t really spent any significant time there since at least 1989), but everything else was much different. There were large army watchtowers on almost every corner, which looked like the police watchtower in the main square in San José, Costa Rica. There were large surveillance cameras everywhere, and armed soldiers, and TV monitors mounted over the streets and intersections which kept zooming in on random pedestrians. Some of the pictures looked like X-ray images; others looked like night-scope images. The action on the screens sometimes went to slow motion. The whole effect was like a cross between Blade Runner and Children of Men. (I’m confident West Jerusalem does not really look like this, even today.)

As the bus continued, Mori told me she was getting off to take care of some errands, and she got off on King George Street. We said we would meet up later. I decided to stay on the bus, which was going to Gaza. (In real life, there was never a public Israeli bus that went from Jerusalem to Gaza, and it would be an extremely unlikely trip for a tourist – or even an Israeli civilian – to be making.)

The transition from West Jerusalem to Gaza was seamless, as though one were a suburb of the other. (In reality, they are about 50 miles apart, but they are worlds apart. Google maps says, of this 50-mile jaunt, “We could not calculate directions between Jerusalem, Israel and Gaza.”) I got off the bus and decided to find a local restaurant, as I would do if I were on one of my adventure-hunting day-trips during Hadar’s travel teaching series abroad.

Soon (situations just faded into situations), I was standing in a crowd of people in a crowded neighborhood eatery, about a layer or two of people away from the counter. I was speaking with the customers, who engaged me in friendly conversation. They were all men, and they were wearing jeans and t-shirts. We spoke English. At one point, one of the other customers asked me where I was from and what other countries I had visited. I started to reel them off: Costa Rica, Mexico, France, England… and he said “Let me show you a list of all the countries I have visited.” He went behind the counter and emerged behind a kind of check-out window, with a sheet of paper in his hand. I looked up at the walls, and the restaurant had morphed into a poorly-built and delapidated plywood hut whose walls were so shabbily painted that they were almost bare. The beams and girders were visible. There were a lot of people seated at a table behind him.

The man showed me the sheet of paper. It was written in Hebrew, and appeared to be some kind of official affidavit. The name on the statement was Muhammad something. The Hebrew looked as though it were written by someone who had learned it studiously; the letters were shaped oddly and penned meticulously. It bore an official stamp at the top, had a sentence or two at the beginning, followed by a bulleted list of countries. “I have to present this at the border every time I travel,” the man said. I said “It must be really hard living here.” And he said “very, very hard,” accentuating the R’s.

I somehow found myself back in the crowd of people in the main room (it was no longer a restaurant), and someone joined us whom the others apparently knew. He was dressed in a black Arab robe and kaffiyeh, unshaven, with very bad teeth. He was turned away from me at an angle, peering at me out of his left eye. When he turned slightly toward me, I could see that his right eye was completely clouded over. He was so disheveled and his personal hygiene so poor, that I was a little repulsed. He said to me, in Arabic-accented English, “I’m sorry I’m looking at you sideways; I’m blind in one eye.” I dismissed it with a smile, put out my hand to shake his, and introduced myself. He had a little trouble with my name (there’s no “V” in Arabic) and repeated it to make sure he got it right, then introduced himself. I think his name might have been Zaki.

When we shook hands, I noticed that his right pinky was missing except for a small stub. It suddenly dawned on me that he might be the victim of some kind of torture, and I became frightened. The room had emptied out, and I noticed that it was getting late. It was now around dusk. I turned and saw that the room was completely empty. I went to open the door, but it was locked. There was a back door, but it was locked too. I went to the window and saw, as my anxiety grew, that it was not openable – it was just a pane of glass set in the wall and facing out, like an observation window. It occurred to me that Gaza is run by Hamas, and that I had been kidnapped. I was in a panic now, fearing for my life.

I could see through one of the interior windows that there was a rather large group of people – more than a dozen – seated at a table in the next room. I banged hard on the window, and a couple of the women (wearing black Arab robes and scarves) looked up at me for a moment, saw my panicked face and hand gestures, and turned back to the table, uninterested. I reached for my BlackBerry in my pocket, but my pocket was empty. I awoke in a panic, panting and with my heart beating fast.

Welcome to Live Nurse Chat

(This is a typed online chat session. About 30 seconds to three minutes between questions and answers.)

Avi Jacobson: [Presents background and asks very specific question about a prescribed medication.] What do you suggest?

Elaine: I think I can give you some information to help answer your question. Please wait while I research this for you.

Avi Jacobson: Thank you.

Elaine: One moment please…

Avi Jacobson: Thank you.

Elaine: You’re welcome.

[About five minutes later]

Elaine: My research is taking longer than I expected. Please wait while I try to locate the information. Thank you.

[About three minutes after that]

Elaine: Here’s some information that may be helpful. You will be able to view the information in a moment

Elaine has sent you to [URL]

Elaine: Did you receive the information I sent? Can you see the page I sent?

Avi Jacobson: I had to release the pop-up blocker, but I can see it now.

Avi Jacobson: Yes, this general information is already known to me. It says, for example, “Always take [very broad family of medications] exactly as directed. Never take larger or more frequent doses, and do not take the drug for longer than directed.” I am taking far LESS than directed, and LESS FREQUENTLY. But I do have a specific question about the risk of [my specific concern] with this specific medication, which is not mentioned specifically in the article. Can you help? Or is this something I need to ask my doctor?

Elaine: One moment please…

[Two minutes later]

Elaine: Is there anything else I can do for you?

Avi Jacobson: Yes, you can answer my question, please. The article you sent is general info but does not address my specific issue.

Elaine: One moment please…

[One minute later]

Elaine: Thank you for letting us address your health care concerns today. Feel free to chat again with our registered nurses anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also speak with a registered nurse by calling toll-free 800-842-9722

Avi Jacobson: Seriously? OK, thanks. Bye

Magic

Sometimes life throws you one that you can’t explain.

I’ve been making music all my life and have performed as a singer and instrumentalist with many professional ensembles in many different genres — from tuba to bluegrass banjo, from medieval chant to a cappella hiphop, and lots in between.

About four months ago, I got an email announcing auditions for Big River at Contra Costa Civic Theatre. I’ve performed a significant amount of opera and concert music, toured with my band in a program composed entirely of Broadway hits, and taken lots of classes in improv, but I had never acted in a Broadway musical before. Though I tend to be a coward about trying new things, I decided to audition on a whim. I wasn’t very confident about getting a role.

Then, something inexplicable began to unfold. Strangely, I did get a role — three in the same show, in fact — but what ensued was far stranger. As rehearsals progressed, I found myself surrounded by a group of over 30 strangers who quickly coalesced into a loving, caring, supportive, loyal, genuine, compassionate family, of which I am a grateful member. And since the show opened, every performance has felt like a joyous homecoming.

Apart from being members of the same cast, there are very few universal common denominators among us: pre-teens and retirees, male and female, gay and straight, liberals and conservatives, Americans and others, staunchly atheistic and devoutly religious. Yet in the presence of this new family, offstage or on, I consistently feel uplifted, inspired, protected, loved, and safe. And when a weekend of shows ends and the week begins to progress, I am quickly gripped by a palpable sense of absence and loss that increases as the week wears on. And many others in the group have said the same.

I don’t know what will happen when the show closes, in just a week and a half. It’s scary to think about it. But no matter what happens, I will never forget this magic, nor cease to be humbled by it, and I will always be grateful to every single member of the Big River family that made me a part of it.

I love you all.