... As more defenders were killed or injured, we runners found ourselves taking on new roles. Judith, the medic took charge of our training. She was one of the oldest defenders – maybe in her mid twenties – and everyone obeyed her. She taught us how to administer a tourniquet, and scolded us when we giggled in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation lessons. I could see that she was hiding a smile, and I was not afraid of her. I wanted to be just like her. It was then that I vowed to become a nurse.
In our weapon lessons, Judith gave each of us a pile of empty magazines and ordered us to scrub the rust, clean, oil and fill them. Then she'd checked that the bullets popped out smoothly. Pushing the bullets against the spring blistered my fingers, but once I mastered the technique, I found that I could enjoy the rhythmic, hypnotizing routine. Thirty bullets per magazine.
Judith was a strict teacher. ‘The smallest of errors cost life,’ she said.
‘Hold the sten,’ she raised her voice, shoving the submachine gun into my reluctant hands. It felt cold and heavy and smelt of burnt oil. I let go, and only the sling broke the fall. I yelped when it whacked the back my neck.
‘You dropped a weapon!?’ Judith shrieked in disbelief. ‘Do you realize how many people have given their lives so that we can have this gun here today? We don’t even have a hundred of them in the entire city. This is the first and the last time it will ever happen. Do you understand me!? Now stand in the corner with the sten high over your head.’
Only when my hands gave up completely, she allowed me to rejoin the training. It was a lesson I would never forget.
It has always amazed me how quickly you get accustomed to things that only yesterday you were terrified of. Handling a weapon was no different. Once I got used to the feel of the sten, I could take it apart and put it back together in less than forty seconds, even with my eyes covered. ‘You never know when you’ll need to handle it in the dark,’ Judith told us. She taught us how to load it, aim and pull the trigger. It could shoot nearly 400 rounds per minute. Of course, we didn’t shoot it. We didn’t have bullets to spare, and the noise would have brought the British immediately. I hated them. They had no right to be here. I remember how they broke into the Rabbi’s house, pulled his wife and daughter from their hiding place under the bed and shot them. They arrested our men and released them to be lynched by the mob. They confiscated our defense weapons. Yet, they let the Arabs carry theirs openly. The Arabs knew they were supported, and from the top of the minarets they summoned the crowd: ‘a’dulla ma’ana!’ The government’s with us.