Benghazi – Bergen-Belsen: A Novel
By Yossi Sucary1
Edited by Hanan Elstein
Benghazi (Chapter One)
At the end of April 1941 she saw the desert defeat itself. The steady and confident earth of the Sahara Desert could no longer withstand its winds. The stage at which the winds were usually thwarted and ceased to disrupt the earth, did not come this time. In her mind she thought this stage was lost. In her heart she felt the desert itself was lost. The wind fervently peeled the earth of its top layers and created more and more sand whirls that gradually thickened. The air gradually roiled. The sun shifted in and out of sight. For one long moment a great shadow overpowered all.
Since her fourth birthday the desert had been a warm blanket that covered her being. Since that day, the day her father took her to the desert for the first time in her life, being there made her warm. Now, when she no longer recognized the desert, she felt exposed to all corners of the earth. Through the cloud of sand swirling in the air she gazed at the five camels that crossed a few meters away, expecting the desert once again to be reflected in their behavior. But their natural leisurely and lazy treads were now such rapid and nervous stomps that it seemed to her as though they were asking to be rid of their humps. She turned her gaze to the sky, seeking to cling to the sight of the eagles' familiar wings, and with it to fly above the foreign image that revealed itself before her eyes – in vain. Through the grains of sand she saw birds flapping in the air in panic – birds of prey shaking off their reputation as kings of the sky. She wanted to go back home. The strong winds of the desert swept off not only the blanket of her being, but also the clear memory of her home. She wanted the home to be hers again.
She boarded the truck that had brought her to the desert, and waited for the other travelers to board. She would seize every opportunity she had to appease her unyielding longing for the desert and join the truck that departed from the center of Benghazi for a trip of several days. The majority of passengers were usually Jews and Arabs who sought to forget for a while the burden of existence and be forgotten by it. The owner of the truck, a man named Zuhair, wished to befriend her father due to his financial standing, and so she did not pay for the rides. Furthermore, during the ride she always received special treatment – Zuhair made sure to provide her with fine food, and also quality blankets, when the need arose.
Now she sat in the truck with her eyes closed. She wanted to see her desert, the one familiar to her. She did not want to witness it rapidly desiccating into another, foreign desert. Even when the truck began to make its way back to the city, she remained seated with her eyes closed.
Until they reached Jabal al Akhdar. Only then did she open her eyes slightly. She knew that strip of mountains like the back of her hand, the strip that separated the desert and Benghazi. On it lay the cornerstones of her desire. There, on the strip of mountains between her city and the desert, it was there she wished to fulfill her dream of one day opening a modern high school for the Jewish boys and girls of Benghazi. She thought the fine soil of Jabal al Akhdar could sprout that dream.
Now she heard the noise of planes, and through the slits of her eyes she saw the people leaping from one spot to another inside the truck, their gazes perturbed, and their bodies, relentlessly seeking a comfortable position, testifying to a growing alarm that something terrible might have happened in Benghazi. She noticed that some of them were thrusting their arms and raising their fingers in outrage against the driver's slow driving and prompted him to speed it up, as if, she felt, reaching their destination would heal them of a disease that had been lurking inside them for quite some time.
The closer the truck neared Benghazi, the wider her eyes opened, until they threatened to enclose inside them the houses that slowly began to materialize beyond the dunes. When the truck reached Piazza Municipio, she gazed with a glowing face at the white rooftops, at the narrow alleyways in which the children played soccer, at the mothers washing diapers in the square courtyards, and at the round zodiac fountain, polished as always. To her surprise, she did not see the British soldiers who had conquered the Cyrenaica region four months earlier from the Italians who had ruled it for nearly thirty years. She filled her lungs with the air of Benghazi, and it was soaked with the scent of the sea. This way she could rest a little. As the desert had been a warm blanket that covered her existence since childhood, so the sea was a bed on which she lay. Its scent always relieved her fatigue. The sight of its waves always washed away hardships, anguish and pain.
She descended from the truck and walked along Via Municipio. Her eyes now opened to see what had been blurred from the truck: the faces of the inhabitants of the city, from which she had been absent for four whole days, were not as they used to be. They alluded to something utterly new – especially the faces of the Jews. They had an expression about them that betrayed the dread of captivity of those subjected entirely to the mercy of fate. Some of them stole glances at the light blue sky, as if wishing to be gazed back upon, while others withdrew and lowered their heads to the ground. She rushed her steps and told herself, aadi, Silvana, aadi,2 but her attempts were unsuccessful, and the closer she approached Via Generale Briccola, the faster her heart pounded; and the closer she approached the street where she and her family lived, her father and mother and sister, it seemed to her as though the pulse was overpowering the heart.
When she reached the threshold, she no longer felt the beating of her heart. She slowly opened the green iron gate. The creak it produced pierced her ear more than ever before. She walked along the tiled path, looking left and right at the sand on its sides, in order to avoid looking at the concrete stairs toward which she was approaching. She pushed the key into the lock and opened the door, and then sensed something seemingly impossible: the home was not at home. The large gramophone, which her father brought back from one of his many trips to Napoli, the four Caucasian rugs her mother toiled over laying so that they would meticulously cover every inch of the living room floor, the orologio that only seldom displayed the accurate time, the lampadario, the candelabrum her father used to move so that he could properly read the documents he received from 'Fratelli Capone', the Capone brothers' Neapolitan construction company whose products he imported to Libya, the two red armchairs her younger sister Toni loved pointing at and announcing to her friends "Un apartamento arredato," a furnished apartment, even though they lived in a house and not an apartment – all these remained standing, and yet, the home was not at home. As if the warm and secure atmosphere that defined it had been torn away.
She left the house at once and headed toward her father's shop. On the way she crossed through Suk Dlam – the market of darkness – and saw the peddlers salute the sunset and obediently fold their stands. Imad, the owner of a jewelry stand, a spindly man with a hooked nose and pale skin, who every so often gave her a necklace or a ring free of charge, turned to her and asked, "Sa halek Silvana?"3 She told herself that this question had been asked exactly as it had always been asked, but time and again she struggled to believe her own words. She could not help but notice the slight tremor in Imad's voice creeping into the tail of his question, precisely as he began to utter her name.
As she passed the peanuts and seeds stand, she searched for Rabach's eyes. Instead of greeting her cheerfully, as he had always done, he merely mumbled an abrupt hello, and immediately bent his long and thin neck, and stared intensely into one of the large sacks piled beneath him, as if asking to bury his eyes among the seeds inside it.
