Friday, December 14, 2007

Running the Gauntlet

Originally written November 16, 2000

People have developed methods of getting to and from the city with the increase of attacks on the roads, it's a usual topic of conversation...You know instead of "How was work, dear?" it's "Thank God you're home. How was the drive?"

I leave the settlement at around 6 a.m. and generally all the terrorists are abed after staying up late at night harassing, injuring and killing Israeli motorists and soldiers.

The roads are usually swept clear of the previous day's rock throwing. Yet as soon as we leave the settlement and hit the main road, someone says a heartfelt "Traveler's Prayer".

"May it be Your will, Eternal One, Beloved of our ancestors, to lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace; to guide us in peace, to support us in peace and to bring us to our destination in life, joy and peace. Deliver us from the hands of every enemy and lurking foe, and robbers and wild beasts on the journey, and from all kinds of calamities that may come to and afflict the world; and bestow blessing upon all our actions. Grant me grace, kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who behold us, and bestow bountiful kindness upon us. Hear the voice of my prayer, for You hear everyone’s prayer. Blessed are You Lord, who hears prayer. "

Eyes scan the side of the road. You sit tensely as you drive through the ravines, places where the hills were parted like the Dead Sea to allow a path. These are danger spots because the Arabs just have to throw a rock down and it could hit you.

But like I said, at 6 a.m. it's usually quiet.

But then there's the return trip. At 4:30...5...7 p.m.

As soon as we pass the checkpoint, you're looking, waiting, watching, tense. Anyone with a gun, locks and loads, finger on safety and gun in lap.

The roads are littered with stones and rocks. When we come up to points in the road like this, the driver usually tenses his/her hands around the steering wheel. And everyone else's eyes scan the side of the road. If he's able, the driver will drive in the middle of the road. This way, the thrower has to throw out as well as down. Some people even go as far as to drive "serpentine", zig-zagging across as they drive. Of course you don't want to make a predictable they zig...zag..zag...zig...zig...zig...zag... zag...

We travel at 120 kph in a 90 kph zone. Very little of the road is straight. Since the shooting has gotten worse, they've also set up road blocks in various locations near Arab towns that have been harassing drivers more than others.

When your car IS hit by a rock, you floor it. Don't bother staying to do anything. When they get a hit, they scatter for 15 minutes, scuttling back like rats to their holes. You call the Regional Council hotline and tell them you've been hit and give an approximate location. Generally, withing 10 minutes of the call, an Army jeep will come by and patrol the area.

People have developed different ways of driving. What they think is best. Some say drive slowly. Personally, I think that's stupid.Slow makes for an easier target. Their feeling is that if you're a fast projectile and the stone is a fast projectile and they meet, it's much worse. My feeling is a fast projectile makes for a target harder to actually hit. My South African neighbor agrees. He says he learned from the conflicts HE lived with in SA that faster is better. If you're going to go in a caravan, make sure everyone agrees to drive at the same fast speed and anyone who doesn't want to will get left behind.

This friend doesn't take the company car anymore. Not because the company won't let him, but he feels it's safer to take the bullet-proof bus to and from work. I agree. When I can I take the bus home. And I certainly don't stand on the main road any more waiting for someone to come by and give me a lift.

When you finally reach your destination, be it home or work, you sit back and relax. You don't realize how tense you can get. And it's exhausting. So you have dinner and sleep or go about your work it all again.


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