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The pink brickwork on the road smoldered in the sun, as I made my way back home from school. A warm breeze blew, even though it was winter, swaying branches, and leaving a sweet smell in the air. It was a short day. Most school days in Israel were like that. By one in the afternoon I would already be dismissed.
I’m not going to lie, school in Israel was hard and much different than the schools in the U.S. I couldn’t even understand the words rushing out of the teachers’ mouths until the end of the year. And making friends, forget about it. I was too shy to talk to anyone.
My family and I moved to Israel only for a year, since it was my dad’s dream to experience life there. I lived in Hashmonaim, a small village located in the western bank. Israel captured the territory during the Six Day War. Hashmoniam was not only beautiful, but flourished with thousands of years’ worth of history. It was the place where the famous Maccabees came from.
I was in fifth grade, mind buzzing, and veins filled with energy. The way back home was easy to remember. I just had to cross the big street, and on the other side were two pathways to choose from: a staircase or ramp. I personally liked going up the ramp.
My brother, Jake, stood gazing at the other side of the rode with a mischievous look in his eyes. We didn’t get to the end of the block yet, where we were supposed to cross because of a school rule that kids couldn’t cross the street on their own. Instead we were forced to walk to the end of the block where the omnipotent sixth graders, nicknamed ‘the stop signers’, waited to stop cars so we, kids, can safely cross.
If a kid crossed by himself, at least three times and was caught, he would get a suspension. The rule was annoying and made our walk longer.
“What’re you doing?” I asked him.
“I’m going to cross the street by myself,” he answered, “Want to come with?” He was in fourth grade at the time. His plump figure stood stout and confident.
“Won’t we get in trouble?” I said, worriedly.
“Nah, I do it all the time. They never catch me.”
I looked up the long block ahead of me, at the stop signers. It was the sixth grader boys turn to cross us—they looked menacing, like lions, ready to pounce on any kid that went out of line—kids like me and my bother. Jake was a trouble maker, and for some reason he was good at convincing me to join him. What?—the pranks and plans he would suggest sounded very appealing.
Jake started running across the street. I looked both ways; an undeniable decision hanging in the air.
Come on Leah, a voice nagged in my head, it’s now or never.
I sprinted across the street.
The stop signers spotted us right away. They shouted words to each other in Hebrew, a language I was still not too familiar with. One of them threw his stop sign on the ground and ripped off his orange vest. He was tanned looking, and his dark eyes glinted, in the sunlight.
The Israeli boy was on our tails.
I caught up with Jake, breathing heavily. We had to make a split second decision—go up the stairs or the ramp. The ramp would have been the smartest decision.
“Which one?” I was shaking since a nervous thrill took hold of my body. I couldn’t believe I just broke a rule with Jake—again.
“The stairs,” said Jake, patting his belly. “I want to try and lose some weight.” My brother wasn’t really chubby, just slightly overweight. But that didn’t stop him from trying to lose a pound.
He flung his heavy bag over his shoulder and we both scampered up the steps as fast as we could.
The boy took the ramp and cornered us when we finally made it to the top.
“What’s your names?” inquired the boy in English. He probably knew my brother, therefore using the proper language to address us.
He had a menacing look in his eyes. He wildly pranced around, just in case Jake or I tried to escape. I felt like a fish helplessly trapped in a net.
Crap, I thought, he’s an English speaker. We can’t make a lame excuse this time that we don’t understand him. (I made that kind of an excuse to a passing Israeli soldier, when he asked me a question. It worked and he let me go on my way.)
I took on the defensive. “Jake, why did you make me do this?” (I’m such a nice backstabber, right?)
“Good. Jake,” said the Israeli boy, suddenly. “One name down. What’s yours?”
My eyes widened, realizing what I just did.
“Question Mark Girl!” shouted Jack. “Why did you do that?”
“I—uh.” I slapped my mouth.
Jake took on the Israeli. They both smacked talked each other. I stood idle--like a true idiot--watching.
In the middle of the boys prattling, Jake secretly made a signal with his hand, beckoning me to run away. I didn’t understand.
“For Pete’s sake!” cried Jake. “Run! Run!”
“Oh!” I exclaimed aloud. I started to walk away but it was too late.
“Hey,” said the Israeli. He cornered me and I succumbed, tired of this whole act.
“My name is Leah,” I said.
The Israeli left us alone, pocketing our precious names, which he would later hand the principal.
“Man,” said Jake on our way back home. “We should have went on the ramp. I shouldn’t have tried to lose some weight.”
“No kidding,” I answered, out of breath and frankly not in the mood.