When she reached Via Calancio the light begged the darkness for a few more moments of life. She was afraid to keep walking. She stood at the southern end of the street with her eyes fixed on her father's shop, a distance of a hundred meters between them. After half a moment's pause, she summoned the courage and began heading in its direction. The heavy heat and humidity did not make it easier on her. Every step forward sent her thoughts backwards, each step making her contemplate an earlier event in the chain of events experienced that day. When ten meters stood between her and the shop, her thoughts lingered on the foreign, lost desert she had seen that morning.
The shop was bolted. It was completely enclosed by the metal shutters. She knew it was not supposed to be this way; her father or Ziad the manager, whose wisdom and gentle ways always impressed her, used to lock the door and lower the metal shutters only at a later hour. She felt helpless. She began to run down Via Calancio, without thinking about where she was heading. All she wanted was to escape the notion that something bad had happened to her father, to her mother and to her sister, but this thought chased her down like a beast of prey. She wanted to arrive at a place in which she could drown it, and to let a different, more measured thought take its place.
Giuliana Beach had been this type of refuge for her. Of all the beaches of Benghazi, and even the whole of Libya, it was her very favorite. She never ceased to long for Giuliana Beach, even when sailing with her family on the deck of the 'Carrara', the ship that sailed from Benghazi to Tripoli, to visit the Zaruk family, whose home overlooked Lido Beach, which many Libyans considered the most spectacular beach in North Africa. As far as she was concerned, the bay of Giuliana beach was a live and loving body. She did not view it as something inanimate, cast into the world against its will. In the white and soft sand of Giuliana beach she could truly immerse herself in her thoughts. Among its rocks she could escape the intrusive stares of the men – the Jews, the Arabs or the Italians – who sprawled on the sand. For the many times the sea served her as a bed upon which to lie, Giuliana beach had served as a soft pillow. Now she ran toward the beach, widening her steps the closer she drew. When she reached Via Roma, it had already become completely dark. She told herself that it would be enough to reach Lungomare, the promenade, and under its friendly lights she could gaze at Giuliana beach.
And indeed, when she reached the promenade, panting, she did not feel the need to descend to the beach; she just stood behind the concrete railing and looked at the sea, assisted by the light of the moon and the lanterns. The water surged. The waves attacked the mighty rocks in their usual manner. She calmed down slightly. She remembered her mother mentioning that the wedding of one of her friends' daughters was to take place that evening, and reasoned that her parents and sister had left for the wedding, having assumed that she herself would not be back from the desert until the following morning. With her left hand she reached into the pocket of the pants her father brought her from Rome, most likely against her mother's will, pulled out a hair band, and twisted it around her long straight hair, which the desert dust had painted white and left only the faintest memory of the black beneath it. The first thing she always yearned for when returning from a trip to the desert was a shower. She loved lingering under the current, soaping slowly, seeing how her brown skin reappeared before her eyes, and washing her hair in 'Truzi', a soap scarcely found, and which she therefore used only on important occasions. And now here she was, instead of the familiar shower, preferring to wash from her head the remnants of the alarming thoughts still left inside it.
She leaned against the concrete railing and continued to gaze at the sea. The panic that held her was as if swept to the depths of the sea and almost drowned inside it, but suddenly a strange sound disturbed the roaring of the waves, like a creak or perhaps a smack. She looked to her left, trying to locate its source, but saw nothing but the row of lanterns lighting the promenade. She looked back but did not see anything apart from the line of trees that served as the rear border of the promenade. She turned to look back at the sea. A few moments later she heard the noise again, only this time it reached her ears much sharper. She knew beyond doubt that these were steps, even though she had never heard the likes of them before. They did not resemble in the least the steps of the sons and daughters of Benghazi, or the steps of the 'Camicia Nera', the Italian fascists, her ears having already grown accustomed to their rapid and dense pace. The steps now echoing in her ears were slow and powerful. An inexplicable thought suddenly pierced her consciousness: these steps have an independent existence, and they do not necessarily adhere to the one taking them.
She looked again to her right. The waves sprayed the wall that supported the concrete railing. The fresh moisture that clung to it increased her anxiety. For a moment it seemed foreign to her; it was not the same wall she loved hiding behind as a child, when playing hide-and-seek with her Arab friend Nasrin. Nor was it the wall that she and her friend Lizzi Saban, in their early childhood years, used to call "het lehlamt" – the wall of dreams – since they used to crouch at its foot and dream together aloud. Now the weeds, which had always covered only the cracks between the wall's bricks, invaded the bricks themselves. Now it revealed fractures she had never seen before.
She looked back, and suddenly realized the source of the noise. Her heart pounded inside her: several meters from her stood a stranger, like no one she had ever seen before. There was not one thing in common between him and the Italian and English soldiers she had seen in Benghazi. Despite the heavy heat and the suffocating humidity, he wore high black boots, his meticulously pressed pants placed inside them, and the long sleeves of his shirt tightened around his arms. The buttons of his shirt were fastened almost half way up his neck, on its pockets various odd decorations, and on his head a peaked cap adorned with a shining metal symbol in the shape of an eagle. Her anxious gaze shifted back and forth across each one of his garments, seeking to decipher their meaning.
She clung to the railing. The soldier walked toward her, removed his cap and approached her in a language she had never heard before. The patience and geniality that radiated from his eyes stood in complete contrast to his appearance and the sound of his language. Frightened, she shook her head to gesture that she did not understand his words, but he repeated them over and over, until a uniform sequence of sounds permeated between her ears: "Gutten Abend."4 She muttered, "Tieb, tieb," and began to draw away along the railing, steadily increasing the pace of her steps, praying that a carozza would appear. Normally she shied away from riding in the carozza, the wagon hitched to a horse that served as a taxi to the wealthy residents of Benghazi. She did not like the sight of the black wheels at its sides, which always seemed to her like two giant ears attached to a small head; she did not like the crude combining of wood and metal, which constituted the heart of its body, and more than all she despised the frequent beatings the carozzas' owners inflicted upon their horses, supposedly so as to satisfy their customers but in fact to satisfy their own unyielding desire to take on a new passenger as quickly as possible. But in those moments, as the soldier repeated his words behind her and the uncertainty stretched in front of her, she envisioned the carozza as a sheltering cradle. Now she longed to hear the clatter of the wheels, the unsettling sound of the bell announcing the arrival at the destination, the groans that emerge from the throat of the tortured horse.
