Ahmed and Merav …

It was in 2003, one of the many times I went to Qalandia checkpoint.

Sometimes I just sat there on a small hill for a while to observe and to watch the people standing in line in order to cross and being entirely at the mercy of the either female or male Israeli soldier standing there. I watched people being turned away or ordered to go to the very back of the queue as “punishment” or to be more blunt as clear harassmant to “teach a lesson”.

The situation became utterly unbearable when the weather turned bad, when it was raining and puddles were forming on the unpaved passages or in winter when the temperatures slipped below the zero (centigrads) or 32 (Fahrenheit) mark and people had to stand in line. The usually icy wind which was blowing there did the rest …

Today Qalandia looks more like a fortress than anything else and certainly there for to stay as boarder.

In order to get there, I had to make a 90 degree left-turn at the big intersection in French Hill/Jerusalem, the one which leads to the east to to Jericho and the Dead Sea, the north to Ramallah, south toward East Jerusalem and west, Modi’in and Lod (Lydda).
After a few minute drive one reaches A-Ram and after some more minutes, Qalandia checkpoint which is the entrance to Ramallah.

The Israeli army had once again suddenly decided to set up a flying checkpoint … that’s the way a temporary one was called. This time it was in A-Ram.

While patiently waiting in the queue, I had a chance to watch the people, to study expressions, to allow the whole absurd situation to sink in. While I was standing there and looking around, I noticed a small figure whizzing around like a weasel between the cars, sometimes briefly stopping and after a very short stay moving on. Initially I had no idea who that was but it sure had caught my attention.

I opened the window in order to stick out my head as much as possible in order to get a better idea and after a short while I finally succeeded to spot him: little Ahmed.

Five years old he was I heard from someone near me, definitely too small for his tender age, selling together with his a few year old brother tiny cups of fresh brewed Arab coffee to the waiting drivers. He was acrobatically moving between the cars, trying not to spill his coffee nor to lose the paper cups and on the other hand to get to as many people as possible to buy his coffee and receive the minute amount of money he charged. I couldn’t believe my eyes … and after a further rather short period of waiting I was free to make my way back and left Ahmed behind.

Ahmed didn’t leave my mind anymore and a few days after that I went again … this time in order to inquire about the little one, to find out why he did what he did as well as about his family. It was obvious there was great misery at home as which parent would send a five year old to earn money were there any alternative …

I learned the father had a severe back injury resulting from a work accident, was incapacitated, could barely move and and was depressed because he couldn’t provide for his family and the mother was at home to take care of the him and the other children. I believe to remember there was another sibling who was out there selling as well but apart from that there was no income whatsoever … the minute amount of money Ahmed and his siblings earned by selling coffee to the drivers had to be enough for food and the most necessary. I also learned through an interpreter they lived in Qalandia refugee camp … even under much better circumstances a place where hope is considered a rarity.

One family at the house where I resided at at that time, was religious (not orthodox, though observing religious Jewish laws). The second youngest child was a girl, Merav, back then ten years old. She came to me every time something happened and asked :”why do they do that? Don’t they want peace?” I tried hard to explain her the background in words appropriate for her age and had the feeling she did her best to understand. She knew I was totally against those horrible attacks but whatever one tries, it is difficult to explain to a ten year only what adults don’t or don’t want to understand …

I told her about little Ahmed and what I had seen but didn’t mention it another time. After a few days I was sure she had forgotten all about it ….

One evening, about a week after that, somone knocked on my door. It was Merav. I saw she was holding something in her hand …

As always, being a well-educated girl, she asked politely if she could come in. I offered her a glass of cold orange juice and even before we sat dow, she started to talk. I felt she had a great desire to tell me something and couldn’t wait.

She told me she couldn’t forget the story I had told her anymore and decided she wanted to do something to help. She had brought her entire saving, a folded twenty shekel bill, about $4.70 back then, and put it in my hand with the request to give it to Ahmed in order to help him and his family.

I felt as if a lightening had hit me was sitting there with tears in my eyes, and struggling to find words … I had absolutely not expected that! I hugged her and thanked her from all my heart and promised her, I would bring that money to Ahmed as soon as I could. I made sure she understood how great and compassionate it was what she had done, … how much I appreciated it.
As promised, the next day I was on my way back to A-Ram checkpoint. Sure enough, he was there together with his brother, as every day, regardless of sizzling heat or pouring rain.

I called him and signalled him to come and asked at the same tiome the owner of a adjacent shop to interprete. I explained Ahmed through the interpreter that a little Jewish girl send her entire saving in order to help his family … and the moment he say my wallet and the twenty shekel bill he could hardly stop himself anymore and reached foreward to take it only to get a slap on his fingers and the angry voice of the interpreter telling him in no uncertain terms, he was not to behave this way. I was impressed!

Even though the interpreter was right, I understood little Ahmed and gave it to him. His eyes started to shine and it was apparent, he could hardly believe his good fortune! He looked over and over at his 20-shekel bill, checked both sides as if he was afraid it might suddenly disintegrate and it all was a wonderful dream … but the money stayed put in his palm. I told him to make sure to bring it to his parents which he promised to do.

After that I left. Ahmed and his brother returned to sell coffee to drivers till that late afternoon and then returned home. I am sure they couldn’t wait to get there and show their parents the money.

Merav’s decision to give her entire saving was more than that … it was a beam of light into the sad existence of Ahmed’s parents, a sign of hope, a prove there is still compassion and love. Merav didn’t see Ahmed and his family as enemies … she saw them as human beings, just like her own family. For her it was not important what nationality they have, what language they speak and what faith they belong to – she helped because there was need. That was enough reason for her.

I wish many adults would learn this invaluable lesson! I don’t think she fully understood the magnitude of her action … she will later on though, I am confident!

God bless you Merav and Ahmed – together with your families! Rest assured you will remain in my heart … both of you!!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: