4

Singled Out

Gish was a world in a dark dream for weeks after the men and older boys were taken from us.

Women moved through the streets and in the garden plots like solemn apparitions. Beneath the longing and sadness, their eyes stared with a frightening hollowness. If the men had been slain before our eyes, I think it would have been easier to go on with living. Women who have lost men at sea, or whose sons have simply vanished in foreign wars understand this feeling. Not knowing is a horror. in the back of each woman's mind, no doubt, during the aching, endless nights, were the shallow graves in the sand lot outside Gish.

Another unknown was disturbing. A few well-armed soldiers were still guarding Biram, yet they did not bother us. Why? Were they just waiting to return any day or while we lay asleep, and haul us off to--what fate? Along with the emptiness of loss, there burned a certain fear.

Had there been no younger children demanding attention, had it not been for the comforts of Abu 'Eed whom the soldiers had left behind, some of the women might have opened their jaws in one unending scream, stepping into the blackness of the mind from which there is no return. Instead, they were forced into a rythmn of simple duties: childcare, work in the fields, preparing meals.

In all this, an unusual thing was happening to Mother. One by one, other women would come to her. The moment they looked into her eyes, they would fall on her shoulder weeping, broken inside. Instead of dissolving along with them, Mother would offer a listening ear, a few words, and the women would leace comforted. I had seen Mother's own tears, could sense her continuing hurt at the absence of Father, Rudah, Chacour and Musah. But somehow she never seemed alone--never abandoned. She took on a gentle strength, and to anyone around her it gave the solidness of hope.

Mother's greatest comfort was in prayer. As the weeks wore into months, and evenings lengthened with the coming of summer, she continued to gather us around her outside under the deepening skies. To Wardi, Atallah and me, it gave a certain peace to carry on Father's custom. To Mother, peace came not from habit or ritual words, never doubting for an instant that a loving ear attended her voice.

With a solemn innocence, she prayed one evening, "We know that you watch the sparrows, Lord. And only you know where Michael and the boys are this night. Will you watch them for us? Guide their steps? We give them into yoiur hand's."

In the mind's eye, I could picture Jesus. He was looking at Mother with tears in His own eyes, drawing from her the hurt behind her brave words, leaving of spirit in its place.

Allow us to be your servants here in Gish," she continued. "Let our hands be your hands to comfort the suffering. Let our lips bring the peace of your Spirit."

Something was happening to me during these months, too.More and more, I came to enjoy solitude. In the middle of a game I would quit the group and wander off alone. followed by the questioning glances of my playmates. The last wild irises and poppies, anemones in yellow, pink and scarlet were pushing up between the stones. In a week or two, the hot breath of summer would burn the slopes a brittle brown. The morning after Mother's special prayer, I climbed alone to the top of the hill and sat beneath an olive tree. To the south, somewhere beyond the hills, rocked the Sea of Galilee. I imagined my Champion striding toward me over the stormchurned waves, calming the waters with a word: "Peace." I thought of Him climbing the Mount of Beatitudes. There, as Mother taught me, He said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

What did these words really mean? For the first time, I turned them over and over in my mind like a smooth stone. Almost without thinking, I began innocently pouring out my heart. "Mother has yiur comfort. I can see that. But can't you just speak a word and make all this trouble fo away? Do you want us to be your lips and hands and feet--as Mother prays--to bring peace again? If that,s true, you can use my hands and feet. Even my tongue," I added, thinking of my usually fiery words.

I didn't know it then, but this was to be one of the most important prayers of my life. And a first, small step committing me to a long journey.

At the moment, I was thinking about Father and my brothers, slipping in one special request just for me. "Please bring them home," I whispered. Then I wondered if Father would have called that a selfish prayer. I should leave such matters in God"s hands, Father would say.

Three months passed, and still we had no word about the men. The matter of our own safety loomed over us as the summer of 1949 stretched on. In nearby Biram, the soldiers were strangely quiet.

One evening, after prayers, Mother allowed Wardi, Atallah and me to play outside as usual until bedtime. But at dark, she hurried us inside, for few remained outdoors then. After she settled us in bed, Mother moved about quietly in the dim light of a candle or two finishing her chores for the day. The very last sound I heard each night before drifting into sleep was the metal click of the heavy door-bolt. our only earthly protection from unwelcome visits in the dark.

