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The war is in the media

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The war is in the media

The war is in the media. Could war be invisible?

The war is in my throat, my larynx. Like a psychosomatic, I came down with an infernal cough days before my departure. Like a psychosomatic, my throat seems to want to reject a fear of the unknown, despite my fullness and sweet serenity. The cough has made itself comfortable in the centre of my chest. It has decided that it, too, will see a bit of this country.

“Leila,” it cries. “Leila”.

In the 48 hours since my arrival, I have spent only two asleep. But incredibly, I am awake long into the night. The three middle aged women stretched out on little beds in the hostel dormitory couldn’t get a wink of sleep. The unbearable sound of coughing kept them awake from 3 until 4, or 4 until 5 … early, in any case, this morning. Despite appearances, it was not the sweltering heat that stole them from sleep. Like a psychosomatic, I did not want to care of myself — to the point of feeling that, in their place, I would have hated me.

“Leila,” she cries. “Leila”.

The bus, take the bus. To Jerusalem. The women will be able to sleep tonight; last night’s tornado has left. Then I’m on a tram. Remember the hotel’s rooftop, from where the unassailed view of Jaffa blooms inspiration in blue.

Take a ticket with a too-heavy bag, the strap digging into my shoulder blade. Jerusalem, where I do not have time to see more than brackets, ends of phrases, cut up words. When I go back to read you, it was nothing more than your headline. And I’m on another bus to Bethlehem.

The war is in the media. Could war be invisible? Even the Wall seems lower, narrower, less pitiful. When did we return to the West Bank, to Palestine? There is no evidence; I’m lost; the borders seem intangible.

“Leila,” she cries. “Leila”.

It looks like Mount Lebanon. I wish they could come and see that it looks like their country. That after all, only a few miles stand between them.

Marhaba — a reassuring word. Sweet Arabic, you seem so familiar. I’ve got to take the taxi. Go to the checkpoint.

“Where? Which house?”

“I don’t know. I will find. Don’t worry.”

the war is in the media 2

Leila welcomes me into her home. “Leila,” she cries. “Leila.” In her pink dress, she must be no more than four years old, revolving around the woman who greets me at the door. Some Arabic words — I really need to learn more — and Leila invites me to stay and eat. In French she tells me about the reparations to her house, and the life of her mother, ill since the death of her husband. She holds back tears. Then she smiles, collects herself, and recounts her misadventures at the airport in Istanbul.

The war is in the media. Could war be invisible? I want to say to them — to you — to so many others — that I am not afraid. I do not see death, I do not see anything red. I see no tears, nothing frightening. Less than 24 hours in the heart of Jaffa and already, Israelis — Jews and Arabs, met over a table — make obvious the need to break this awful portrait, stained with the deceit of our lucrative press.

The war is in the media. Could war be invisible?

“Leila,” she cries, “Leila” still … and she is dancing.

Translated from French by Erin O’Halloran.

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