“Like lice, sandstorms … and the occasional ant invasion, jukim are part of life in Israel.”- Dena Page
I recall when my former, Israeli-born, next door neighbor laughed at me upon coming into my family’s apartment, to rescue me and the children (at the time, Computer Cowboy was rounding up code elsewhere in the world), and discovering that the critter, which had frightened me enough to send me hiding behind the living room sofa, was “only” a jukim, i.e. “only” a cockroach. He was incredulous that I had never seen one before in my decades of living. I was incredulous that sighting such a species was considered commonplace in Israel.
Albeit, I knew that this fair country has its share of toxic scorpions and of deadly serpents and albeit I knew that other nations are plagued with rats (we have dumpster cats because the founders of our modern state had the foresight to want to thwart those "friends"), bedbugs (more of a North American problem, b’ayin tov), and termites (most Israeli residences are constructed primarily of stone), I failed to anticipate that upon making aliyah I would have to confront, let alone contend with, Blattaria. Coming face to face with such intruders counts among my worst immigration surprises.
The diasporal mythology, propagated in my childhood and throughout the span of my formative years, suggested, indubitably, that such vermin were to be feared, loathed, and otherwise avoided. Ditto for lice and for our two-footed ethnic cousins, but those others seem to continue to manifest in Israel despite all of our good intentions. After dwelling in the Holy Land for a number of seasons and not coming into contact with any nefarious beetles, I though, somehow, that I would remain innocent of their existence.
When I was forced to cope with their presence, I applied similar “logic;” I employed the same muddied thinking I had put into service to earlier naysay those bugs’ very being. Specifically, I denied, I minimalized, and I rationalized.
Per my refusal to believe that jukim could be present in my home, I refused to accept that the brownish-red critters scurrying on my floor, that first summer morning, were actually jukim. In the hot season, after all, six-legged intruders ought not to be trying to forge within human habitations. They ought to have read, what’s more, the interspecies instruction manual on the ways and means of insect/human relations, where an entire two pages is given over to specifics for times of invasion.
Also, had they been paying attention at Exoskeletal University, they would have had in mind that rather than bothering me and my kin, they ought to have been, during June and July, at least, either fasting, given their resistance to dying from hunger, or enjoying the lavish spread available in the neighborhood dumpster parked just outside of our home''s front door. Apparently, that corpse of insects were doodling or daydreaming rather than taking notes. Apparently, our less-than-benevolent neighbor had paid an exterminator to clear his apartment of those little beasties, caring nothing at all for telling us that he had had “the problem,” that he had sprayed, or that such tiny monsters tend to travel through conduits in walls.
Since repudiation of the situation became impossible, my next effort was to make little of the goings on. First, I promised myself that the lizards who enjoyed the prey of our mirpesset would somehow find their way, unharmed, down a human-proportioned flight of stairs and into the dark crevices where our unwanted guests bred. The lizards remained sated with the offerings of our open air patio and made no such move.
Thereafter, I soothed myself that at least my sons and daughters were too old and too smart to eat the bugs. If no one ingested such unnatural life, no one would be hurt. I forgot to factor in that my offspring had learned to be squeamish from me and that the male half of our population was unmistakably enhanced with their father’s resonate voice. As for the girl, they made due with hysterical crying.
Meanwhile, I found myself to be anything but resilient to the onslaught. Each night, I wet my bed with tears, until I fell asleep, all lights blazing, only to be awakened by bad dreams in which those horrible ogres had espied me prone and had carried out their leaders’ orders to eat me all up. Trying to frame the problem in relative terms was not working. Only the electric company and the neighborhood therapist were winning.
Hence, I had to cut back on my responses to the situation. A mom who shelters jukim is no less intelligent, tidy, or socially valuable than one who does not. My astonishment at those bugs’ presence in my home might have categorized me as wishfully naïve, but the fact of their visitation did not make me less of a person.
My diminishing of my response to those creepy-crawlies, however, did not diminish my sons’ shouts or my daughters’ tears. My nightmares, as well, continued on full throttle. I had to take more concrete action.
My children and I sought effective, nontoxic means of ridding our home of those pests. We tried physical means such as plastering the holes and crevices through which they entered and exited. We tried chemical means, including strewing leaves of certain plants in their paths and including offering them such delectables as canapés of sugar, water and (mwa-ha-ha) borax. We also considered, but did not actualize, evil means, such as spilling critter-attracting compounds across the threshold of the neighbor who had deigned to exterminate without warning and who had then dared to maliciously jesting at my family’s ensuing discomfort.
In the end, our combined reformed mentations and physical efforts gave us no truly reliable eradication of our enemy. Their tiny footfall continued to keep all of us awake at night. Our suffering only lessened when my husband, father of my children, returned to Israel. Although jet-lagged and otherwise exhausted from his labors on behalf of his loved ones’ welfare, he immediately ceased the gauntlet. Specifically, the love of my life found the perfect solution upon his transformation from a mild-mannered software architect into The Whackabee!