She did not hear any of this. One after the other the streets of Benghazi appeared before her, obeying the authority of the darkness without the slightest protest. She saw the moonlight bathing only momentarily in the sea and the faint light of the Lungomare lanterns. She quickly crossed the street and began to run along Via Corso Italia. Seeking a lit passage, she deviated from her usual path and turned to Piazza Pene. It prolonged her way, but the area surrounding the old mosque was always lit, excluding the recent months in which British planes bombed the city.
And indeed, when she reached El Masgad, the mosque with the capital M, the largest and most prominent of the city's mosques, she felt relieved. The building stood in complete opposition to the image of the soldier she had just seen on the Lungomare. There was nothing threatening about it, and it appeared in front of her as the familiar home of the legal citizens of her city. Its surroundings were lit in a radiant glow, and two men, wearing white ghalabias and wide white skullcaps, passed her by. They did not notice her.
Feeling the sense of relief in the mosque was not a trivial matter for her. In the eleven years that preceded this moment, since she was ten years old, the age in which she began roaming the different parts of the city without her mother's supervision, El Masgad was as a minefield within her own city, a place she always preferred to avoid. Her mother would not let her treat it differently. As a child, whenever she expressed the desire to witness the happenings behind the iron gate that led to the tiled entrance hall, her mother used to pull her hand in the opposite direction, treating her as someone possessed by a demon. As an adolescent, whenever she left the house without saying exactly where she was heading, her mother would tell her, referring to the path leading to the mosque: "Ya Silvana, ya azizti, ma tamshish min hanaya."5 Usually Silvana did not heed to the restrictions her mother imposed on her, disregarding them as grains of sand at the bottom of the great mountain of liberties her father generously granted her: "Adinya kamla kdamk, lusaa udsaa,"6 he told her at times, but her mother's instruction to stay away from El Masgad flickered in front of her for some reason. But now all her mother's warnings gave way and the warm feeling induced by the proximity to the mosque increased. Even the sudden sound of a distant buzzing, most likely the roar of a fighter-aircraft's engine, did not hamper this feeling. Silvana opened the iron gate.
Although she had lived among Muslims since birth, she never acquainted herself with their religion. When seeing their Arab neighbor Samira covering her face with a hijab, she never asked her what this meant. When seeing Ziad, her father's devoted shop manager, kneeling on the office floor at midday and praying, she never commented about it. It was not because these ceremonies did not arouse her curiosity, or because she did not feel close enough to these two people. It was for an entirely different reason: Rita, her father's younger sister, had converted to Islam when Silvana was not yet four years old. This event had stricken her family as a true disaster and was utterly forbidden from being mentioned. It hovered as a bird around the family tree and was prevented from lingering on any of its branches. Not one member of her extended family was able to say out loud that the younger sister of Eliyahu Haggiag, among the most important figures in Benghazi's Jewish community, converted to Islam and married an Arab man. None of them could say out loud that Eliyahu Haggiag – Lilo, as they called him – the tall man with the broad shoulders, piercing black eyes and formidably commanding speech, was so blatantly betrayed by his younger sister.
Now this imposed silence was behind her. She reached the gate of the mosque itself, which was open to all, and entered without making a sound. Inside she gazed with astonishment at the gilded dome and arabesque-adorned walls. She stepped forward, seeking the best viewpoint, but after taking three steps she froze: the shouts of Italian soldiers echoed from the nearby streets, and protruding among them stiff shouts in the language of the soldier she had just met on the Lungomare. The image of Rabach, the peanuts merchant who avoided looking her in the eye when she passed by him at the market, flickered in her mind. She now vaguely recalled that he had also muttered something: Ahrab minhem.7 After a few moments spent rooted to the spot, she ran in the direction of a particularly thick column lined entirely with emerald tiles, and hid behind it. The shouts rising from outside did not cease. If anything, they now sounded like the pounding of hammers: "Achtung, achtung." She could not stop the tremors that took hold of her. She yearned to blend into the mosque completely, to become one of its pillars, but the mosque would not concede to her wish; on the contrary: it was as if her presence inside it stood out with vigor. Every time she tried to locate a better hiding place, she became even more exposed in its empty space, every time she attempted to take a step on its floor, it produced an echoing screech.
Loud banging on the mosque walls was heard from outside. She feared the soldiers were about to enter. She began to devise her escape; after ruling out the possibility of leaving through the entrance hall, she eventually made her way out through the iron gate as quickly as she could, fixing her eyes on the ground. Unlike the mosque's interior, its courtyard as if cooperated with her and was willing to provide her with a hiding place. Now it was the darkness that lit her way. She left the courtyard and walked as fast as she could through the darkest streets. When she crossed Corso Italia, she noticed from a distance an azuza carozza, an old horse cart. She ran after it, calling out as loud as she could to the wagoner, the moonlight flickering against his blue velvet hat, "Stenna, stenna."8 The man heard her and stopped; never before had she seen a fuller cart. Inside it she immediately recognized the kind face of Said, Nasrin's older brother. They did not speak a word to each other during the ride. But their silence conveyed a great deal: the love they had for each other since childhood, their inability to fulfill it, their hatred toward the foreign conquerors of their country, the vague feeling that a new conqueror had now arrived, one of an entirely foreign breed.
As they neared her house she pressed the palm of his hand forcefully. Said did not let go of her hand. His large brown eyes gazed at her large black eyes, looking straight at her for the first time. Suddenly she no longer thought of him as Nasrin's older brother, but as a stranger with a strong face, a long and muscular body and a good head on his shoulders. The swirling voice of the muezzin instantly cut through the night's hot and dense air. Said continued to hold her hand, and only after the sound of the muezzin silenced he released his grip. Silvana kissed him gently on his cheek, and descended the azuza carozza without looking back. She walked along the entrance path, trying as hard as she could to suppress her fear for the fate of her parents and sister, a fear that had been lurking inside her all this time, flowing and ebbing alternately. Detecting no sign that they had returned home, she tried to calm her nerves, telling herself that the wedding they had gone to was probably a lengthy event and that they were still there. But it was a failed attempt. In order to push aside the sense of failure she clung to the kiss she had given Said.
