Excerpt from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street

A Jerusalem Memoir

By Emma Williams

It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street
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  • Paperback: Dec 2009,
    384 pages.

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I looked at him. He had not used the phrase thoughtlessly.

The incitement, he was saying, “is educating the Palestinian population that all Israel is Palestine and to hate all Israelis. They remind us of our worst enemies. What hate they have against us. Why? Because people need an enemy to excuse their own problems, the problems they have at home.We are weak. No one paid the price for extermination. You know, Air Marshal Harris said it was ‘not in our priorities to bomb the crematoria’ and yet he managed to bomb installations four kilometers away.”

He didn’t want me to comment, only to know. He went back to the Palestinians. “We’re dealing with sponsored state terror. But we are not committing atrocities. In fact we have many teams dealing with the humanitarian side.”

“On the humanitarian side, General, what about Closure?”* I wanted to hear his views on the realities of life in the Occupied Territories, described increasingly often as jails by those who worked and lived there. “What about these big prisons?”

“Ah yes. The fence.” He gave me a short tutorial on tactical, strategic, and operational considerations. “The fence is the tactical and operational solution to the Palestinian problem.”

“And the checkpoints?”

“I don’t like them. I was flooded with complaints from the EU and all the others.” His arms swept round an imaginary roomful of unhappy diplomats. “We have a special team improving the humanitarian situation, as I said, and we’ve removed half of the roadblocks.We’ll need even fewer roadblocks with the fence. The fence will decrease the need for internal closure. There’ll be less of a siege on their cities.”

“But the cities will be stuck inside the fence.What will happen when the prisoners can’t stand being captive any longer?” He paused. “I’m not sure I have the answer to that,” the general said. “But, what I can say is that with this barrier we are saving lives, Palestinian and Israeli.When Palestinians kill Israelis, we have to take measures in retaliation: they get killed. So we save their lives this way.”

At that moment, I found out later, a retaliatory measure was about to start in Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. But our talk had come to an end, and we stood up. I put out my hand to shake his, and he grasped me, pulling me toward him for a kiss.

As I left I felt mildly like a bought woman, walking through the outer office with the eyes of the uniformed girls on my back. I had wondered if we would meet again, as he had said he hoped. And then he’d grabbed me. His smile as he pulled me, that hunter smile, the same everywhere: no harm in trying, the smile said.

I drove away, forgetting the slow leak in the tire, thinking again about Peter’s questions.Where was it that we had gotten to? How had we gotten here? Amos Gilad had given his answer, in part, but he had not offered much hope for getting out of “the situation.”

Here was a general in one of the world’s most powerful, well-equipped armies, and even he was fearful.Thinking about his wife and daughter missing a suicide bombing by minutes. Just as we had — the memory kept resurfacing — missing a suicide bombing by minutes. Me and my children.

We had arrived in Israel, eventually, just before the second Intifada began. When the bombing of civilians started in Israel one month after that, we began to feel the fear. How many times since then had we been in the wrong place but not at the wrong time and therefore still alive and whole?—Café Moment, Ha’Nevim, the narrow streets of Mea Sharim where the Orthodox live, Pizza Sbarro, Ben Yehuda Street a dozen times over. My favorite café on Emek Rephaim, where the casualty surgeon died when he had broken his unbreakable rule not to go to cafés and restaurants—but his daughter was getting married the following day so why not? He and she had both been killed. No bride, no wedding. The staff in casualty knew he must be dead because he was always first there after a bomb and this time he wasn’t.

Excerpted from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams. Copyright © 2009 by Emma Williams. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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