A sharp elbow woke me. Atallah was plumping his pillow and fidgeting beside me. He was having a hard time settling down. I could hear Mother preparing for bed. Still groggy, I was about to push Atallah's knee out of my back when a noise disturbed the quiet. Atallah an I both sat up, suddenly awake, listening. Mother and Wardi sat listening, too.

The sound came again and drew my eyes to the door. The bolt rattled in its lock. Someone was trying to open it. A muffled voice from out in the night hissed, "Let us in. Quickly. Open up.

" I shrank back against Atallah, wide-eyed. Fear ran a cold fire up my spine. Mother had risen to her feet and stood frozen, one hand over her heart.

Who is it?" she called out bravely, but her voice shook.

"Let us in. Hurry. . . " the voice hissed again and was drowned out by others as the rattling continued.

Go away," Mother called. Now she was next to tears.

"I say it's Michael. Let us in. Were home."

"Michael?" Mother almost shrieked.

Atallah and Wardi and I were at her heels as she hurried to the door, slamming back the bolt. With our wits gathered, there was no mistaking that voice. Mother threw open the heavy door.

Four men pushed inside with the dark draft. I startled for moment, as if we had been tricked and these were strangers crowding in before us in the flickering candlelight. They were very thin-almost emaciated--their cheeks sunken behind unkempt beards. Their clothes were dirty and ragged, and the worn shoes were nearly falling off their feet. In the eyes of my three brothers was a wary, hunted look. Only Father seemed as calm as if he had just spent a pleasant day in his fig orchard, though he was obviously exhausted.

Mother threw herself on them, hugging, holding, kissing them, laughing and weeping with inexpressible joy. Rudah, Musah and Chacour, who at any other time might have shown the reserve of young men, began to weep and hug everyone--even Atallah and me.

I threw my arms around Father's waist. "Hello, Elias," he smiled, gently stroking my tousled hair. "I see you've taken care of everyone while I was away."

Mother hurrying about getting food and water. She was wringing with questions. "How did you get back here? Did anyone see you? Where did the soldiers take you? Are the other men with you?

We sat long into the night, Father's arm around my shoulder as he answered her questions. They had come on foot, of course. No, they were not seen since they had traveled mostly at night. I watched his serene face, and it seemed a miracle to that he and my brothers were alive and sitting close beside us as the candles burned low. Most amazing was the story of their survival.

On the night they were taken from Gish, the men were driven through the dark for hours. It was cramped and cold and windy in the trucks. They had passed Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, so Father knew they were headed south. But where? Toward daybreak, he saw that they were nearing the hill country that rose up to Jerusalem. The trucks pulled off the road north of the city near the town of Nablus on the border between the new State of Israel and the kingdom of Jordan. Hopefully, it was the soldiers' intent to drop them across the border--and nothing worse.

As the men staggered from the trucks in the bleak light of dawn, the soldiers opened fire, aiming just above their heads. The men of Biram scattered in terror, running like wild men in every direction. Some fell and were almost trampled. Father and my brothers tore through the open fields, stumbling through bushes and over the stones. At last they distanced the sjouting soldiers and the rifle fire., which was meant to drive them from their homeland for good, But Fathrr and brothers had only one plan in mind from the first moment: They would find their way home again, or die in the attempt.

Gradually, they made their way to the road tjat seemed to angle in a northeasterly direction--first toward Amman, then toward Damascas in Syria. They had no idea where any of my uncles had gone, and only occasionally did they find other men from our village on the road. Many of them were too frightened to consider returning to Gish. Most frightening was thr treatment they received at the hands of other Arab brothers in Jordan and syria where Father hoped to find help and the customary hospitality. At the first town they came to, Father and my brothers were turned away as vagabonds. Our "brothers" it seemed had no compassion for "dirty Palestinians." At the next town it was the same, and the next. They were driven out like lepers. For days they walked with little or nothing to eat, forced out of every town. At times they were so desperately hungry that they grovelled in the dirt for insects to eat. Nights they spent in a abandoned animal shelters in the hills or sleeping in the dirt and grass to wake soaked with dew and shivering. Had it not been summer, they would surely have died.

For days and weeks they traveled until they were close to Damascas. Then Father struck a southwesterly route that would carry them through a corner of Lebanon and into northern Israel. Once he spotted Mount Meron, the highest mountain in all Galilee, Father knew he was home. When they reached the fields outside Gish, they waited until dark in the event that soldiers were stationed in the village. Then, furtively, crept through the streets untill they found the right door, unsure that they would find us here after all their hardship.