The kiss had alleviated her state, momentarily releasing her from the shackles of time and place. It occurred to her that the act she had committed was foreign to her, as if she was another woman, different from herself. It was true that since celebrating her bat-mitzvah she did not always abide by the rules of conduct customary among the Jews of Benghazi, it was true that from time to time she acted differently than what was expected of a Jewish girl; in this manner, for instance, she conversed freely with the Italian soldiers, or occasionally wandered around Suk Dlam until the late hours of the evening. But to give an Arab man a kiss on the cheek – that was an especially aberrant act.
In her imagination she now sailed inside the body of that other woman, and it was she who opened the door to the house, but even that other woman could not dispel the world behind her. The moment she turned on the light, and before she managed to close the door, she heard a loud call from behind: "Halt!"9 She turned around. Three soldiers – two dressed exactly like the soldier she had seen on the Lungomare and the third in the more familiar Italian fatigues – stood in a single line behind the green iron gate. She instantly felt as though they had brought her back to herself only to spit her out into the world once more. Their terrifying looks stirred in Silvana the feeling that she and the world were not meant for each other, that the world was about to present her with a bill of divorce. For several seconds she stood motionless, and then began walking toward them. She immediately wished to cling to the sudden opportunity that had emerged beside them like a fourth soldier: that they would take her to her parents' and sister's whereabouts. "Where are they? I know that you know where they are," she called out to them in English. They did not answer, and only lifted her quickly, pushing and shouting, onto a truck covered with a green tarpaulin.
During the drive, the two foreign soldiers exchanged words and occasionally said something that sounded like they were reprimanding the Italian soldier. The sounds of the sentences they exchanged outlined time and again the boundaries of her anxiety. She looked at her city through the rear opening of the truck, which wasn't covered by the tarpaulin, and a bitter thought crossed her mind about Benghazi and its residents, that her city did not stand by her when she needed it most, abandoning her, failing to protect her from the soldiers, and instead of providing her with refuge it had so easily accepted the animosity directed at her. Could it be that Benghazi had betrayed her?
When they passed Teatro Berenice, the crown of Benghazi, she remembered how on Saturday evenings her parents and she would walk arm in arm on their way to see a play there. She wanted to cry, but was unable to do so. The cold stare Benghazi laid upon her, steadily drawing away from her, forced her to return like for like. The younger of the two foreign soldiers eyed Silvana with a lustful gaze, stroking his cheek with the palm of his hand, and whispered to her, "Du bist ain shenes fraulein."10 She directed at him the same cold stare she gave her city. The other soldier, his countryman, also glanced at him angrily, and for a while, until the ride came to an end, the young soldier kept his mouth shut and only bowed his head in forced restraint.
The truck halted; they had arrived. She did not know where at. The soldiers ordered her off the truck. The hope that she was about to meet her family enveloped her anxiety like a protecting cover, but only fleetingly, as the complete silence and darkness that surrounded the area immediately stripped away any positive thought she had. One of the soldiers turned on a floodlight, exposing a large white building, and Silvana instantly recognized the Italian school of Bab eh-Gdid, located about twenty-five kilometers south of Benghazi. The soldiers held her and advanced along the path outlined by the floodlight. It cast its light on the anguish reflected in her face, and already after a few steps she began to whimper, "Ya ma, winech? Ya buya, winech?"11 The soldiers tried to silence her, in vain. They covered her mouth forcefully and struck her on her back, but she managed to release more shouts from between their fingers, "Ya ma! Baba!" She did not settle for mere shouts, but rather punched her fists at the chest of the soldier beside her, and sent her legs toward his friend further away. The soldiers kicked every part of her body, and dragged her into the Italian school.
She never thought she would enter it that way. Many times throughout her childhood she imagined crossing the threshold of the Italian school, which was the finest of Libya's schools and considered by many the best in the entire continent of Africa. She often imagined that she would be accepted among the daughters and sons of the heads of the Italian rulers, marching daily beside them with her head held high to the school in which they obtained their education. Completing all school years in the Jewish school "Talmud Torah" had not satisfied her appetite. It was not enough for her that until the age of eighteen she had studied various subjects from private tutors daily, and read with great devotion history books, poetry and philosophy which her father had brought especially from Italy – these had captivated her the most, even though she did not always understand their meaning. With all her heart she wanted her education to bear an official Italian stamp. Something inside her always told her that it was the only way in which she could ever be considered the natural daughter of the culture.
But now she did not want to enter the Italian school. She did not want to see the two rows of trees in the front yard, the white walls, the long hallways with fans fixed to their ceilings, the facade adorned with the portrait of Il Duce, and she especially did not want to see the large gymnasium, into which she was now introduced without being allowed to perform even one stretch of her sunken body. She was pushed by the soldiers to the edge of the gym. They ordered her to lie on a mattress. Despite the partial darkness, she easily discerned the holes gaping along the mattress and the stains decorating it. She preferred to lie on the cold floor so as to avoid the firm touch of the exposed springs. The soldiers did not remark on this. Two of them left the gym together, and the seemingly younger one sat in the gray chair that stood about ten meters from her, near the exit to the lit hallway. She could not see a thing. Her eyes were so swollen and red, that it seemed as though they were shedding away along with her tears. Her soul knew no rest. Her past and her future ceased to exist. While her present was still alive, it was as dark as the valley of the shadow of death. For hours on end she had not stopped thinking about her parents and her sister. At first she hoped they had not come in contact with the new breed of soldiers. As time passed, she prayed only that they were still alive. To make it through the rest of the night she turned to math, in which she often found comfort when in difficult situations. She performed in her mind various calculations in order to distract herself from all the events she had experienced since the moment she left the desert on her way back to Benghazi. It was only at dawn, when the light of the desert crept into the gymnasium through long, narrow windows, that she managed to ignore her aching body and soul and fall asleep. She never felt as awake as she did during this sleep. While dreaming, it seemed as though her dream was much more real than the state in which she had just been. In her dream she saw with great clarity her parents, herself and her sister Toni on a family vacation in Positano, to which she had never been, but had heard much about from her father: sitting at a table laden with giant fruit, laughing themselves to tears, when suddenly an Italian police officer approaches their table, demanding with a stern expression that they accompany him, and pointing his finger at her – Tu no.12
She did not know how the dream ended: she was jolted awake by a jumble of shouts in Arabic, Italian and the language of the foreign soldiers. She opened her eyes. She felt that she was thrown at once from a lucid reality into a blurry dream. Weeks later this feeling still gnawed at her mind. It was as sharp a transition as a collapsing bridge each time she tried to leap from the thought that it was impossible to distinguish between reality and dream, to the thought that it was actually possible. Now – at the very moment that she wished to grasp where she was, to force out the horrifying reality in favor of the disturbing dream and to clutch at it with all her might – dozens of people suddenly hurtled into the gymnasium, and the soldier who was left to guard her at night directed them with shouts toward the wall furthest from her: "Schneller, Juden! Schneller, Juden! Schneller, Juden!"13
She straightened up and sat on the floor, her back leaning against the wall. The image before her slowly became clear: near the wall in front of her staggered bowed and helpless dozens of people, the faces of most she was briefly acquainted with from occasional encounters in the Jewish neighborhood of Hara, or from the way home from the large synagogue Tzla Lekbira.
