Julia Navarro  




Jerusalem, The Present

“There are times in life when the only way to save yourself is by dying, or killing.” She had been troubled by this phrase of Mohammed Ziad’s ever since she had heard it from the lips of his son Wädi Ziad. She couldn’t stop thinking about these words as she drove, under an unforgiving sun that gilded the stones of the road ahead. It turned them the same golden color as the houses that were crammed into Jerusalem’s New City, which were themselves built out of these deceptively smooth stones that were in fact as hard as the rocks of the quarry from which they had been hewn.

She drove slowly, letting her gaze wander over the horizon, where the Judean Mountains seemed almost close enough to touch.

Yes, she was driving slowly, even though she was in a hurry; as she had to savor these moments of silence to avoid being overcome by emotion.

Two hours before, she had not known she was going to take this path that would lead her to her fate. Not that she wasn’t prepared for it. She was. But for her, who liked to plan everything in her life down to the smallest detail, it had been a surprise that Joël had arranged the meeting so easily. He hadn’t needed to say more than a dozen words.

“That’s it, he’ll meet you at midday.”

“So soon?”

“It’s only ten, you’ve got more than enough time, it’s not very far. I’ll show you on the map, it’s easy to get there.”

“Do you know the place?”

“Yes, and I know them as well. I was there three weeks ago with Witness for Peace.”

“I don’t know how they trust you.”

“Why wouldn’t they trust me? I’m French, I’ve got good contacts, and the poor saps at the NGO need someone to get them through the Israeli bureaucracy, someone who can get them the permits to cross through to Gaza and the West Bank, someone who can get an interview with a government minister so that they can complain about the conditions the Palestinians live in; I give them a good price on trucks to get their humanitarian aid from A to B. My organization does a good job. You can trust that.”

“Yes, you live off the goodwill of the rest of the world.”

“I live by offering a service to people who live off other people’s bad consciences. Don’t complain, it hasn’t been a month since you got in touch with us and I’ve already managed to get you meetings with two ministers, with parliamentarians from all the groups, with the general secretary of the Histadrut. I’ve got you access to the Territories, you’ve interviewed a lot of Palestinians . . . You’ve only been here four days and you’ve already done half of what you wanted to do.”

Joël looked at the woman with annoyance. He didn’t like her much. Ever since he had picked her up at the airport four days ago he had noticed how tense she was, how uncomfortable. He was annoyed that she put distance between them by insisting on being called Ms. Miller.

She held his gaze. He was right. He had fulfilled his tasks. Other NGOs used his services. There wasn’t anything that Joël couldn’t arrange from his office, with its views of Old Jerusalem in the distance. His wife, an Israeli, and four other people worked with him. He ran a business that the NGOs grea

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