Red Briefs and Rain Ink–“Necessary Stories” Column in The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

The dust rose so high to the sky that heaven and earth seemed to have reverted to a dull yellow primordial chaos. The engines of dirt-caked, drab army transports rumbled, the horns of master sergeants’ white vans honked. I stood, trying to be seen and heard, at the Fatma Gate in Metula, seeking a ride up to my base at Ana, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

As of early summer 1983, the IDF had been bogged down in Lebanon for a year. Rational procedures and clear rules had been drafted for transporting soldiers to and from and through the Cedar Republic, but like so many army regulations, few knew them, and no one obeyed.

The way to get from Metula to Ana was to stand as close to the gate as the military police would allow and hold out an arm. An occasional driver would notice the lonely soldier through the smokescreen thrown up by the Holy Land’s parched soil, take pity, and stop long enough to ask where I needed to go. More often then not, they were going somewhere else. I needed to be back at base by 3 p.m.; driving straight up from Metula, the trip took at least three hours. It was already nearly an hour before noon, and I was getting desperate.

Read moreRed Briefs and Rain Ink–“Necessary Stories” Column in The Jerusalem Report

God — Why Bother?

Haim Watzman

I’m not partial to faith healing and miracle stories. I like to keep my feet on the ground when talking about God. And so does my good friend Anne Hodges-Copple, who serves as rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina.

So I was a little surprised when she sent me a recent sermon that centers on what looks ostensibly like a simple story of faith and healing. It happened recently when Anne went on a church mission to Belize, in central America.

Late one night, only about ten days ago, twenty-year-old Rachel woke up in her one room house on the outermost edge of San Mateo, Belize. Her husband and two young sons were still asleep. She looked over the swamp outside the window of the tiny box of a house she and her husband had built from discarded wood planks and scrap metal. Like other rather ramshackle dwellings nearby, her house was built on piles that rose above the soft ground created by filling in the lagoon with a dubious combination of sand and trash. San Mateo was created away from any land that could be valuable to developers and to keep poor workers and their families out of the sight of the thriving tourist industry of San Pedro. Despite the beautiful multi-hued turquoise waters of the Caribbean that surrounds Ambergris Cay, Rachel and her neighbors were surrounded by brackish water, and a ground so lacking in nutrients that the hardiest shrub had a difficult go of it.

Rachel awoke because she sensed something was wrong. As she told the social worker at Holy Cross Anglican School later that day, she felt something invisible move across the swamp and into her home. She felt something dark and sinister blow into the house. She closed the board door across the window. Shortly thereafter her youngest child, three year old Ronan, woke up crying. He called out in a terrified voice that crabs were eating him. Candles were lit and the child examined by worried parents. They could find no evidence of any bites. They could find no physical source of the child’s continued cries. They tried to soothe him, but he remained listless and distressed. Rachel feared that evil spirits had come into her house perhaps, upon her child.

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