Months passed. Years passed. Israel had been a country for over half a century, and still she had yet to find peace…
The explosion rocked Israel's kitchen, sending her tumbling into a cabinet. Cursing, the nation crawled over to the stove and opened it. Smoke billowed out.
At least the rest of the house is still standing this time… she thought, coughing as she got back to her feet and stumbled into the hallway.
"Gaza!" she shouted, but there was no response. She entered the living room, where a territory with the appearance of a pre-teen boy was sitting on the couch, watching TV.
"West Bank, where is Gaza?" Israel asked.
The boy shrugged. "Around," he said.
Israel sighed, knowing that she wasn't going to get a better answer, and continued her search.
She finally found the little territory nonchalantly sitting on the backyard fence.
"Gaza, what was that?" she demanded.
A smirk formed on Gaza's face. "I think it was Ashkelon. That city's been begging for a good bombing, and we had a rocket handy."
Israel leaned against the fence, rubbing her temples. This was a headache that she did not need today.
"What do you want, Gaza?" she asked.
"I'm hungry," he complained. "And there isn't enough water."
"I give you more than enough food, and if there is actually a water shortage, you should have thought about that before you started building swimming pools in Gaza City."
Gaza pouted. "My people are hurt. Your soldiers keep attacking."
"If you'd stop bombing, I'd stop attacking."
"You don't need to attack the schools and hospitals!"
"You keep your bombs in the schools and hospitals!"
"My people are helpless!"
"Your people refuse aid!"
"You won't let us rule ourselves!"
"With what government are you to rule yourselves?"
"You keep building illegal settlements in West Bank's land."
"Settlements in my capital city are not illegal!"
"The media says you're the antagonist. So there."
"The media's wrong," Israel snarled.
Gaza smiled. "Well, there's nothing you can do about that, now, is there? And soon the world's gonna get tired of watching your completely unjust attacks of innocent Palestinians on television, and they'll come and save us from your apartheid regime."
Israel turned around and walked away.
"When my dad and my uncles come for me, oh, you'll be sorry then!" Gaza called after her.
Israel whirled around. "For the thousandth time, Gaza, they're not coming!" she shouted. "They don't want you! They just want everyone to focus on me instead of all the horrible things they're doing in their own homes. So shut up, stop fighting me, and let's actually make things better in this miserable little piece of the world!"
Gaza stuck out his tongue at her. Israel let out an exasperated grunt and stormed off.
The cheeky little… Why can't he just… And his cousin's no better… This, and the other nations at my throat every other day… Will it ever end?
Hadassah looked around. In her distraction, she'd wandered nearly to the opposite side of her city, and now she stood at the top of Mount Scopus. She could see the entirety of the old city from up here. Her city. It had changed much, but still it was her Jerusalem.
Israel sat down in the grass, Gaza's taunts still reverberating in her head, mixing with thousands of years of threats and curses into a cacophony of dissent. Loudest of all were the shouts of a hopeless girl in a ruined temple.
"Scarred and decrepit, hated by all who surround you… The pain will never end, Esther."
Hadassah rolled up her sleeve. There they were, the scars, same as they always were. They hadn't faded a bit. The probably never would.
Maybe she was right, Israel thought. Maybe there'll never be anything but war, pain, and death. So many nations want me dead, and the others are indifferent at best… And it doesn't seem like it will ever end.
Israel drew her legs up to her chest and placed her face against her knees. How long can I go on like this?
After a long time, she heard footsteps. She ignored the sound; it was probably some tourist. Humans usually ignored her unless she wanted them to notice her.
The footsteps stopped nearby.
Israel looked up. There, standing just to her right, was Egypt.
She quickly got to her feet. "What do you want?"
For several moments, he just stared at her with that blank expression he wore so often nowadays.
"I want to show you something," he finally said.
Israel frowned slightly. "Show me what?"
"Something that I have found, and that I think you should see. In my country."
Israel hesitated. Despite their treaties, relations between her people and the Egyptians had become very strained due to the recent uprisings in Cairo. What if it was a trap? What if something went wrong while she was away?
He was waiting for an answer.
"…okay," Israel finally decided.
Egypt led her across the border without trouble, but instead of entering a city he went out into the desert. Eventually they arrived at a dig site, which seemed fresh but was oddly devoid of archeologists.
"I have told them to stay away," was the only answer Egypt gave when Israel voiced that observation.
Flashlights in hand, the two nations entered the narrow, underground hall.
"Is this a tomb?" Israel asked, ducking to avoid bumping her head on the low ceiling.
"No one was laid to rest here," Egypt replied. "But it is something special."
The hallway opened into a large chamber, dark everywhere their torchlight wasn't. Israel couldn't tell how big it was, but when Egypt next spoke, his soft, low voice echoed.
"Look here," he said, pointing his flashlight at the wall.
Israel looked. The wall was covered in ancient paint, hundreds of hieroglyphs surrounding what appeared to be scenes from daily Ancient Egyptian life. As she walked around the chamber, she saw people harvesting fields, and boats on the Nile, pharaohs giving orders to their subjects, priests making sacrifices to their gods…
She froze. Her flashlight had illuminated a woman's face, a face that was strangely familiar. She took a step closer, moving her flashlight, trying to see the whole picture.
It was a woman, dressed in the robes and jewels of a queen, sitting on a throne. In her lap was a little girl, who was smiling and reaching out to a young boy, a prince, standing in front of the throne. At the boys feet stood a black dog.
But it wasn't a queen, Israel realized. It was a kingdom. That was Ancient Egypt sitting there, and a young Egypt standing before her with his pup Anubis at his heel. And the girl on her lap…
It was her. Little Hadassah, the Egyptian princess. Nearly five thousand years before.
The happiest years of her life.
The light shifted; her hands were trembling.
"Why do you show me this?" she whispered to Egypt behind her, not taking her eyes off of the picture.
There was a long pause before Egypt replied.
"Things are very uncertain now, Israel," he finally said. "I do not know what my people will do next, what they will call me to do next. Time continues ever onward, and with it comes more trials. Those trials may involve me turning against you again.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the only painting of you, myself, and my mother in existence. When I first saw this, I nearly ordered it destroyed, buried, forgotten. So much has changed since then; amidst the troubles of today, forgetting would be easiest.
"But I could not do it. I could not destroy this, this lone testament to what once was. What we once were. In my youth, you were my friend and sister, Hadassah. Whatever happens, I will never forget that."
Hadassah turned around. "Mitzrayim…" she whispered, too overcome to say anything else.
Egypt smiled. "We have both come so far, my sister. For over five thousand years we have continued to exist, you and I. Let us continue for five thousand more."
Israel nodded, tears welling up in her eyes as she took her brother's hand in hers.