Mother almost blushed when Father teased her about her stalwart refusal to open the door to her own husband. And he held her close. Three months of torment were over at last.

As Father prayed with us that night, I leaned against him, basking in the richness of his deep voice---I had missed it so much--and I was almost too overjoyed to comprehend his words.

"Father," he prayed, "they are treating us badly because we are the children of Ishmael. But we are true sons of Abraham--and your children. You saved Ishmael from death in the wilderness, and you have saved us. You brought justice for him and blessed him with a great nation. We thank you nowm for we know that you will bring justice for us. . . ."

In the coming months a few more men would return. On day, certain village house would be somber, with a mother and her babies facing the uncertainly of life on their own--and overnight, joy would dawn in that home again. Yet for every family that reunited, many more never saw their husbands, sons, fathers, uncles and cousins again. Mother and Father had both lost several brothers, and some of my older cousins had simply vanished as well. Only rarely did we hear some word--and no one could judge its reliability--that this uncle or that one was living in a refugee camp in Lebanon or Syria..

For the rest of that year I lived with a lingering shadow of fear that the soldiers would surprise us one day, roaring in with trucks to drag away the men once more. This time, perhaps, they would finish off their job more forcefully.

The soldiers did raid Gish again. In fact, as 1949 came to a close, the new government seemed ti undergo a strange, confusing reversal in its push to drive out the Palestinian people entirely. The elders began yo hear that the agricultural settlements were actually hiring Palestinian men and boys--a few at a time and "unoffically"--to work at menial jobs. Later we learned why. A cheap work force was crucial to the survival if their newest kibbutzim, since many of the incoming settklers had lived their lives in European cities and did not know how to farm. Now we understood why the soldiers never came back to drive out the men who had returned, for they were skilled in agriculture and desperate to work, even for low pay, to support their familes.

Something else was happening behind the scents in the new government of Israel, though the village elders had no way of knowing it yet. Soon they would see strong evidence of internal struggles within the government, clues that this new nation--which the whole world was proclaiming a "modern miracle"--was actually rife with factions vying for power.

Early in 1950, as the cold spring rains swept the hills, flooding the wild wells and driving our meagre flocks of sheep and goaaats into sheltering grottoes, more heart-stopping news reached us.

Plans were underway for a new kibbutz, an experimental, agriculture community set by the new government for settlers from Europe and America. I t was to be located just across the fields from our still-empty homes, and strangely, it wiuld be called Biram also. More startling was the news that some of the fertile land surrounding Biram had been sold to new landlords who had emigrated from foreign countries and were living in nearby jewish towns. Now we understood why the soldiers had stayed on in Biram to "protect" it from our return.

Most painful was the word that Father's fig orchard had been purchased from the government by a well-to-do settler as some sort of investment.

At this news, Father's face furrowed with grief. I was terrified that he would weep. He was still, his eyes shut, his mustasche drooping above a faintly trembling lip. He had planted those fig trees himself one by one, straining with heavy clays jars of water up the steep slopes, caring for each sapling until it was strong enough to survive on its own. they were almost like children to him.

And in the same moment, I wished that Father would rage. Perhaps fear had numbed my anger before tjis time. Now as I watched Father's pain-lined face, I shook with a horrible feeling. Wardi and my brothers squirmed. None of us could bear to see Father--dear, gentle, Father--in such agony of spirit.

When he spoke in a few minutes, his voice was barely above a whisper.

"Children," he said softly, turning those sad eyes upon us, "if someone hurts you, you can curse him. But this would be useless. Instesd, you have to ask the Lord to bless the man who makes himself your enemy. And do you know what will happen? The Lord will bless you with inner peace--and perhaps your enemy will turn from his wickedness. If not, the Lord will deal with him."

I could scarcely believe it! His life's work had just been torn from his hands. His land and trees--the only earthly possessions he had to pass on to his children--- were sold to a stranger.And still Father would not curseor allow himself to be angry. I puzzled at his words to us.

Inner peace. Maybe Father could find this strength in such circumstances. I doubted that I could.

I am certain that Father had a strong voice in what happened next. Immediately after the distressing news, the remnant or our village elders convened and decided to submit a petition to the new Israel Supreme Court Justice. In short, the petition welcomed the settkers to the new Biram. What had been taken could be considered as a gift from our people. However, they asked, could we return to our homes in the old Biram to live peacefully beside our new neighbors and farm the remaining land?

