by CPTer Maureen Jack
6 April 2008
There is a little Palestinian girl called Maha* who lives next door to us. She is six and bright as a button. We like her a lot, which is just as well as she loves to spend time with us. She likes doing things like helping us to clean the floor or rinse our hair when we wash it. Also, she helps us with our Arabic. She is an exacting teacher and our efforts to pronounce words correctly often meet with a firm ‘No.’ But she is patient, and when she speaks to us her Arabic is slow and clear. She has taken us to visit her mother and be served tea with bread and freshly-made butter. Sometimes we spend less time with her than she would wish, because we have to accompany shepherds with their sheep and goats. So three days ago she asked two of us to go with her and her mother with their flock of sheep. On our way out of the village we bumped into her mother who told us that the sheep were safely tucked up at their house and were staying there for the rest of the day. We await Maha’s next strategy with interest!
So, Maha is a sturdy, resourceful little girl. But a few days ago she was terrified. My teammate Jessica and I saw her set off with her younger sister and an adult relative. They were going to Yatta (a nearby city) for the day and Maha was very excited. They headed off to cross the Israeli road to walk on the Palestinian track to Yatta. Suddenly Maha was running back towards us in tears, crying, ‘Miriam, Miriam!’ (This is what some of the younger children call me.) A car was sitting beside the turn-off to Yatta and an Israeli man was outside speaking on his phone. Maha’s words tumbled out among her tears and all we could make out was ‘Settlers!’ She gripped my hand tightly as we walked with them across the road and saw them off on their way to Yatta.
Now, I don’t know whether the men in the car were settlers or simply Israelis driving from Jerusalem to Beersheva.. Maybe Maha’s fears were not justified. But they were understandable. In the last few days adult Israeli settlers have thrown stones at her schoolmates as they played in their own garden area; they have assaulted the father and grandfather of one of her classmates; and a settler and his three sons have chased after and yelled at her schoolmates as Israeli soldiers escorted them home from school.
Maha is a great kid. I’m sad and angry that she was scared yesterday. If you knew her you would be too.
* not her real name