THE ISRAELI PILOT (FICTION - FOR NOW)
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Author's Note: Recently I read that within 10 years, Palestinian Israelis will outnumber Jews in Israel, even without Yasser Arafat's "right of return.".
It was 7:30 in the morning and Rafael was just starting on his second cup of coffee. He had already dressed the children, kissed them good-bye, and sent them off to school. And since he didn't have to report for duty until 9 a.m., he considered slipping back into bed next to his wife, Rutie, who was still asleep.
There was a knock on the door, and he was not surprised to see two high-ranking military officers in plainclothes standing there. Messengers, he called them.
"Good morning, Colonel," said one. "Sorry to disturb you so early in the morning."
"Good morning," Rafi said, curious and yet not.
"May we come in?"
Rafi stepped away from the door.
"Please, would you like some coffee?"
"No, thank you, Colonel. We would appreciate it if you would come with us."
"Please wear your full dress uniform. Pack casual clothing. Pack a few books, if you are a reading man. You may be staying away for a few days. Maybe longer."
"Right away," Rafi said.
Rutie, naked in the bed, was just waking up. She was Yemeni, slender, with golden skin and long black hair tangled over her face.
She brushed it back as she stirred.
"I heard voices."
"I have to go," Rafi said, starting to pack.
Rutie shivered and reached for a sheet to cover herself.
"No. Please. Don't," Rafi said. His eyes swept over her body. "Please."
He showered quickly, shaved, and put on his full dress uniform. When he was ready, Rutie, still naked, came into his arms. He caressed the curves of her body. They kissed passionately.
He had been on secret missions before. They had said their passionate goodbyes before. He had always come back. This time they kissed as if they knew they would never meet again.
Israel was moments away from brutal all-out war. Twenty years ago the state had chosen to use guns and tanks instead of human kindness to deal with the Palestinians, who had chosen a more subtle way. They had had children. Many, many children.
Now, generations of Palestinians were ready to spill out of the refugee enclaves - enraged, oppressed, hungry, thirsty, poor. So many of them were living there, in such pitiful conditions, that photographs taken in the camps shocked the world.
Any day now the sheer number of angry men and women would push the Israeli army beyond its ability to control them. Fighting would spread across the desert towns and into the streets of the cities. It would be a bloodbath. Everyone knew it.
"You know where the insurance papers are, and the keys to the safe deposit box," Rafi whispered. "You will be taken care of, my love, you and the children will always be taken care of."
"I love you so much. Please be careful."
"I love you so much."
Rafi picked up his bag and went back into the kitchen. The messengers were standing quietly, waiting. They went down the stairs into the street, where a car was idling. They sped away.
The messengers delivered Rafi to the highest office in the land. Inside, the commander of the armed forces and the Prime Minister were waiting, both of them with solemn eyes.
"Do not sit down, Colonel," the Prime Minister said, and in a few short sentences, he told Rafi what his mission would be. Rafi was shocked.
"You can accept this mission or you can not," the Prime Minister said. "But I must warn you. If you do not believe you can carry it out, you will not be allowed to live. You understand why?"
"Take some time to decide, but not too much time," the Prime Minister said, and he and the general left the room.
When they came back, no words were needed. Rafi nodded, and the Prime Minister shook his hand.
"You are the best flyer we have," he said. "It could only be you."
He pressed a button on his desk. An older officer entered the room.
"This is Col. Avram," the Prime Minister said. "He is assigned to help you in every way."
The two men shook hands.
"An honor, Colonel."
Rafi looked at the Prime Minister and the commander.
"Is there any chance...," he said. "Any hope that the mission will not be necessary?"
"There is always hope," the Prime Minister said.
Col. Avram put Rafi in a Jeep and drove him to the base. A small plane was waiting. When they were aboard, the colonel gave Rafi his flight plan, and they took off towards the Mediterranean.
They landed a half hour later on an island Rafi had not known existed. It was uninhabited. A landing field, a large hangar and a small house were clustered together.
Rafi taxied the plane up to the hanger. He was not surprised to see what waited for him inside. It was the air force's most sophisticated, American-made fighter plane - fast, furious, far-ranging, and capable of dropping a payload of six bombs in a very short time.
He knew the plane would be armed. He said nothing, but taxied the small plane next to it. In the house, they found everything they would need. The refrigerator and freezer were stocked with food. There was wine and beer and fine scotch. There were two bedrooms, and two bathrooms stocked with soap, toothpaste, towels and toilet paper. There were magazines and books. There was a satellite television, radio and radar communications.
The two men settled in and waited.
As they could see from their television, in Israel things grew worse and worse.
"Now we will drive them into the sea," snarled the Palestinian leader, thrusting his angry face into news cameras. "We will drive them into the sea now."
There was fighting everywhere, even in Rafi's neighborhood in Tel Aviv. He worried constantly about the safety of Rutie and the children, but he was not allowed any communication with his country.
And then came the day Rafi dreaded. The television cameras were escorted into the office of the Prime Minister, who could be clearly seen, standing straight and tall, as the Palestinian leader held a gun to his head. The man shook the Prime Minister and said, "Now, Jew dog, you have oppressed my people long enough. Now what have you got to say."
The Prime Minister looked into the cameras and said, "Now there is no hope at all."
The gun went off, and the Prime Minister crumpled to the floor..
Rafi and Avram looked at each other and nodded. "No hope" were the code words for their mission. They were both very quiet as they went into their respective bathrooms to shower and shave. They took their time putting on their dress uniforms, making sure every crease was razor-sharp.
They opened the hangar door and mounted the steps to the cockpit of the fighter jet. Rafi started the engines and taxied to the end of the runway. They took off into a brilliant blue sky with the sun shining brightly on the water beneath them.
They passed first over Tel Aviv. They were flying high, knowing the Palestinians had no anti-aircraft weapons that could reach them. Rafi positioned the plane over his own neighborhood, where his wife and children were either dead or facing certain slaughter. He opened the first bomb door, and dropped a nuclear device on the city he loved.
Without looking down or back, they were over the Holy City in minutes. They dropped another bomb. Then they flew to Amman in Jordan. They dropped a bomb there, and flew on to Damascus. Then to Baghdad, then to Riyadh.
They were not stopped because they had left unimaginable devastation and confusion behind them.
Rafi then turned the plane south, toward the Arabian Sea. He thought about the Islamic fundamentalist Mohammed Atta, who had flown a plane into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, one of the earlier blows in this seemingly endless conflict. He imagined the thrill, the rush, the intense excitement of the hatred that Atta felt as he saw the towers coming up at him. He imagined the bloodcurdling shriek of joy he must have given just before he died.
In contrast, Rafi felt dead inside. He looked at Avram, who was openly weeping. He felt his own face and it was wet with tears. They had bombed the Arab world in revenge. But there was no emotion in it.
As the sea came up under them, Rafi looked for and found a ray from the sun. Then he angled his plane so it followed the ray of brilliant light down until it crashed into the water.
I wrote this piece of futuristic fiction about that time. One hopes, of course, desperately hopes, that a humane solution can still be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one where both sides can live in peace in flourishing states. But after years of watching young people train to be suicide bombers, the building of radical Jewish settlements, the deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy, the construction of that horrible wall, and now the assassination of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his replacement by "hard-liner" Abdel Aziz Rantisi, good people on all sides of this terrible struggle are finding themselves in despair. It's hard to see an ending that does not make one shudder.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.