They do not like that you wondered

Jess Semaan
6 min readJun 5, 2021

The wee hours of the morning. Another morning, another sunrise, where my father would find me crouched on the balcony, shivering in a mix of terror and curiosity. I was 10 and 11 and 12. Dealing with regular early teenage matters like two new chestnuts on my chest, and a school unrequited crush. And what I thought was also a regular teenage matter: deciphering the sound of the Israeli jets.
The sound of the Israeli jets, made the rest of the worries, take a seat back. I would track their altitude, their direction, their numbers, by the intensity of the sound. Where they would bomb next remained the mystery to be resolved. On those nights and early mornings, going to sleep was useless, for the jets would come in my dreams too. My mother, on the other hand, seemed to sleep through them.

A young person with curly hear, starring out at a full moon, back turned with hands raised. They are wearing a red dress and stars are visible.
Illustration by Nour Flayhan for Child of the Moon book

My father would light up a Marlboro cigarette in one hand with a Turkish coffee in the other hand, and turn up the akhbar (the news). The akhbar are a staple in our part of the world. Always in the background, on at all times like the white noise machine in my white therapist’s office. I like to claim that us Arabs invented the 24 hour news cycle.

The sound of the Israeili jets haven’t left me. They still intercept my days. Sometimes disguised as fleet week in San Francisco, others as mere SFPD helicopters roaming the skies looking for a thief, they tell me.

That early spring morning my father took me in his arms and asked:

Dad:

“Are you afraid?”

Me:

I just want to know if they will bomb our neighborhood.

We lived nearby the electricity plant. Those late Israeli teens loved to press eject from thousand of miles above. And blow up our electricity. Sometimes our lonesome airport. Sometimes the water facility. And “by mistake” and in between, our children. And women. And men.

Dad:

They probably will. and I just saw that one of their soldier was killed. You know every Israeli life is worth roughly a 100 of ours, so we should except a big attack.”

Ours the Arabs, the Lebanese, the Palestinians…

I watched Israelis online arguing about the right to defend their “country”. How this is…

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