She tried to locate among them someone more familiar to her, to ask him, at the first opportunity she had, if by chance he had seen her parents and her sister. At first and second glance she did not identify any such person, but suddenly she noticed, at the far end of the wall, one of her sister Toni's friends. All of her efforts to remember her name failed utterly. Nor did her attempt to catch her gaze succeed. The face of Toni's friend trembled, her eyes were swollen, her hair tousled, and it seemed that early signs of old age had suddenly leaped at her face.
While the soldier slowly counted the newcomers, as if to extend the pleasure he derived from the terrified faces, Silvana dragged herself across the wall. When she reached the point in which she stood exactly opposite Toni's friend, she looked straight at her. She continued to tremble. And yet it seemed to Silvana that between one tremor and the next the friend was signaling to her that she had seen Toni. She wanted with all her heart to make sure this was actually true. A few moments later, when the soldier called her, she lurched toward him, and while doing so deliberately prolonged her way in order to get closer to Toni's friend. When she passed by her, she asked her if she had seen her family. The friend mumbled a few words in her direction, from which Silvana extracted, not without difficulty, a positive answer. With this interpretation in hand, she stood in front of the soldier. He did not utter a word. The silence as if spread out infinitely. Silvana was horrified by the possibility that flickered inside her head incessantly, that she was about to lose her life. She told herself that if she must die, her last request was to see her parents and Toni. Suddenly something happened that stirred within her the feeling that she was about to return to reality: instead of punishing her for exchanging words with another prisoner on her way to him, the soldier signaled to her with his hand to pass him and exit the gymnasium. "Frei," he told her, "du bist frei,"14 he turned to a tall Italian soldier with sunken cheeks who stood next to him, and with a gesture of his hand ordered him to let her go.
She did not return to reality. The petrified faces of the people left behind in the gymnasium, and the missing faces of her parents and sister, accompanied her on her way out. She did not only look at them, but they served her as something of eyes through which she gazed at the world at that moment. The desert sun struck her gaze with such force that, for all the momentous thoughts that could have crossed her mind, she thought about the fact that the reputation the Italian school had earned might have stemmed from the caressing chill between its walls. Except that the thought about the cool breeze blowing through the Italian school vanished from her mind at the speed of the hot desert light, and in its place the most dreadful scream she had ever heard pierced her consciousness: Silvanaaaaa!
Silvana saw her mother frenziedly running toward her, mumbling repeatedly: "Chnan Nigliz, chnan Nigliz."15 Only now did she return to reality. A cold calculation crossed her mind: perhaps as British citizens they would merely be a burden on the allies of the Italians, since they would have to treat them as prisoners of war for all intents and purposes if they were to detain them. She felt that her mother's embrace nearly crushed her to death. She pushed her mother off her with momentum and at the same time felt, and immediately saw that her father and sister were hugging her from behind with all their strength. After filling her lungs with air, she joined her family in their tears.
Bergen-Belsen (last chapter)
One day during May of that year the true winter of Silvana's life had begun. In the morning of that day ten German military trucks appeared at the camp's gates and coughed out SS men. Before the image had become clear the sharp and shrill voice was heard. "Los! Los!"16 The soldiers called out to the prisoners, and directed them toward the trucks with hand gestures and the butts of their guns. Silvana's gut feeling told her that from now on she would no longer be able to tell the date, and that from this day forward she would have to count the days and nights in her head. She engraved the date in her memory, May Sixth. She did not look back, she did not want Civitella to have another crevice through which it could return and creep into her consciousness in the future. She did not look ahead either. She did not want to see the shut windows of that same future. She now focused entirely on treading the wet soil, on her footsteps which crushed any possibility of thought before it could become a thought about possibility.
Her mother, father and sister walked closely beside her. She did not hear their breathing. Everyone made the fifty meters to the trucks with bated breath. Even the infants who had spent most of their lives in Civitella did not make a sound. It seemed as though they too were anxiously waiting to hear where they were going. The trucks departed. At no point during the ride did the destination approach them. No German mentioned its name, no fragment of scenery informed them of it. Every so often Silvana heard her mother mumbling, "Bis ma yitalonash min Italia,"17 and after a while she joined her mumblings. A quick glance at the rest of those sitting in the truck confirmed her assumption that they too were carrying the same prayer in their hearts. A few of them sat with their faces to the ground, others looked up as if attempting to pierce the tarpaulin spread above them with their pupils, and one even crushed between his fingers his tefillin, which had survived all the way from Benghazi.
Shortly after, it seemed as though their prayers were answered. One after the other the trucks came to a halt. None of the passengers recognized the place but her father assumed it was close to Modena. Even after they were lowered from the trucks, accompanied by the barks of two menacing dogs, and looked at the view revealed before them, the only thing they knew was that they were still in Italy. An hour later they were ordered to form lines again, and then a rumor passed by word of mouth that someone had seen a sign behind a building: "Fossoli-Carpi Transit Camp."
The knowledge that they had arrived at a transit camp stirred in Silvana a great fear. "Transit" meant this was not their final destination. She feared they might take them beyond the Italian borders. She tried with all her strength to suppress this fear. For several moments this attempt at restraint proved unsuccessful and the fear as if leaked from her. Her mother came to her aid. She reminded Silvana that so far everything they had expected to happen, did not happen, and there was no reason for that to change. Therefore they should not think that their staying in a transit camp would soon lead them to a different, permanent place. Silvana embraced her explanation. She expected the unexpected.
