The bomb shelter

I’m at the scruffy launderette on Dizengoff Square, where nothing gets properly clean. Putting your dirty clothes in the same machine as countless others’ worn clothes have been, dirty becoming clean, spinning and thrashing, entwining, coming together, pulling apart, are vaguely sexy and pleasantly disgusting.

I meet three young women from New York. They've been here on Birthright, a programme that brings young Jewish people to see Israel. It’s PR, I suppose, twenty people at a time. They’d been intrigued enough to stay in Tel Aviv for four days after the rest of their party had gone home. They were loud and chaotic in the way only three 20 year olds in a foreign country can be. We fell into conversation.

We talked about restaurants. I told them about M25. One of them was a pescatarian, unless she was abroad, in which case she turned into an omnivore. They were so lively. I was beginning to really like them.

They asked about bomb shelters. I should know about this but don't. Rockets have landed in the city before, if rarely. Saddam Hussein’s Scuds certainly flew this far during the Gulf War. Still, I reassure them they won't need a bomb shelter. I heard a story about two people newly arrived in Tel Aviv, from, I think, Germany. The air raid siren was being tested, and they stopped what they were doing and ran, ran, to the nearest shelter. All around them were Israelis sitting at cafés, smoking, talking on their phones, doing what they do all the time, and ignoring the wailing alarm.

We move on to me. Wait, they asked, you knew no one here? You didn't come for a job? You just wanted to come, so you came? I hadn't put it to myself quite like that, but, I suppose, that's pretty much what happened. They were like, totally in awe of me. I was sorry they weren't going to be around longer.

Today's word:roshemimpressionרושם

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