Father's other response to the sale of his land was more of a wonder to me.

In a few weeks we heard that the new owner of our property wanted to hire several men to come each day and dress the fig trees, tending them right through till harvest. Immediately, Father went to apply for the job, taking my three oldest brothers with him. They were hired and granted special work passes, the only way they could enter our own property.

When she heard what Father had done, Mother stared at him incredulously. "How can you do this, Michael? It's so awful. So wrong." Father replied simply, "If we go to care for the trees, we'll do the best job. Someone else won't know what they are doing. They'll break the branches and spoil the new growth." This was something Father could not bear to think.

And so, three years after our expulsion from Biram, Father and my brothers were hiring themselves out as laborers--just for the chance to touch and care for Father's beloved trees. I did not know the word irony then, but I could understand pain.

For months the elders of Biram continued in the hope that the new government would allow them to return to their homes. However, among the younger men, this hope was not so strong. A few began to speak of moving to the coastal cities of Haifa and Akko where, they had heard, Palestinian families were clustering in hopes that their men could find factory jobs. The new Israel was struggling to westernize, and that meant rapid industrial development. Again, lower paying jobs were opening to Palestinians a few at a time. Of course there was deep resentment. But living would be better there, the young men argued--at least they could feed and clothe their children. Here are there, a family moved out of Gish, shrugging off the elders' assurances that justice and our return of Biram were imminent.

Daily, as summer ripened, Father and my brothers hopefully climbed the long hill that seperated Biram and Gish to tend our own trees for the new landlord. And each day they would report on the progress of the new Biram kibbutz a dwelling going up here or there, poles being uprighted for the telephone and electrical wires, the constant surveillance by police from the nearby towns and the arrival of the first foreign tenants. Father bore, with characteristic patience, the indignity of having his special worker's pass scrutinized by the soldiers several times eachweek before he could setfoot on what had been his own land.

In this lull, terror would single me out.

For us boys, one of the few diversions from this chancey and unpredictable adult world was still a game of soccer. It was almost a daily ritual. though I was spending more and more time walking alone in the hills, I still loved to roughhouse with other boys. At eleven, I had become quite fast, though my kicking aim was not always so accurate as the older boys who mostly made up the teams. Atallah and Asad stuck up for me if there was ever a question of leaving me out, and and I was a wiry and eager player.

We were lost in a fierce competion on a hot afternoon toward the end of summer. I watched the ball being footed up the field, passed from one teammate to another, when a sound caught us by the ears. Heads spun aroundEveryone stopped in their tracks, the ball trailing off forgoten. It was a sound we feared by instinct.

Cars were speeding into Gish. My heart, pounding from the playful activity, nearly stopped. Were they again coming for Father and thr other men?

Several dark automobiles and jeeps raced into view, billowing clouds of dust in their wake. At the edge if our playing field, close to where a few of us were standing, they braked to a sudden, unexpected stop. Most of the other boys were running for home. Atallah and Asad with them. They must have thought I was right behind. In confusion, three or four of us stood transfixed, as if freezing in place would keep us from being seen. As the vehicles halted, a dozen men burst onto our playing field.

"You! Come here!" A huge man yelled, striding toward me. I could see by his uniform that he was a military policeman and, like the others, he had a gun at his belt. Roughly , he grabbed me by the shoulder, his fingers digging painfully. The other boys had been seized also.

"What shall we do with them?" shouted my captor.

I tried to twist out of his excruciating grasp, not that my shaking legs could have run if I'd wanted to, but the iron grip of his fingers dug into my neck.

First you tell us what you did with the wire," my captor demanded, shoving me against the other boys. A wall of men surrounded usd, firing questions and accusation.

"Who put you up to it? Tell us that."

"You don't want us to go after your families, do?"

"Maybe you'd care to tell us where the terrorists are hiding in your village."

"I think they want a beating."

I struggled to hold back hot tears. The others stared., mute with fear. None of us had any idea what they were talking about, Somehow I choked out a few words.

"We don't know what you are saying. What wire? We don't know abnout any wire? We've been playing soccer. . . "

"Lies," one of the men barked. "All you know how to do is lie."

