Back in 1990 I was living Jerusalem in a one room apartment in Nachlaot. The world was tense. Iraq had invaded Kuwait and had been a given a deadline by America and its allies – January 16th. January 16th was also my mother’s birthday.
My parents still lived in London at the time. They had offered me a ticket to come home. But home was now Jerusalem. How could I leave my friends who had no place to go?
In the weeks before the invasion all Israelis were issued gas masks and instructed to create sealed “safety” rooms. It was known that Iraq had used chemicals in their conflict with Iran. It wasn’t sure whether they had the technological capabilities of mounting chemicals onto scuds to send to Israel, but why take the chance?
I went to the distribution center and got my gas mask. I even decorated the box with pretty pictures of cats. I was scared of scuds and chemicals, but at least I was doing what I could do.
Not true of everyone in Jerusalem. A lot of Jerusalemites believed they were immune to the missiles – a view that drove me nuts. The Lubbavitcher Rebbe in New York had proclaimed that Jerusalem was the safest city on earth, that God would protect Jerusalem. I watched normally rational people refuse to protect themselves.
Saddam Hussein never used gas in that war and no scuds hit Jerusalem, but the experience of sitting in a sealed room with a gas mask on waiting for the all clear siren will always stay with me.
When Misha explained his vision for Fauxpocalypse I thought of Jerusalem and those Gulf War days. I wondered what would happen there if a comet was scheduled to hit the earth; would those same Jerusalemites believe that once more God would protect their city?
With this premise in mind I wrote “Vodka and Watermelons”. I transported myself back into my Jerusalem years and wove some of the craziness from that time into my story. And no, I never did find out where the watermelons came from?