“I don’t want to go.”
My granddaughter turned a tear-stained gaze upward to mine. Although she was only seven, I already saw glimpses in her face of the fine-boned curves that would one day make her the image of her mother.
“I know,” I sighed. “But the soldiers will be here soon, and we must leave. You know that, my sweet big girl.” I sat down on the floor next to her. “We talked about this. You remember, don’t you?”
“Yes. But Grandmama, what about Aviva? My best friend--Papa says she’ll be forty kilometers away! And my bedroom, and my school...” She covered her eyes with her hands, as if to shut out the vision of a dismal future. “It’s not fair. I won’t go.”
At a loss for words, I remembered what my mother had taught me: Always speak truth to children. This I had done for my granddaughter, and her mother before her.
“You’re right,” I said gently. “It’s not what we want. But it will happen. And we must accept it.”
“No! Grandmama, we don’t even know where they will put Mama.”
My eyes filled with quick tears. It was true. All the graves were to be moved, the government had told us, but we did not yet know where my daughter’s body would be reburied.
The stubborn set of her jaw, so like her mother’s at that age, was almost painful to see. “Darling, what does Papa say about this? Do you remember?”
“He says that nothing in the Middle East has been fair for a long time, for anyone. He says that we must go.” She sighed in deep resignation. “All right, Grandmama. I’ll go.”
I nodded approvingly. “Good girl.” I changed the subject. “What’s in that suitcase?” I pointed to a small, shabby canvas bag in the corner. Her eyes followed my gesture. “Papa said I could pack one bag, just for me. He said it would help me feel at home in the new place.”
I nodded solemnly. “Your Papa is wise. What did you pack?”
“Well,” she said, brightening a little, “I’m taking my new ring, and the Queen Esther doll that Papa gave me for Purim, and my ball, books, chocolates...”
I laughed. “How will you fit all that into one bag?” I rumpled her hair. “I’m just teasing. But I think you might be forgetting something important that’s going with us.”
“Can you think of another time when our people had to leave their homes? When they were frightened?”
She shook her head. “What do you mean?”
“Well, what did we celebrate during Nisan?”
“Pesach. Ohhhh,” she breathed. “You mean that when Moses led our people out of Egypt, they must have been afraid, too?”
“Yes. But Who did they have with them?”
She smiled broadly. “G_d! In a cloud!”
“And what happened?”
“He parted the Red Sea. He saved them!”
I smiled. “Right. So, you see, wherever we go, G_d will be with us, guiding us, and taking good care of you because...He loves you! I do, too.” I gave her what I hoped was a reassuring hug. “Come now, take your bag.”
We walked outside, where my son-in-law was waiting, and, one last time, I breathed in the good, fresh air of our farm. My eyes scanned the horizon. Where there had been only barren sand a quarter century ago, rows of hothouses now glittered like diamonds, brilliant in the morning sunshine. “Time to read your Psalm,” I said, handing my granddaughter a well-worn book, once her mother’s.
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion...” she began. She had learned it well. Her voice was thin, but unwavering, as if she had been pondering the words. “Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you...”*
We climbed into the packed car. She clung to my hand, a little more tightly than usual, I thought. “Come, sweetheart, you sit with me while Papa drives.”
My heart turned toward Jerusalem. The car turned to the northeast. And so it was that, together, we drove away from our home in Netzer Hazani, the heart of the Gaza Strip.
Factual information from Time magazine, 8/22/05.
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