It’s stabbing season here. The few people still walking the streets twist their heads back every few seconds to make sure no one’s behind them. They stab from behind- there’s been instructional videos and everything, and somehow that’s scarier than if they came straight at you, faced you, and raised the knife to your heart.
Gomukhasana- tie a belt around your ankles, sit on them, wedging a blanket in the folds of your knees. Sit up straight, raise your right hand up, twist it, then bring it behind your back and up your spine and reach for it with your left hand. Pull.
I live on the seam of East and West Jerusalem, a fat highway where there used to be a border. The streets wind around thick stone houses, their facades peppered with gunshots, walled gardens, thick-trunked fig trees, knotty grape vines, swaying lavender bushes. Men with tools and bags and scarves wrapped around their heads walk up from East Jerusalem and into the bustling city center, ultra religious families from the neighboring enclave of Meah Shearim pass through on their way to the Old City; monks emerge from century old monasteries, their robes trailing behind them.
When I first moved in two years ago, I fell in love with the thick stones, the covered up well in the garden, the cracked marble floors and this heady, dizzying mix of people. From my balcony I could see the gleaming, golden Dome of the Rock, the winding walls of the Old City; I could hear church bells, the muazzin’s piercing call for prayer, people cheering at soccer games projected onto large outdoor screens in the bars up the hill. It felt historical, cosmopolitan, otherworldly, inclusive.
Sitting with your legs crossed, place your right hand on the floor behind your back, and your left palm against your right knee. Turn your gaze to the left, then as far back as possible. Click, clack, clack, your spine cracks as you twist.
There have been stabbings at every intersection leading to my house. I buy pepper spray. On the dimly lit downhill to my house I hold it in my hands, the lever twisted to “on”.
It feels like I’m in some kind of horror video game, the people coming at me concealing knives in their pockets, cars running over people on sidewalks, men with guns getting onto buses, knives hidden under trays of puffy marshmallow treats dipped in chocolate. Civilians using umbrellas, nunchucks, selfie-sticks in self-defense.
Now when I walk the five minutes from the gym to my house, past a junction with sweeping views to the Old City, my head darts back and forth, I’m on high alert, when I twist the key into my door it feels like victory.
Rope 1: Lace your arms through ropes hanging from hooks on the wall. Step forward as far as possible, then, leaving your body there, bring your feet back against the wall, dropping your body down.
“Go lower,” she says, eyes on me.
She says: “You’re letting your fear control you”.
There’s been a steep drop in business, people going out only if they need to. On the streets, this feeling, as if we’re watching each other’s backs.
I go to the souk. People coming at me in all directions, floods of people. What’s he holding in his hands? I pass purple figs piled high, wispy bunches of wild asparagus, pomegranates ripped open exposing blood-red seeds; cases of cheeses, leafy pineapples, grapes soft with the end of summer. Braided challah, thin flutes studded with raisins and nuts, babkas shiny with sugar, still warm from the oven, pans of brownies with crackly skin. My bags get heavy. I no longer have a free hand if someone comes at me.
Lie on your belly, extend your arms and legs, and lift them up so that your thighs lift from the mat. Look up.
I leave my therapist’s office, and sit on a nearby bench, digesting. All of a sudden: sirens, ambulances, police cars. Something’s happened, and tears flood my eyes. A man with a gun in the back of his pants comes over to me, places his hand on my shoulder, says: “It’s going to be ok”.
Balasana, Child’s Pose: Kneel and sit back on your heels, then open your knees so that they’re hip-width apart, and bring your torso down between them. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your body, palms up. Rest.
Rubber boats filled beyond capacity sink in the Mediterranean, dead children washing up on the shore.
Bring your feet together in a butterfly position and wrap a belt around your hips and your ankles. Tighten. Lie back on two bolsters sliding until your shoulders reach the floor. Spread out your arms.
They post videos, threaten: There won’t be one Jew left in Jerusalem.
She sighs deeply.
I’m on the train, my eyes wide, darting. Ok, eighteen more minutes of this. An older woman comes on, her eyes quickly scanning the passengers. She sits down and her eyes meet mine and I smile. “Don’t worry,” I offer, bouncing back that ball we all seem to pass around to each other. We giggle, half nervously, half with relief.
