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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Seeing

October 1st, 2015

BY ROCHELLE SINGER

The other night, I was planning a morning bike ride along the promenade from Mezzizim Beach to Charles Clore Park and back, calculating when I would have to wake up, wondering if I would have time for a short swim afterwards, when a report on the evening news caught my attention.

“Border crossings have been opened for a month for Palestinians from the West Bank to beat the heat at the beach. At Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv, young and old are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

There were swarms of them. Long black robes and head coverings, skinny jeans and chest-hugging shirts, hordes of kids, all sizes. A few adults were lolling around on the grass, others were fanning the flames beneath neat rows of kebabs, and a handful more were gathering on the boardwalk. Kids ran between them, shouting, chasing each other. But almost everyone was in the water for whatever it is in foam and swirling sands that spells freedom.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” the reporter asked a few men standing near him.

“We’re caged in. It’s good to get out.”

“Thank you, Bibi, for letting us come here.”

“This is how we should live. Jews, Arabs, it makes no difference. All of us at the beach together.”

The reporter extended his microphone to a lifeguard.

“It’s chaos. They don’t understand how dangerous the water is. They don’t listen when I motion to them. They don’t know how to swim.”

The camera panned to a young girl on the shorefront, pale, gulping for air, circled by worried family. And then it wove its way through the concerned onlookers to the sea. In the shallow waters, black robes ballooned on the surface like an oversized, more virulent class of medusa; kids on their hands and knees ran to the water’s edge scooping out wet sand, frantically digging out canals that caved in before they could reach the dry sand. In the deeper waters, waves rose up to challenge those who claimed to know how to swim and those who, never thinking to make the claim, waded out above their heads, as if hypnotized, until the sand beneath their feet slithered away.

Damn, I thought, there goes my bike ride. I bet they’ll stay the night, camping out on the lawns. I envisioned with disgust the garbage they’d strew all around.

But at 6:30 the following morning, I woke up before my alarm, determined to see my plan through. I dressed in my biking outfit, pulled on my gloves and helmet, reattached my seat to my bike chained outside my door, and pedaled on Nordau Street toward Mezzizim. I took in the usual cluster of walkers, runners, bikers, and swimmers as I headed south, gentled by the lazy sea capped by a solid blue sky whose clouds had long burned away. I began to bike hard. The wind in my face made the effort even more intense. It felt good. I felt good. I forgot all about the Palestinians until I zoomed past the Dolphinarium and Charles Clore Park opened up in front of me. In the distance, I saw people, tents, and bunches of bright green garbage bags.

I thought: Oh no, they’re still here. But at least the municipality has all of this mess under control.
It was early — I ha
d hoped it would be too early — but some of them were already in the water at the southern end of the park. A lifeguard on a surfboard was corralling them into the marked-off swimming area. Huge, black medusas dotted the surface. For a terrifying moment, I imagined myself trapped beneath one, unable to free myself, gasping for breath. The feeling turned into anger when I swerved past a few teenage boys careening into me on rented green bikes. I was about to give one of them a dirty look but something stopped me: the expression of pure joy on his face. I couldn’t help smiling. He smiled back.

It was just a smile. But it made me see him.

I slowed down so that I could see other faces. I passed by another group of teenage boys stretched out on a bench, one with his head in his friend’s lap. I resisted the urge to yell out “Good morning!” as if I knew them. I wondered why I felt the need to resist it, and wished I hadn’t. A few people were gathering up their belongings and leaving the park. I noticed that the women were not all wearing long black robes; some were dressed in pastel robes, and others in skirts and tops. I biked slowly, looking, seeing, until I reached the small bridge leading into Jaffa, and then I made a U-turn.

I biked home with the wind at my back. It was much easier. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Singer | Link to this Entry

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