Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Wish on Mothers’ Day

Yesterday my husband and I had supper with a young Palestinian couple. Their six week old baby boy, wrapped in a light blanket, was cradled in his mother’s arms. One chubby forearm, nestled near his cheek, framed his sleeping innocence. The baby was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania while his father was taking the final exams for his Master’s degree. His two year scholarship is finished and they are eager to go home. As I write, they are on their way.

The young father told me last night that he had never crossed the bridge over the River Jordan. When they had departed for the states, it was by plane from Tel Aviv airport. I didn’t tell them what kind of treatment they might expect on the bridge. Maybe the treatment of Arabs has changed since I last crossed it about eight years ago. Maybe the Israeli security searches of one’s personal belongings are no longer so disrespectful. I know they have a lot of luggage with them – two years is a long time to collect things. All I said was that they are lucky that the weather is much cooler than last week when the temperature climbed to about 45 degrees centigrade in the Jordan Valley. I suggested they take a large bottle of water with them, but I didn’t mention that they may have to wait between three and seven hours before they will be allowed to enter the country of their birth.

The grandparents couldn’t drive from their home in Palestine to meet the couple at the airport yesterday. They won’t even be able to meet them at the bridge when they enter the West Bank because they can not move freely inside their own country. They are Arabs. So they wait, anxious and excited to meet their new grandson and be reunited with their children.

I hope that the young family is in a taxi nearing their home town of Bethlehem now. I can imagine the excitement they are feeling. I wish them luck, but I can’t help thinking of the baby’s future. Will the view from his parents’ home be blocked by the huge eight meter high apartheid wall that twists around Bethlehem? Will he be able to walk to school without harassment by settlers? Will he be safe in his classroom from exploding tear gas canisters that are thrown by Israeli troops? Will his parents have to send him away when he turns 16, like we had to do with our son? At 16 an Arab male is considered a security risk by the Israelis, and he can suffer badly at their hands if he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whatever his future holds, I hope he will not become cannon fodder nor raise his hands in violence to others. I hope he will have all the rights that children everywhere deserve. I hope this little baby enroute to his family home in Bethlehem will grow up to become a peace maker and negotiator – the world needs so many more.

ASH

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