For what seemed an endless time, they continued to threaten abd badger us. First one then the other would scream at us, always coming back to the charge that we had cut some kind of wire. Over and over, we protested that we had no idea what thet were talking about.

By this time, our teammates had sped through Gush breathlessly spilling the story that we were being held. People were flocking to see what had happened. In the crowed of men, women and children that were clustering some distance from us and the knot of angry men, I could see Mother. Father was striding toward us, his face a mask of fear. His coming, I hoped, would mean our rescue.

"What are you doig with these boys?" he challenged them as bodly as he dared. "What have they done that you're treating them like criminals?"

"They cut the telephone wire that was being run up to the new kibbutz," one man declared. " It was strung along the ground, waiting to be mounted on the poles. A section has been cut. It's missing. These boys were seen cutting it, and we want to know who put them up to it."

It was obvious thay they had simply grabbed us, the first childten they saw, and we were to be the "culprits." I suppose they thought that by threatening us, our parents would surrender the true villian. Unfortunately, there was no one to surrender.

"You think you can get away with terrorists actions?"

One of the men glared at the crowd, picking up a stick. The others searched the ground for sticks, too. "I think your boys will have some information for us if we coax them."

The men closed in on us, their bodies forming an impenetrable wall. I huddled against another boy, looking desperately for a way to escape. The huge man who had first grabbed me raised the stick over his head.

A stringing crack seared my shoulder. I drew a sharp breath and tried to shield myself from his next blows. The boy beside me screamed as he was struck across the back. We tried to fend off the slashing sticks with our arms, which only infuriated our captors. Another whipping blow stung my bare legs just below the short pants I was wearing. Then another. Two across my back--lashes like hot brands. Above our own cries, I could hear women begging the men to stop the beating.

As they struck us, the men shouted at our horrified families: "You are worth nothing--and your children are worth nothing. You are doing underground work. Your children are thieves and you're the ones who teach them to steel.!"

I thought the whipping would never end. And then, suddenly, the huge man grabbed me by the shirt.

"Now bring that piece of wire to me," he growled in my face. Then he shoved me away.

I stumbled toward Father on shaking legs, still stinging and choking on sobs. In confusion, I blurted, "Father, where do I go?"

The man, thinking, perhaps, that Father had cut the wire, turned on him with a face distorted by anger. "Is this what you teach your son?" he erupted. All the men were shouting and cursing. They swore at Father, calling him, among other disgusting things, that degrading name with which we were to be branded--"dirty Palestinians." I was shocked, pained more deeply than by any physical bruises, that my gentle father could be so abused in front of our whole village by these crude men.

Yet Father bore their insults silently. The huge man doubled his fist in Father's face. "Tomorrow we'll come back" he promised, "and you give us the wire or you and your son will come with us."

Still glaring at us, the policeman stalked back to their cars and jeeps and drove off.

The very next morning they did return, shoving Father and me into an automobile. As we rocked and jolted down the rough roads to their station om a nearby town, a chilling thought tempted me to tears: I will never see Mother again. They will throw me in jail and forget me. And at thr same time, another voice spoke from deep within my thoughts, soothing me with words, Peace, be still.

For many hours, the police interrogated us, hinting that I was in for a terrible time if Father did not help them find their wire. He remained calm,a study in politeness and respect despite their angry questions, firm in his assertion that I was innocent. In disgust, the police finally gave up and drove us back to Gish. When they left us, there were no more threats, but I feared that the incudent was not to be dropped.

That evening, Mother called me to sit beside her when everyone else was outside and we were alone. Now that my arms and legs had begun to stretch long and slender, I could no longer sit on her lap. I leaned against her, her bright kerchief soft against my cheek. Gently she took my hand.

Elias, I want to give you a treat," she said softly. "I have saved an egg, and I'm going go to cook it for you." For us, struggling to get by on the barest amount of food a cooked egg was indeed a treat. This was Mother's special way, I supposed, to help me feel a little better.

She hesitated a moment, then continued. "But first, Elias, please tell me. . . " she faltered, "tell me where the wire is. Bring it to us, and then this trouble will be over."

I sat up stiffly and stared at her. she was no longer young, the struggle of caring for a large family under such poor conditions had lined her face. A wisp of hair--graying hair--had escaped her kerchief. A certain weariness showed through her sweet smile. Poor Mother, after all the terror she had facrd--the disappearance of father and my brothers, many members of her own family driven into exile--I could not be angry with her. She simply feared the loss of her youngest. But I was angry--and hurt that such terror tatics could cause her to doubt her own son.