But a few days after their arrival at Fossoli-Carpi, the expected did happen. On a day in which the sun stood at the center of the sky earlier than usual, they were instructed to board trucks and were taken to a small and deserted station. For Silvana this was the first time she had ever seen a train. It did not resemble in the least the trains she had heard about from the male and female Italian soldiers who served in Benghazi. Already at first glance she noticed the train did not have passenger cars with seats. At second glance she saw that her first glance was entirely accurate. Her father held her hand in his left hand, and in his right he held Toni's hand, who also held their mother's hand. She yearned to hold her mother's free hand, so that all family members would be holding hands with each other. She did not do it. She feared it would make her turn her back to the train.
The train stood desolate on the rusty tracks. An SS soldier passed by them, removed his cap and asked, to the sound of his friends' uproarious laughter, "Volt ier filaisht ayne farkarte fur di erste klasse?"18 Although they did not understand the meaning of his words, they understood their spirit very well. At that moment Silvana was sent back in time to the beginning of nineteen thirty-seven, when the four of them stood huddled and shaking in the kitchen of their home, carrying a prayer in their hearts that the overwhelming noise heard from every direction would soon stop. She wished with all her heart that the fate of this moment would be the same as the one that took place back then, that it would ultimately prove not to be an all-destroying earthquake, but a rather minor earthquake of modest damage. The sentence the soldier threw at them alluded to something entirely different: "Es lohnt zich. Es gibet dort zehr gut esen."19 Silvana felt as though an electrical current was shuddering through their arms. She held her mother's hand. Her desire to feel her finally overpowered her need to see the train, which had begun to growl. Out of nowhere a shout was suddenly shot into the air: "Einsteigen!"20 They boarded the train. Silvana had hit rock bottom. The combination of the "Einsteigen" shout and her terrible anxiety over the destination of their ride had scared her so, that she defecated in the underwear her mother had made her from a sheet in Civitella.
The sight of the railcar from inside did not help one bit. The railcar was almost completely sealed, barring two small windows, which a man of average height would have to stand on his toes in order to peep through. The sight of the exposed railcar was revealed to her for a mere few moments, as it instantly crowded with people. Their frantic stares divulged nothing but angst and helplessness, and their mouths gaped in astonishment and inability to comprehend the sight revealed before them. Silvana stood among them, desperately wishing to dispose of her filthy underwear. The train departed the station. Long hours passed. Every so often they heard explosions, and it sounded to them as though they were directed at the tracks. One such explosion, next to their railcar, extricated from Silvana the remainders of the feces still left in her body. Her mother noticed this, shoved her amidst the people toward the corner of the railcar, concealed her with her body, helped her take off her pants and underwear, rolled them into a bundle and placed it behind a broken wooden chair. From her large canvass bag she handed her daughter pants also made from the sheets of the Italian couture fashion house, Civitella del Tronto.
After a half day's ride the hunger began to demand Silvana's attention. It was not the moderate hunger that had become her permanent companion since arriving in Italy – she had rapidly adjusted to that – but an uninhibited yearning for something edible in her mouth. She made her way through the human lump until she reached Yona Hahmon, as she assumed the latter was concealing bread in some hiding-place on her body. "Jibi," she said in a sharp tone, "Jibi."21 Yona immediately understood her intention, lowered Silvana's head to the palm of her hand and let her peck the piece of bread she hid there, making sure while doing so that no one could discern what was happening. When Silvana finished, Yona buried half a slice of bread in Silvana's hand and told her, "Questo e per Toni."22 Silvana worked her way back to her family. Toni stood close to her mother, her head leaning against her chest and her eyes closed. Silvana contemplated waking her up and giving her the bread, but decided it was better she were not awakened to reality. She nibbled on her sister's slice of bread bit by bit, wishing that Toni would not wake up before she consumed it altogether. Her mother, who easily recognized what was going on, told her that there was no reason to torment herself and that it was good that she ate Toni's slice, as before they left Civitella the 'Tedeschi Neri' permitted them to take food and drinks with them. That was only partially true. While the SS men did allow them to take food and water, right before they boarded the train they confiscated part of the supplies.
Half a day later the silence hanging over the train's passengers had begun to wear off. "Ukfi! Ukfi!"23 someone screamed from the side of the railcar. "Hnan nhabo ninzlo,"24 a stifled call was heard from its other side. The train continued its journey, alternately speeding and slowing its pace, successfully maneuvering its way through near or distant bombings, and passing by farmers, whose astonished expressions at the sight of a cattle train populated by people one could not miss even through the small windows of the railcar.
At once Tino Saadon's voice cut through the chorus of outcries with a spiral scream. The other screams were firmly entangled within each other, intermeshed, while his evaded any contact with other noise. It was distinct from the rest, a pure scream. "Yasser!"25 he screamed with all his might and stretched his voice until there was no more breath, "Yiezzi!"26 Everyone heard his cry for help, but no one responded. And immediately the mouths emitted idle whispers: If Tino Saadon was so hungry, he can eat himself, maybe he should ask 'Tedeschi Neri' friends for pasta. When the whispers finished their whirling course through the throats and silence fell, Tino began pushing the people in a crazed fashion, carving through the human cluster left and right with punches that had nothing to do with the gentle Tino Saadon of old, the man whose soul was forever devoted to the bible alone. He reached one of the railcar's corners, positioned the tossed wooden chair with his hands, climbed on top of it, tied a sheet to a metal bolt that protruded from the seam joining the railcar's ceiling with one of its sides, fastened around his neck the sheet's noose he prepared ahead, and pushed the chair from under him. No one ran to save him. He instantly breathed his last, and his body was left hanging.
From the jumble of tangible arms surrounding Silvana emerged two imaginary arms that held her neck tight. All the fervent jerking of her head did not help release herself from their grip. She felt that the sparse air in the railcar passed her by. Only after her mother drew her in against her chest, did the imaginary arms slowly let go of her throat, and the air returned to call upon her lungs too. In a miserly way. Measuredly.
