There was ridiculous traffic on the dirt road leading up the hill towards Arafat’s compound. We each supposedly had meeting times but were all very late for them in any case. To the right was the beginning of the dusty compound and to the left was the beginning of the dusty hills.
To get into the compound you had to pass a rocket launcher. A rocket launcher in this case was a giant curved pipe coming out of the ground, with a rocket ready to launch, sitting at the bottom, underground. Every few minutes there were test preparations, when it would creep up towards the top with a comically-calm, low siren going off. It became a repeated ritual to endure while waiting on the road to pass it. The rocket’s track was supposedly to fly over the road towards Modiin but with each low siren we came to believe its target was much close than that.
At some point, my party made it through the compound and towards Arafat’s ‘house,’ trying not to look suspicious while passing through the dim halls and clay walls towards the back area. Arab teens in tight jeans and sweatshirts were passing through, looking and whispering but we knew they were instructed not to harm us.
The back area was carpeted and pampered with old wooden European furniture. Arafat was in a wife-beater and khaki shorts, holding a drink and inviting us to sit down to some pizza. We sat in a huddled group towards the end of the table, opposite his made up wife who held out her hand to each of us. Arafat told jokes for twenty long uncomfortable minutes and then I got up to excuse myself. I was late to pick up my child from daycare.
“Oh, you must have a gorgeous child,” Arafat’s wife crooned.
“I’m sure he will be a great pride to you someday,” Arafat croaked.
I nodded and thanked them and stepped out, past the teens who seemed all the more threatening now that I was alone, past the rocket launcher, which was once again just about ready to release a rocket, past the traffic which was starting to grow limp and wary as the sky went dark, and found my car parked backwards on a curved busy main road. My husband was there to meet me as I had instructed him and we jumped in. In one kind of quick maneuver I had the car out on the road and racing towards the airport.