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.