Monday, July 28, 2008

Bethlehem: the things that made me cry [the stonecutter's family]

A faded tattoo dots her chin. Blue. The color of air and water. Life and pain.

The soldiers do not see her garden. Do not recognize her mint. The cups of tea she gives to all her guests. The Bedouin coffee in small mugs. Just a taste of cardamon. A welcome gift.

Her husband speaks softly in his throat. Hobbles on two legs, mismatched (only one is flesh). Coos softly to his doves. His baby sheep. His goats. His gazelle with the soft brown eyes. Calls them his children. Watches them grow.

He builds with his hands. Cuts stone and polishes wood. Erects a house. Piece by piece by piece. Lovingly, he creates beauty from the dust. The ashes.

He knows the guards will come again. Tomorrow. The next day. Or the next. The soldiers with the bulldozers and the trucks. The settlers with their guns. Tear his life apart. The furniture, carved and polished with his gnarled fingers. The paintings on the walls. Of a different Palestine; a peaceful Palestine. Will crush the stones beneath their feet -- machine and human. Will leave nothing but rubble. Where her dishes used to hang. Her cupboards. Her tea.

They know it will happen, because it has always happened before. Three times they have rebuilt. Three times he has cut rocks for his walls. Three times he has polished wood for his bed. But still he does not despair. Still he builds for beauty. They can tear our homes apart, he says, but not our souls. Never our souls.

She speaks with tears in her eyes. Of her life. Of her family. Talks of her sons. Every mother, she says, loves her children. Wants to see them grow old. Survive her. Know happiness and joy. Already she has watched one die. Another lives in an Israeli prison. His sentence: five-hundred years, and to never see his son -- never kiss his cheeks in greeting, never scare the monsters from beneath his bed. Her last child sleeps in the adjoining room. Gone for years -- just released. They are building him a home attached to theirs. They want to never let him go.

This woman with her mint, this man with his soft voice -- they are the enemy. Because he worked for the PLO; believed in a free Palestine. Because her sons threw stones.

And yet they testify to hope. To humanity. To perseverance and the creation of beauty. He says they live, waiting for God to come.

Our guide introduced him as a man with a powerful spirit. As a friend.

We left them amid their stones.

1 comment:

Megan said...

I can hardly read your blog anymore. It calls to me too much of the things I saw -- the things I almost forgot but that are even now welling up inside me -- the fear that I've abandoned the pain of existence for a comfortable life. Thank you for reminding me.