The Middle East

Moon Light

By Mike Odetalla

The approaching darkness
fills the heart with dread and fear
as the doors and windows are sealed
We extinguish the light and huddle
embracing as one
and wait...
The waiting is the hardest of all
nerves frayed and voices hushed
we wait...
We pray for the dawn to come
to remove the blanket of fear
yet we wait...
And then it comes
With brilliant flashes of light
piercing the night sky
the lightning that precedes ...
The thunder...
Thunder arrives
blinding eruptions of light
and destruction
The ears ring with pain
The body shakes and trembles
Cries of children fill the night
the flashes of thunder
fill them with fright
in their mothers tight embrace
they seek comfort...
and then wait once again...
The night is still young
their dirty works has just begun
The Israeli planes will be back...
The night is long
longer without sleep
even longer when you weep
I curse the night
for it brings death and fright

Mike Odetalla (12/2008)

Moon Light

By Mike Odetalla

On a moonlit night in June of 1967 at the age of 6, I sat at the mouth of a cave overlooking my village as Israeli Phantom Jets crisscrossed the night sky, their silver bodies reflecting the moonlight as they swooped down and conducted their bombing runs…Below these humble thoughts of “The Night” is my article on that fateful night titled “Moon Light”…I pray and weep for the children of Gaza as I watch the horrific images while cradling my 4-month-old-grandchild and namesake!

I look outside my window and see a most beautiful full moon, so bright and brilliant; it literally sends golden shards of light through my window shades. I begin to remember that night in June of 1967. Could it have been the same bright and peaceful moon that lit our escape path as we ran for the neighboring hills and caves? I remember it being so big and bright, that the worn dirt path that led us away was clearly visible. The mouth of the cave faced due east and that night, the moon shone like a giant spotlight that seemed to be resting on top of the hill that my family had owned a large chunk of for generations. The moon seemed to be resting on top of that hill facing the west and looking straight into my eyes as I sat there at the mouth of the cave. I was in awe struck as the jets crisscrossed the night sky, their silvery metallic bodies gleaming, and reflecting dabs of moonlight.

Could this be really war I wondered? It didn’t seem like it. Except for the brilliant flashes of light that were later followed by the thunder, all seemed “normal.” Yes, we were cramped, more than 25 people were in the cave with us, but I had somehow tuned out all the noise of the women and the cries of the other children. I was totally hypnotized by that gorgeous moonlight. Suddenly, I was rudely snapped out of my hypnotic state, as my mother yanked my arm, yelling for us to run away from that cave. I got up and ran simply because of my mother’s frantic yelling and urging.

We ran until we reached a large tree in the middle of an olive grove about 100 yards away. Then I became conscious that my mother was still urging the others to follow. They hesitated at first, but finally relented as it became clear, you see that those jets gleaming in the moonlight were preparing to hit us. Not five minutes had passed when I saw them again, flying low overhead. After two passes, a jet positioned itself and dove at us from the east, the same direction as that brilliant moonlight. The flash from under its wing deployed its rockets directly into the mouth of the same cave where we had taken refuge only a few minutes before. There were powerful explosions as debris flew outward.

I began to realize, finally, that this, indeed, was war: a word and a reality that had carried no tangible meaning for me until that moment. There was no electricity in my village of Beit Hanina and thus, I had never watched TV nor ever seen a movie. All of knew of war were the tales that the old people told about their experiences in 1948 and the raids by Israeli Defense Force into neighboring villages. Now, a first hand experience was putting War into my life in bright, vivid colors, accompanied by a very violently booming soundtrack.

This, my introduction to war, was also the end of my childhood innocence. The sights and experiences that followed would be recorded by my brain for all of eternity, no matter how horrible they were. The moon continued to light our way as we went through the olive groves and seeking yet another scorpion infested cave. That cave would be our “home” for the next 10 days or so. Our new “home” opened directly overhead, looking into the sky, so I no longer had a view of the moon or of what was going on around us. The only reminder of war was the ever-present thunder of the artillery in the background, and the confinement inside that cave.

To this day, when I look at a full moon, I wonder if it remembers that 6-year-old boy gripped then, as now, in its hypnotic powers on that fateful night in early June of 1967…, December 2008