Should Sayed Kashua Lie to His Kids That Everything Will Get Better?

A virtual trip to Duma and Jerusalem brings him to the doorstep of his childhood home.

Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua
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Sayed KashuaCredit: Illustration by Amos Biderman
Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua

I went into Google Maps last Friday, moved my finger about on the mouse pad and placed Jerusalem at the center of the universe. I zoomed in slowly, hoping the image would remain sharp and clear. Then I aimed slightly above the city, closer to Nablus, until I found the village of Duma. When I got close enough I switched to the satellite image and entered the village. There have to be two houses at the edge of the village, I thought to myself, as I looked for the home of the Dawabsheh family. The news said two houses were torched but didn’t say from which direction the settlers had entered.

I kept looking for a pair of houses and maybe a mother, father and two small children. To the east is the settlement of Ma’aleh Ephraim. On Google Earth, you can see red-tile roofs, synagogues and a few bus stops, and a bit west of that locale is an outpost called Yishuv Hada’at, which, in Google Earth’s satellite image – I don’t know from what year – looks like a collection of mobile homes for which a little land was carved up. It’s impossible to enter deep into these places this way; at one point the image became blurred. Still, even from above, you can see well enough to determine which locales are Palestinian and which are foreign implants.

From Duma I traveled to Jerusalem. From the photographs on the news sites it looked to me that at the time of the knifing attack, the Pride Parade had been on Keren Hayesod Street, making its way in the direction of Liberty Bell Park. I descended via satellite image to ground level, to a new and clear picture of an almost-empty street. I looked for Café Paradiso, across from the park, even though I don’t know whether it still exists, then I moved up a little toward the Dan Panorama Hotel. Near that I used to turn left when I drove the kids to their day camp at the YMCA in the summer. Here is its bell tower, and the King David Hotel across the street.

I went back to Keren Hayesod, toward the city center, turned left on Ramban and then right onto Ruppin Boulevard. I kept going until I reached the intersection of the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, and there I was, as on every morning in recent years, next to the Hebrew University Secondary School – Leyada – hustling my daughter out of the car.

I stopped a moment at the entrance to the school and looked for Shira’s parents; my daughter said she knew her, that Shira was a nice girl. Maybe I had seen her, too? Maybe I ran into her parents once?

After that I traced my way to the bilingual school. That’s how it was always done: first my daughter, then her brother – his school started 10 minutes later. Google’s camera had been to the bilingual school, too, one morning, as parents escorted their children to the entrance. The faces of the parents and the children aren’t clear, but I’m pretty sure I recognized a few of them. I looked for the graffiti on the wall but couldn’t find them.

I took the camera up a bit and rotated the map until I got to Tira, up north. I was surprised to discover that Google Earth had passed through a few streets there. My heart pounded as I neared my childhood neighborhood. Here’s my school; the children in the image were leaving it at the end of the day. Youngsters in blue shirts were looking at the Google camera.

I tried to figure out which of the neighbors they resembled, and whether the younger ones in primary school have hope in their hearts as we did once. Once, when the grown-ups promised us that in time things would only improve, that by the time we finished school everything would look different. Once, when our parents and teachers told us that the way of the world was in the direction of progress, that the feeling of freedom and liberty would only grow with the years. Once, when I believed my father, who told me that our generation would be different and that if his generation hadn’t succeeded in forging peace, we would be capable of it, because that’s the way of the human mind: It progresses toward ever loftier goals, leaving notions such as religion, conservatism, wars and occupation behind. The mind develops and with it a consciousness that aims toward progress, as in evolution, as in technology – look, we have color television now, and by the time you finish high school, reality too will be filled with color.

I paused the cursorin front of my parents’ house and wondered whether I too should tell my children those stories. Am I also obliged to implant hope in their hearts and promise them that their generation will bring about the coveted changes? Is it my role as a parent to appear to be filled with conviction when I promise my children that the day will come when things will look different, that if we didn’t succeed, then it will be their generation that will uproot racism and violence, and guarantee full equality? Should I lie to my children in order to give them as happy a childhood as possible, as my parents did?

Here I am, standing in front of my parents’ house, in Google Earth, but I know from changes that were made at the entrance that this picture was taken some time ago. I look at the parking space and don’t see my parents’ car. I try clicking on the arrow to move myself a little closer. Just a tiny bit more and I’m inside the house. But the program doesn’t allow me to go up the steps, so I decided to sit there, gaze at the blue skies quietly and wait for my parents to come home.