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The Timeless Box

Here I sit, yet again. I took my phone this time though – more to do, more to take my mind off of this place. I’m running out of things to do without bringing a phone. By now I’ve made as many gear enhancements for my gun and vest that I could think of… But there’s only so much. It doesn’t matter really; I’m still here atop this rusting metal tower watching the Arab neighborhood less than 30 meters in front of me. I hear the constant calling of the chickens, watch the lights in the houses flicker on and off in the night, and listen in on another one of their prayer sessions blaring from countless Muslim towers. Some of them start a beat or two off, echoing in the fog. I can only imagine – envyingly – where you are or what you are up to… Maybe asleep in a comfortable bed or enjoying the warm summer sun beside the pool. It’s cold and damp here. The wind shrieks through the gaps in the windows; the frosty air creates drizzling droplets of rusty water. Sudden bursts can be heard in the distance but I can never tell whether it’s shots from a stolen gun in celebration of a wedding or fireworks for their holiday. They love those fireworks; they shoot them all the time no matter if it’s day or night. Sometimes I don’t think they care about the colors at all, they just want an explosion. It’s eerie staring at these endless lines of houses stretching far into the distance, thousands of tiny windows and empty roofs pointed towards me. For all I know there could be a gun there, aimed, waiting for the right moment. We’re constantly told that there’s at least one window out there that watches us. Writes down our habits in this tower, records our guard shifts, and even notes our professionalism. The feeling of powerlessness conflicts with my boosted ego – clad as it is in full gear – and after months of intense strenuous training. Great, now a baby started crying. Once again I find myself wondering if I’m guarding from them or over them, like prisoners. Them, who are walled in on one side and fenced on the other; children who grow up always seeing these barbed fences with a high tower and a man inside with a gun, staring at them and their parents, watching their every move, analyzing their lives for twenty-four hours of the day, forever. I can only imagine what they’ll grow up to be, running around all day as they’re shooting a fake plastic gun at me. At first I was a bit dismayed, but now I just feel numbed. It’s obvious that I’m only guarding my base, I’m not a prison guard of course, but hours here can make you contemplate anything of possible essence. Make you horribly introspective and usually you won’t like what you find. At least then you have something to do though. I’m the only one left that hasn’t broken yet. The others have been reduced to the most basic form of human nature: fighting restlessly over meaningless tasks when together but trying to reach out to each other when apart, whilst we sit on icy metal stools in the shadows of our oncoming depression, calling each other with confessions of our fears of seemingly unavoidable suicide – as we stare down at the ugly sight of our one true companion. Possibly the only partner we have had by our side through it all, ironically the same one that we might hold tight as we leave with a… bang. A beep from my watch springs me out of my reverie and I see that only 4 minutes have passed. With a deep sigh of boredom I mull over the long night I have ahead of me. The chickens are still cackling, the lights are still flickering, the towers chanting. And after it all I know that it still doesn’t matter whilst I sit here in my dark, empty, metal box.

The Timeless Box

Neta Bartal

Joined October 2012

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A short story I wrote when I was guarding above an Arab village near Jerusalem. The story depicts my thoughts and emotion at the time, and the questions I constantly ask myself about my role in the military.

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