Tino Saadon's death as if revived several of the men who had spent time with him building fortifications on the front line. They did not bother concealing their joy over his death. On the contrary, their overt cheerfulness as if prevented them from self-reflection and their eyes blocked out their own misery. When the train slowed down, two of the men approached Tino's body and lowered it as crudely as if removing a piece of meat from the hook at the butcher's. They wrapped the body in a sheet and tossed it aside. The body would not leave Silvana's spirit, pressing down on her heart with all its weight. When she wanted to speak with someone, the body as if stood between them. Silvana did not lend an ear to the several consoling sayings dispersed into the air, such as "Almeno e morto su terra italiana",27 and recalled the words Tino said to her in his prediction, that they would never see Benghazi again. On the whole she gave him in death a greater voice than in life. From that moment on she began to consult with him on various matters, for example if she should plan an escape again. One matter alone she did not share with him – her faith. This remained off limits in their imaginary conversations. Every time she attempted to wriggle her way into them, Silvana conjured up the sight of Tino's body so it would be harder for her to have these conversations. The sight of the body made her cry instead of talk.
The first morning on the train dawnd darkly. Strong sun beams penetrated the railcar and shed new light on Tino Saadon's death. Even the men who found him unbearable and never once forgot his betrayal withdrew into themselves. Sorrow and dread covered the heads of the people like two giant skullcaps. No one yelled. No one spoke. The smell of stool hovered in the railcar.
Silvana's father made use of the shrieking silence to announce that from now on the food in everyone's possession would be distributed equally. For this purpose he cleared half a square meter of space, to which all food and water they managed to bring with them on the train was gathered. They did not know how long the ride would be, and Eliyahu Haggiag decided to institute a strict food rationing. Each person received a whole slice of bread at noon and half a slice in the evening. The drinking policy was slightly more flexible. The children's requests for water were always granted. Everyone assumed the supplies would suffice.
But they were mistaken. Even after two whole days the train continued its ride, except for a few stops of undetermined stretches. More and more people neared the slightly larger window among the two, which everyone began to call "the most important thing in the universe", and tried to draw through it a bit of air. In order to achieve this, some even stepped on Tino Saadon's body. The sight was more than Silvana could bear.
On the third day of the ride the heavy thirst began to affect everyone. "Mieh,"28 suppressed moans were heard from every direction, "mieh." Silvana did her best not to look at people's faces. Everyone seemed to her much older than their actual age. Even Yona Hahmon, whose young and fresh features were always admired by all, now looked old and haggard. Silvana did not want to see this, and suddenly a longing for Civitella del Tronto washed over her. She was not the only one. Children pleaded to their parents to be taken back, women praised the name of the place. But others were convinced they were on their way to a much better place than Civitella. David Halfon, whose long white beard granted him the appearance of a sage, solemnly declared they were heading to San Pietro, a lavish sanitorium in the Alps, and there they would lodge in excellent conditions so that when the time came the Germans would be able to send them back safe and sound in an exchange of prisoners. For some people his words served as a lifeboat, and they clung to him for the remainder of the ride. A few of them even asked him about his source of information, and when he replied that he was told this by one of the 'Tedeschi Neri' who guarded them at the camp, a man whose relatively gentle ways everyone remembered, their grip around the imaginary lifeboat tightened.
Silvana on her part doubted this, but she was too exhausted to voice her opinion out loud. Instead she used Toni every now and then to lift herself and peek through the "most important thing in the universe." The further the train advanced along the tracks, the greener the landscape became and provided fertile ground for the nightmares in her imagination. As long as she saw signposts in Italian her anxiety could be curbed. But on the third day of the ride she noticed through the window signs in a language she did not recognize, and then her nightmares broke through their boundaries and visions of the unspeakable penetrated her soul. As if to harden the blow, a woman behind her yelled: "Hnan mush fi l'Italia tfikina minha!"29 Asking to understand what was transpiring everyone rushed to squeeze against the window on their tiptoes in attempt to look out.
No one could say where they were. The adults shouted: "Eti lelilo yara, eti lelilo yara."30 Eliyahu Lilo Haggiag rose on his toes and ruled that they were in Switzerland or Germany. Piercing stares were directed at David Halfon, blaming him for the fact that they were now outside the Italian borders. Even his willingness to forgo his water ration for their benefit did not appease them one bit, and many of them muttered in anger infused with unbridled frustration which gathered in their dry throats: "San Pietro… San Pietro." The pressure they put on him stirred in Silvana the fear that he might follow in Tino Saadon's footsteps, and for several minutes she shifted her gaze back and forth from him to the metal bolt, the scene of Tino's terrible act. She stopped doing this when she saw a young man, whose name she could not remember, urinating into a small water bottle and mumbling, "We don't need Lilo Haggiag's water." Her gaze paused. Her relationship with the indifferent surrender now reached the height of its intimacy. It wrapped itself slowly around her body, luring her to become one with it, urging her to perceive the desire to keep fighting as a relic from an irrational world.
She acceded. She closed her eyes. Everything was quiet and pleasant. Even the monotonous rumble produced by the wheels of the train, clackety-clack-clackety-clack, served as a soothing soundtrack for her lovemaking with the surrender. Even the stench that began to rise from Tino Saadon's body did not ruffle the air of restfulness that engulfed her. Silvana fell asleep. She dreamed of the Jewish soldier, gazed at him and herself about to wed in an impressive ceremony in a place neither of them had ever seen before, and a moment before the rabbi blessed them in the union of marriage each of them set off in an opposite direction, announcing that they did not agree to live in the other's country. When she woke up, the dream was the only thing on her mind. Veiled in threads of slumber she was unable to grasp that the train had slowed its pace and was unable to hear the assumptions of those around her regarding the meaning of this. After a few moments, when she thought for the third or fourth time about her mother chasing after her in her dream and pleading with her to go with Amos Rozman to Palestine, she heard the train come to a halt.
It seemed that this time they had reached their destination. "Saxony," Eliyahu Haggiag said, "hnan fi Saxony." None of them had called for this port of call. Everyone shifted their gaze to and fro from "the most important thing in the universe" to the heavy sliding door. Despite the thirst and the heavy heat, it seemed as though no one was looking forward to the opening of the door. For the time being it remained shut.
"Ana ma ninzelsh hanaya,"31 Toni announced. Her father looked at her. Beneath his loving, anxious and exhausted gaze appeared a shadow of reprimand. "Ana ma ninzelsh hanaya," she repeated. "Binti, there is a lot of water here," her mother said, "and I am with you." After a while the door opened only a few centimeters, as if someone outside had paused its movement following a sudden order. The slit that formed between the door and its frame granted Silvana a viewpoint to the outside world. It seemed less threatening than she had imagined. Even the barking of dogs did not taint this sight. She even recognized a joyous tone in them, something of an excited affection toward the new guests. Silvana noticed that other people in the railcar also seemed less terrified now, and that their expressions took the shape of initial relief. Now the door signified for them also the possibility of departing their harsh state. It appeared that they favored this chance over any other. The possibility of leaving the railcar and reentering it at any time was the best thing they could have asked for at this stage.