At least we’re not alone in this.
Halasana: Place two large foam blocks on your mat, spread two blankets over them. Lie on your back leaving the space of two fingers between the top of your shoulders and the edge of the blocks. Bring your legs up towards the ceiling, placing your hands as high up your back as possible, pulling the skin upwards.
The fear rises from my chest and lodges itself in my throat, water drowning my eyes.
She says: “Breathe. You’re breathing just enough to survive.”
In survival mode, breathing is quick and shallow, from the top of your chest. It goes up and down your throat so quickly that it brings nausea with it, raises your heart rate. My eyes are dull, I can’t make simple decisions; I have no appetite.
All day we’re bombarded with images of blood and huge blood-stained butcher’s knives, and shattered car windows, with blood on toddler car seats. Blood, blood, blood. Sometimes there are pictures of the terrorists who did it, and sometimes those terrorists are smiling baby-faced teens, or a smiling young woman with lipgloss and blue earrings.
How can I differentiate between a potential terrorist, when this is what they look like, and the people I smile at on the street, the teen I buy my greens from at the souk, the ones delivering my groceries, the ones standing in line with me at the bank and at the post office, the ones coming at me in the opposite direction as I walk up the street?
If he runs, I run.
I’m in a taxi and we pass by a construction site, workers wielding axes and chainsaws and welding tools spraying sparks. The traffic light turns red, and we come to a halt right beside them. He rolls up the window, says: “In just one split second, they could take those tools and go on a murdering spree. I’m so scared. Not for myself, but for my children.”
Fear is everywhere, death is everywhere. Paranoia, suspicion, hatred chews at our hearts.
I escape to the desert. I’m at a tiny green oasis, like a summer camp for adults, lanterns strung from trees, fluffy white bunnies bouncing around on the green grass, roosters, ostriches prancing about spreading their feathers wide, swings dangling from branches, a wishing tree with notepads and pens hanging from it. All around us: vast, quiet desert.
People walk around in flowy clothes, their eyes deep, searching- they’ll come up to you, place a hand on your thigh, look deeply into your eyes, ask: “How are you?”
There’s time for long answers that involve fear and death and first boyfriends; for long walks into the desert at sunset, the mountains glowing, the sky blushing, a sliver of a moon rising high.
Savasana, corpse pose: Lie on your back, with your hands spread out slightly, and your feet falling outwards. When there’s not much time you’re supposed to be able to fall into deep relaxation in three exhales.
We wrap ourselves in shawls and walk away from the camp. We spread a blanket on the soft sand and lay out on our backs, taking in the stars. We talk about rape and parents and love that comes crashing down with such a thud it leaves a hole in your gut so big it feels like nothing will ever fill you up again. Shooting stars fall through the black sky.
One… Two… Three.
Nut, Quinoa & Chocolate Bars
Studded with nuts, seeds & puffed quinoa, these bars straddle the line between an energy bar and a sweet-fix, for when you need a bit of both.
2 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil
10 fresh soft dates, pitted
1 cup/ 250 ml/ 250 g nut butter (I used organic chunky peanut butter, but any kind or a mix should work)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup/ 80g raw pumpkin seeds/ pepitas
1 cup/ 80 g puffed quinoa (I used puffed rice)
a handful raw almonds, coarsely chopped
a pinch of sea salt, optional
3.5 oz/ 100g dark chocolate (70%)
1/3 cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
Melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan on low heat. Mash the pitted dates with a fork and add to the pan, together with the nut butter and freshly grated ginger. Stir around until it all comes together and cook for a couple minutes. Remove from heat. Add pumpkin seeds, puffed quinoa and chopped almonds. Taste and add salt if needed.
Line an 8×10 inch/ 15×20 cm baking dish with parchment paper and scoop the batter into it. Use the palm of your hands to press everything together tightly and evenly. Place in the fridge or freezer.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Pour the melted chocolate over the bars and use a spatula to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle with coconut and place in the fridge or freezer until cold and firm.
These will keep in the freezer for months, or in the fridge for a couple of days.