Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Once a week in Israel

a young boy who is able to do almost nothing for himself breaks out into smiles and laughter as his father passes him over to another father. The two men chat for a moment about the sort of week the boy has had and whether there is anything special that has happened or needs to be watched for.
Recently the other father showed the boy's father a problem with a door. The two of them worked together to repair it watched by the child. He was all smiles when his father left. By then he was in the arms of the other mother - the only mother he knows. His own died at birth. His own lifespan is limited because of his medical condition.  
That once a week visit gives his father and his grandmother a break. It gives them an undisturbed night's sleep. It allows the child to socialise outside the narrow limits of a life lived largely in one room with only the television set for company.  
The child is a Palestinian. His "other parents" are Jewish.  His Palestinian father counts the Jewish man as one of his closest friends. The Jewish man reciprocates.  They share many things. It began with a game of chess but now it includes meals and other things.
None of this happened easily. I don't know the whole story and, even if I did, it would not be mine to tell. I know only because the mother is someone I have worked with over a number of years. It's not easy. Both families are criticised for fraternising with the other. There are other families doing similar things. It is not easy for them either. There are differences - and tensions too - but they are persisting.
"The hardest thing I do each week is hand him back," J has told me more than once. She knows how hard it is for his father too.
Almost half of the Palestinian population is under the age of 14. Many of them die. Many of those who died on flight MH17 were children. Three of them came from the same family. An Afghan family lost their three daughters recently. An Iraqi family lost five children - the children of two brothers.
No wonder J finds it hard to hand her other son back. We should be keeping children safe.

1 comment:

Miriam Drori said...

Not only are children not kept safe. In many cases, they're made to fight adult wars.