The door slid slightly further, and then caught and no longer adhered to the attempts to open it. David Halfon stepped on the people who stood in his way to the door and tried to close it. Someone on the outside, only the thick palms of his hands visible to them, attempted to open the door while David Halfon tried to close it from inside. David Halfon was not granted the support he expected, not even from those who were more afraid of what was happening outside than inside. Someone even mocked him: "Yasser ya David utzalna lalbergo San Pietro halelini nitla."32 A moment later rhythmic calls were heard: "Fester, fester."33
The door remained in its place. Silvana's father suddenly said, "Kadin tarao hata lelalman mush kveyin kif ma nhasbu hnan."34 Silvana noticed a smile emerging on her mother's face. This was no trivial matter; it was a sign that the journey on the train had not crushed her spirit. As far as Silvana was concerned it was also proof that her own soul was still with her. She smiled. The next attempt to slide the door also failed. Loud voices were heard from outside, the Germans had called for help to pry the door open. Several minutes passed. No one came. The thick hand that previously opened the door to a crack disappeared as well. Silence prevailed outside the railcar. Inside various assumptions and speculations were tossed into the air. Submerged in thought, it occurred to Silvana that even if she was to return to Benghazi someday, she would always feel sorry for Tino Saadon that his gamble was unsuccessful.
It began to rain. Several people charged at the slit in attempt to thrust their hands out and gather a few drops, but their disappointment was bitter, the rain did not hold out its hand back to them. A squadron of planes was heard from a distance. The pirouette of rumors began anew. Now many believed that the Germans had fled because of the British aerial bombings, and that they themselves were left on their own. None of them knew how to carry on in light of this notion. It was neither friendly nor hostile. A few of them suggested attempting to open the door from inside. But no one moved. They continued to wait anxiously.
The rain pounded harder. The dogs outside barked with anger, as if they were vexed at its invasion of their territory. "Dahin!"35, a shout was heard from outside, "Dahin!"
They heard thunderous stomping of feet growing louder and louder. It seemed as though those outside were passing by the railcar. A woman who stood next to Silvana and could no longer bear the crowdedness, the thirst, the stench of feces and urine and the foul odor that rose from Tino Saadon's rotting corpse, screamed, "Hnan hanaya! Hnan hanaya!"36 Three pairs of hands and a large instrument thrust through the narrow opening. This time the door slid at once. The outside world spread out before their eyes.
"Raus!"37 called out to them a tall and fleshy soldier whose gesticulations preceded the words that left his mouth, "Raus! Raus!"
At first several of them tried to cling to the side of the railcar, but eventually everyone climbed off without having to endure the strike of the club in the tall soldier's hand. They managed to evade it. Except for the body of Tino Saadon, that was zealously bludgeoned by the soldiers before they tossed it out of the railcar. They were unable to hold a club for long without expressing its full essence. Half a moment later, while the prisoners stumbled along the railway, their heads buried in the gravelly ground, the club repeatedly landed on the backs of the stragglers. Silvana's mother was one of them. It was the first time in her life that anyone had ever struck her (she always took pride in the fact that even throughout her childhood no one dared lay a hand on her). When the club struck her back, she merely emitted a stunted groan and nothing else. It was clear that she was making every effort to continue carrying her gaunt body with pride. Silvana looked at Toni. The latter did not respond but kept walking and mumbling to herself that this was all they had gained in the end from their British citizenship, her eyes fixed on the railway tracks with a burning gaze, as if attempting to find something inside them: salvation, redemption. After covering several hundred meters, they heard a shout from an SS officer ordering them to stop.
Suddenly, as if from another world, Silvana's father laughed: "Sha lzimna bash nimshio ala rajlina? Alash ma andhemsh carosa?"38 To their right appeared a fenced-in camp, and inside it long sheds and people sprawled on the earth like rocks. Silvana felt in her heart what she would later know in her mind: this camp was to be the canvas upon which she would paint the portrait of her world.
1. Yossi Sucary is an Israeli-born novelist and professor of literature at Tel Aviv University. This is his third novel, based on the memories of his grandmother and mother. The original Hebrew, Benghazi—Bergen-Belsen, published by Am Oved in 2013, won the prestigious Brenner Prize for Fiction. We present, with thanks to the author for his kind permission, excerpts from Chapter 1 and the last chapter, describing the wartime experiences and deportation to Bergen-Belsen of Libyan Jews who held British nationality.
2. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Relax, Silvana, relax. All notes are by the author.
3. Jewish Libyan Arabic: How are you, Silvana?
4. German: Good evening.
5. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Silvana, honey, don't go through that path.
6. Jewish Libyan Arabic: My child, the entire world is your playground, your space and wellbeing.
7. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Run away from them.
8. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Wait, wait.
9. German: Stop!
10. German: You are a pretty girl.
11. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Mother, where are you? Father, where are you?
12. Italian: Not you.
13. German: Faster, Jews! Faster, Jews! Faster, Jews!
14. German: Free […] you are free.
15. Jewish Libyan Arabic: We are English, we are English.
16. German: Let's go! Let's go!
17. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Please don't let them take us out of Italy.
18. German: Perhaps you would like a ticket for first class?
19. German: You should, they have excellent food.
20. German: Get in!
21. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Give […] give.
22. Italian: This is for Toni.
23. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Stop! Stop!
24. Jewish Libyan Arabic: We want to get off.
25. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Enough!
26. Jewish Libyan Arabic: No more!
27. Italian: At least he died on Italian soil.
28. Oh, ay, aargh….
29. Jewish Libyan Arabic: We're not in Italy anymore!
30. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Let Eliyahu see, let Eliyahu see.
31. Jewish Libyan Arabic: I am not getting off here.
32. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Let it go, David, let it go, we reached San Pietro hotel, let us out.
33. German: Stronger, stronger.
34. Jewish Libyan Arabic: You see, even the Germans are not as strong as we thought.
35. German: That way!
36. Jewish Libyan Arabic: We're here! We're here!
37. German: Out!
38. Jewish Libyan Arabic: Why do we have to walk? Why don't they have carozzas here?