Rain is a precious commodity anywhere but especially in Cyprus. Last week we had a steady stream of sprinkling from heaven that soaked the ground and filled our hearts with joy at the same time. Every time we visit Cyprus we find ourselves joining the locals’ prayers for rain. The land is so dry right now, so in need of a cloudburst… The rain has been an answer to prayer.
With the refreshment of the rain, beauty, peace, and rest surrounding me though, I am thinking this morning about the unrest in the world. We have many dear friends who live in Israel, both Jew and Arab. The clash of ancient brothers at war–the complicated story that twists and spirals down, down, into bloodshed and ashes trouble my heart today.
And still everyday the citizens of Israel pick themselves up and press on with life as normally as they can. Here is a poignant, slice-of-life story written by a Jewish friend of mine who works two days a week at a high school for music and dance students in Jerusalem, and two days a week just east of Jerusalem at a private English language school originally started by and for Christians but today, most of the students are local Moslem children.
I laughed and brushed tears away as I read her words:
“Take the new road past Hebrew University and continue on until the signs for Shufat and Beit Hanina. Since there is currently construction, this will mean going through Pisgat Ze’ev and leaving early enough to miss all that traffic.
Follow the signs to Ramallah. Pass Abu Jafar’s sweet shoppe, and remember Alladin. “Shalom! Salaam! Wake up and smell the hummous!”
Keep going. Here is a roundabout. Keep going. Ramallah…. On we go…. Abu Sneini cars…Must call Emad……Ah, here it is, the checkpoint. Carefully drive up to the soldier and flash most winning smile.
“Is it permitted to go in?” I ask in heavily accented Hebrew.
“Of course,” he answers. “But you cannot come out!”
Since this will in no way work with four children, two dogs and a husband at home (not necessarily in order of importance but certainly in order of demands), I search for an alternative.
Ah, here it is………… Carefully, carefully up the hill. Flash another hopefully winning smile at the soldier and wish him a very good morning in perhaps less accented Hebrew.
Park. Careful not to scratch the car on the barbed wire separating nothing from the parking lot. Do not park under the apartments as neighbors will complain. Do not park too near the wire or another car. Wave to co-workers. I’m almost there.
Navigate my way past the empty cigarette packs, candy wrappers, crushed cans and other debris strewn in parking lot. It’s rocky and rough. Careful not to twist my ankle. Here are some parents dropping off their children.
Smile again. Various children run up to hug me. Some know me. Others simply follow the crowd and think that this is the activity of the moment. I am glad to receive and to dispense hugs.
Into the school. Breath! “Good Morning!” in horrifically accented Arabic. They appreciate the effort.
What’s a nice Jewish girl from New York doing in Palestine? I am, officially, past the checkpoint. Officially out of Jerusalem. Officially in Palestine. It’s good to be here.
Drop off coat and bags in my cubicle of an office. Smile at the remnants of the decorations I put up of snowmen sking down slopes.
The kids belted out “Jingle Bells” with gusto. Though they were clueless as to what a “one horse opened sleigh” might be, they were exhuberant and joyful. Baruch Ha Shem. I’m here.
It’s time for Samaan. My favorite. Is it o.k. to have a favorite? A kid with a motor in overdrive and huge eyes and what they used to call “ants in the pants.” Samaan has ADD. He can’t sit still. He is bright. He is either hyper-focused, or completely not. He is always on the go. He needs Ritalin; and after ten minutes, I need a valium.
Oy vay iz mir, what am I doing here?
Samaan wonders if he is a good boy. He is used to a great deal of negative reinforcement. Samaan is a very good boy. Samaan is a doll!. We write. We read. We dance. We laugh. We bang on playdough. We bond. I silently pray.
He is tactile resistant and now, finally, holds my hand or allows me to touch his shoulder. Just a little. Just a moment. Not too long.
It’s a start.
There is Mohammed. Mohammed’s mother needs a kidney transplant. She is hyper vigilant about providing all the help he needs. He needs a great deal.
Mohammed has physical problems and doesn’t walk well. He is gawky. His speech is somewhat slurred.
I help him with math. Are they kidding? My father would roll over in his grave!? Or die again laughing. This stuff is complicated. Slowly, slowly it comes back.
Slowly slowly I remember what was a nightmare for me in 7th grade. It is not easy. I patiently and slowly try to explain. We do it together. Slowly, carefully, step by step.
Mohammed looks straight into my eyes. He has a half smile on his worried face.” It’s so hard, Miss,” he says, ” and you smell so good!”
I feel the Lord speaking.
A deep breath, a smile and I say, “Yes, Mohammed, it is very hard. And we will do it together.”
That’s the only way this thing is going to be solved. This hard, complicated, multi faceted problem. This in your face, demanding, knotted issue. Shoulder to shoulder. Together.
Yallah, bubeleh! On we go.”
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in the Messiah, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
As I am preparing for the day, I am praying for a different kind of rain in the Mid East, the rain of repentance and forgiveness, the rain of love and acceptance, the rain of a fresh start… promised all those who believe on His Name.
Reign over us, O Lord, and rain upon us… according to your lovingkindness.