"Mother, I didn't do it." That was all I could reply to her.

For the next few days I drew away from my family and my playmates, retreating into the sun-parched hills to be alone. But not completely alone. the sheep on the hillside, the twisted, ancient olive trees, the far-off blue hills of the Golan Heights that towered around the Sea of Galilee--all these things reminded me of my constant Champion. My pace quickened up the brown-burnt slopes as if He were walking right beside me at that moment. I could almosst see His understanding look and in my head I heard Him, repeating the words Mother had quoted to me hundreds of times: Blessed are you when people falsely say all kinds of evil against you. . . for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I shook my head as if arguing with a playmate. I did not want to hear these words. I was no prophet. I only wanted to know why I was being singled out for such horrible treatment.

I had forgotten my prayer of months before when I had asked Him to use my hands and feet and tongue to bring peace back to our peoples' hearts. Had I remembered, I would not have understood then that such a commitment, when spoken from the heart, means being called out, singled from thr crowd. It may mean drinking from the bitter cup of rejection and humiliation--standing in the face of the lie in order for the truth to win out utimately.

I only knew that, despite my anger, I wanted things to be put right so that I could never again hear the wail of village women grieving for their lost--never again see the hurt in Mother's eyes, or hear Father cursed. I wanted so much for us to live in peace with our Jewish neighbors as we had before the soldiers came. The thought of living the rest of our lives in fear was stifling, and as I trudged through the cedars and the scattered olive trees, I wondered what Jesus would do.

Unknown to me, someone had an eye on my daily wanderings.

One afternoon I returned home to find Father working in his small garden plot, hoeing up the dry, spent vegetable plants. He saw me coming, stopped and leaned on the long, wooden handle. thinking I might disturb his work, I was going to pass by. He stopped me with a question.

"What do you do in the hills, Elias?"

I paused, wondering if he would think it odd if I answered, "Talk with a Friend." After a moment's thought, that was my reply.

Father nodded, his eyes scanning the hills, a faint, mysterious smile on his lips. "I thought as much," was all he said. Then went back to work.

I walked away, and the moment passed. It would be some time before I realized the importance of that brief encounter. For Father was as man of deep insight and wisdom, and a plan for my future was already turning over in his mind as he churned the stiff soil.

By the end of the week, the question of my guilt or innocence was resolved. We learned that a wagondriver, returning to the new Biram kibbutz with supplies, produced the missing length of telephone wire. It fit exactly in place between the cut ends. He had run over it with his loaded wagon and the wire had sheered off between the metal -rimmed wheels and the rock-hard ground. He had carried the section away with him, planning to return it on his next trip.

We never received any apology from the police, and I was only happy to let the entire episode be forgotten. And shortly, in the closing months of 1950, we received joyous news from the Supreme Court of Israel that temporarily wiped the incident entirely from our minds.

An official letter arrived in Gish, postmarked in Jerusalem. The elder's hands fairly shook with excitement as he read it aloud. The letter said we could return to Biram immediately by order of the Supreme Court! Hurriedly, with great rejoicing, plans were made for the move home.

While the women were gathering up the few things they had acquired in our three years of exile,some of the elders crossed the hill to Biram and there displayed our letter to the soldiers.

The commanding officer shook his head. "This letter means nothing to us. Nothing at all. The village is ours.You have no right here.

Though the elders argued with him, he would not honor the order. They were turned away. For the first time our elders realized that something was seriously wrong within the new government. They already had ample evidence that these Zionists were not at all like our peaceful Jewish neighbors. The new Israel seemed to be a nation where the military ruled, ignoring the will of the country's judges and lawmakers, powerful enough to do whatever it wanted. The elders were devastated by this revelation.

Upon hearing the soldiers' refusal, I saw the pain in Mother's eyes, felt the ache in Father's heart for his lost land and fig trees. As Christians , they would accept their lot. Yet I could see the joy draining from their lives. And still rumors of violence whispered through the hills, bloodshed and terorism everywhere in the land.

Were there only two choices left lto us--surrender to abuse or turn to violence?

As for me, the beating had forced me to stare into the face of this frightening question. What choice wass I to make? And as my twelfth year approached, I was soon to take the next step on the journey that would lead me to a third choice--one that my Champion made so long ago in these same beautiful, fought-over hills.