May 11, 2000
Who would have thought that living next to the prime minister's house would be such a good move for a single Jewish woman? Maybe it's Ehud Barak's less-than-comely appearance that drove him to hire such gorgeous guards to protect his domain - and I do mean gorgeous. I noticed them right away when I went to check out the apartment. I had been talking to the taxi driver about my love life and he wanted to set me up with one of his friends. As he asked me what my type was, I looked up and eyed a guard. "Him," I responded, pointing to the tall, sculpted tower of muscle standing at the gate.
After I paid the fare, I noticed the guard's colleagues walking in front of Barak's house and keeping watch in towers located on the opposite corners of the stone building. They may just as well have walked out of GQ magazine. They were clad in neatly pressed suits with guns around their shoulders, poised, tall and rugged. Even if they didn't represent the picture-perfect model of a handsome Israeli man, I still couldn't have ignored them. They closely watch anyone who lingers in front of Barak's house and inspect the motors of any cars that park or drop off passengers there.
The presence of the guards, coupled with the price and location of the place, prompted me to move in - for security reasons, of course. A single woman living on the ground floor needs protection.On the day I moved in, I parked right in front of the building to make sure they saw my car. I had purposefully forgotten a few things at the market, so I got a little dressed up and left to finish my shopping.When I returned, they examined my car I was happy to check them out as well. It would take a while, they said, until the guards would be familiar with my the car and have it registered on a list of approved vehicles. Was that really true, or were they, as I had hoped, also looking for an excuse to check me out?
One can never tell with them. In the tradition of Israeli security men, they wear a very stoic look, never betraying their toughness and professionalism. I felt a sense of victory when I got one of the guards to help me move some baggage. We exchanged names in neighborly way, but he went on his way after he completed his task.
My excitement at having such protection, though, also has its moments of frustration. For one thing, my privacy is more limited. They see when I leave and when I come home - and with whom. I always hesitate to take out the garbage when I'm wearing my shlumpy pajamas. They circle my building a few times a day, and I often imagine that they are looking through my window, wondering what I'm doing, listening to my conversations.
Living here has inspired some questions about relations with neighbors. If you are attracted to someone you see every day, should you risk exposing your affections if his rejection will leave you feeling awkward every time you see him afterward? What if I were to approach a guard and he didn't return my interest? Would I be the object of shame, ridicule and gossip? And even he didn't respond for mere professional reasons, I'd still have to see him every day and be reminded of the rejection.
Still, I have my fun. Whenever a taxi drops me off, I always tell the driver I'm Barak's intern. Some of them get it. As I walk up my path, I give the guard in the tower a wave and a mischievous smile and fantasize about how nice it would be if they brought me in for questioning. I also think about what it would be like to be the prime minister living in that secure mansion next door.