<By David Moser>
Welcome, welcome. There is space. You can stand.” He says.
I step onto the blue carpeted bus. Palestinian bus. Jerusalem bound. I pay my six shekels, get my ticket, and stand at the front. The seats are filled with women from the university. The men huddle by the door.
“Where are you from?”
“America. I love America. Especially Las Vegas.”
“Yes. I love the poker.” He rubs his right thumb and index finger together. He raises his thick black eyebrows and purses his lips.
“Really? Do you play poker?”
He nods once.
“Are you good?”
He raises his chin and makes eye contact. “What do you study at the university?” He asks.
“I am a teacher. I teach writing. In English.”
“Ahh, welcome. Really, I love your country very much. But you make fuck up in Iraq. You make fuck up in Pakistan. You make fuck up in Afghanistan. But I hate Bin Laden. He is total mother fucker. And you, do you love Israel? “
“I live here in Abu Dis.”
“Yes, Abu Dis, Israel. Do you love it here in Israel?”
I look at him knowingly.
“What country is this?” He asks.
“I thought it was Palestine.”
He smiles a wide, toothy smile, touches my shoulder then shakes my right hand. “Yes this is Palestine. Israel, it is nothing. It will be gone in ten years. Believe me. In ten years.”
“How? How will it be gone? Will you beat Netanyahu at poker?”
He smiles again. He makes the fingers of both his hands into guns. Lines them up with the left in front and the right in back like he is aiming a rifle. “Me and my brother, we will do it.”
“You will do what? Someone will kill you. And then what?”
“No. We will shoot them. All of them.” He looks at the floor. We roll down a hill, guided by curving asphalt, into a rocky valley. Two leather skinned men face Mecca in afternoon prayer from the roof of a two story house they have built all day. The sun is still high.
“Are you married?” He slides his right pointer and thumb down his left ring finger.
“No. I’m not married.”
“How old are you?”
He looks at my nose, my eyes. “Twenty…six.”
“Will you marry next year?”
He rubs his two index fingers together. He asks, “Are you Fatah or Hamas?”
“I am Democrats.”
“Democrats. But here, do you love Fatah or Hamas?”
“I don’t vote here. What about you? Fatah or Hamas?”
“Fatah.” He nods twice. “Hamas.” He says and squints his eyes, flares his nose, flicks his right palm open as if shooing a fly. “Do you know Ismail Haniyeh?”
“Yes. From Hamas. He is in Gaza.”
“Yes. He is a donkey. He is a big donkey.”
“You know Mohammad Dahlan?”
“Yes. From Fatah.”
“Yes. He is my father. I love him.”
“He is your father?”
“Yes. I am from Gaza. He is my father. I love him. Really.”
“If he is your father, why are you riding the bus?”
He laughs once. “He is not my father, but I do love him.” We enter the round-about in front of the settlement Ma’ale Adumim. A middle aged man with grey hair and a grey kippah drove his ocean blue sedan in front of our bus as he entered the settlement. My companion flicked his hand again.
“We are not terrorists here in Palestine. Right?” He was asking only what I thought. He knew already.
“You just said you plan on killing every Israeli.”
“No. This is not terrorism. This is an important thing.”
“So what is terrorism?”
“What Israel did in Gaza. What Israel does in Jerusalem.” He made only his right hand into a gun this time. “Every day.”
“Where do you live in Jerusalem?”
“Shuafat. My mother is from Hebron. Have you heard of the Jaber family?”
“Yes I have.”
“Do you love George Bush?”
I make eye contact. Scrunch my eyebrows. “No.”
“He is a good man! A great man!”
I elbow him lightly in the ribs and smile.
He smiles and nods. “He fucked every country.”
“And America too. He fucked America too.”
We drove slowly into the A-Za’im checkpoint. The contract security guards were changing shift. We stopped. The door opened. The whole bus emptied as we stepped into the hot afternoon, walked through the fenced passageway, showed my ID to a female soldier with a brown ponytail and big hips. We stood outside the bus as the girls reentered. When we stepped back in, we took different places. There was someone between us, and we didn’t speak again.
David Moser teaches writing at the Al-Quds Bard Honors College in the West Bank. In his free time he rides the bus. You can find his other pieces at Ramallah The Big Olive .