This is a story, a small story about fear, reacting to fear, managing it and keeping it in perspective.  It is a response to the day by day terror that we Israelis live with.  The story starts out at a recent 10-K race, in the Territories, the Shomron or Samaria, however you call it.   For me, an aging septuagenarian, and for many of the race participants it was a tough race, and not necessarily in the usual sense of toughness.  The race began one late afternoon from the settler village of Mevo Dotan that lies between Khadera to the west, Jenin to the east and Nabulus (Shechem) to the south. 

Prior to 1981 Mevo Dotan was a barren hilltop. Now, about 300 people live in the village, maybe 65 families, religious and secular.  On its face, they seem ordinary, regular everyday Jews living their life, doing their thing.  But they are not; they have made a commitment.  They are following in the words of Isaiah: "For you will break out on the right and on the left; and your seed will possess the nations, and make desolate cities to be inhabited".

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I had arrived early and it was hot, approaching 90 degrees, so I went to the concession stand near the pool and bought a Heinkens…15 shekels for a half liter, not a bad price to pay for maintaining one's moisture balance.



About two hours before race time I walked back to the village center and went into the small, no frills synagogue.  Inside. It was lovely; it was welcoming; it was “haymish”.  I picked up a prayer book and davened Minchah.  Davening Minchah in this beautiful little shul in northern Samaria, a place considered illegal by the world community except for us Israeli Jews was a special treat.


There were about 350 participants in the race, most of whom were soldiers, but not all.  There were civilians: men, women, girls and boys.  The start of the race was delayed, not a good thing: we'll be running in the dark, unnerving to say the least. Towards dusk the race manager wished us luck and off we went, racing through the village, mothers and children wishing us luck with words of encouragement.  I was the oldest and pretty close the slowest of all the runners.  It only took a couple of minutes to find myself at the back of the pack which quickly disappeared from view.

 Leaving the confines of Mevo Dotan there is an official-looking warning sign.  It says something to the effect that if you head in a certain direction you will be entering lands controlled by the Palestinian Authority which is dangerous thing to do and against the law.  Happily, we're not going that way.  Nevertheless, it does set an ominous tone.



We are running in a westward direction to another settlement called Hermesh where the race will end.  Midway between these communities lies the small Arab village of Imreihah.  There were water stops protected by the IDF at two kilometer intervals.  Well wishers shouted “Kol kavod”; all honor they cried.   And always behind the pack you heard the rumbling of Land Rover size military vehicles and Humvees, another layer of protection.  I never looked back.

 For the majority of the race I was running mostly by myself.  Normally running by your lonesome, for long distances on an open road in a rural setting is kind of pleasant.  It is as if the world is empty of human beings except for me.  And I am feeling fine: I've trained; my form is good; my breathing is regular; my pace is strong.  I feel powerful; the world is my oyster.

 At one point I passed a dozen or so soldiers in full battle dress who gave words of encouragement.  I did not know what they were doing out there, but it was not to take a pleasant stroll in the park.

By now the sun was setting and evening was fast approaching, and my mood was changing; I was beginning to feel anxious.  And as we all know when it gets dark, there are things that go bump in the night.

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!

 Night fell and there was oncoming traffic, sparse to be sure, but with headlights blinding.  Because of the shoulder’s unevenness I never left the road despite the traffic.  Once I stumbled on a reflector that marked the edge of the road, but luckily regained my balance…damn this darkness.

 Truth be told, I was scared.  I don't like being scared and I became angry at myself.  Three miles away there were a bunch of little boys and girls living in Mevo Dotan.  "What right did I have to be frightened or scared of the dark or anything else"?  But after all it was only a momentary lapse and I quickly got myself under control.

 Then,  just around the bend, looming up ahead on a rise was the Arab village of Imreihah.  All bets are off; the fear factor has kicked in.  And to top it off, the road begins to wind; the hills begin to climb, and let me tell you, those hills were a killer, and so was the heat.  I had not trained for hills; my breathing was ragged; I was thirsty my mouth was dry, and my thighs were screaming: "Shame on you, you idiot". 

 Imreihah may have been quaint; I could not see much in the dark. There were large homes with lots of columns and ornate roofs, looking very Middle Eastern.  Donkey droppings were prominent, and there were many people lounging on chairs and lining the road.  Kind of reminded me of hot summer days in Brooklyn where we would sit on the steps and watch the world go by.  In contrast to Mevo Dotan, there were no crowds of well-wishers urging us on.  I shouldn't say "us" because there was only me.  I considered singing "Hatikva", but not seriously; I could barely catch my breath.

 The sullen faces, wishing us gone, not happy to see the military escort, were not awe inspiring: "Screw you; I'm Jewish; this is my home", as I lumbered on.  The reaction of oncoming traffic had changed.  At Imreihah cars sporting distinctive Palestinian blue and white license plates pulled over and stopped, not because of me, but because of the firepower behind me.  I stayed on the narrow strip of road next to the shoulder and stared at the drivers who kept looking straight ahead, no eye contact from them.

The race concluded at Hermesh.  There was plenty of water, popsicles and apples.  On the train ride back to Nahariya, I got to thinking :  Maybe thirty seven hundred years ago, Jacob said to his son Joseph: "Moreover I have given to you…Shechem  (Nabulus) which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (Genesis 48:22).  That's the way it was; that's the way it is.  Things have not changed very much.


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