HALF THE HOUSE
My Life In and Out of Jerusalem

A Visit
     
      Ramallah. The sound once rolled like the gentle slopes surrounding the town. In 1945, before the Independence War, an Arab customer of my father who lived in Ramallah once invited our family for a visit. The bus, small, unsturdy, its color fading, unlike the well-painted well-built Jewish buses, belonged to an Arab company, and commuted only between Arab villages and towns. When my parents and I sat on the bus I felt a strange excitement. I felt privileged. None of my friends ever visited people in an Arab town, and none of their parents could relate to Arabs with the ease my father did.
            We passed a number of Arab villages. Except for a few scattered olive trees and small squarish houses, the land was bare but with its own soft beauty, lying in a warm and carefree slumber. A strong light unfolded as the bus went by, a light stronger than rites and laws. At each stop my heart leaped. I craved to leave the bus and run in those thorny yellow fields. To enter those Arab homes. Perhaps stay there a while. I was sitting next to my mother, who wore a green summer dress to complement her reddish hair and fair skin. My father was chatting with some Arabs. He was pleased to demonstrate his fluency in Arabic. He would later tell me of the Arabs' flair for flattery, and how they would praise the beauty of my mother.
      When we arrived in Ramallah, the hills and houses were tinged with deep blue. I thought of Abraham and Sara and how they greeted the three angels disguised as travelers. Now we were the visiting angels, and our hosts were Abraham and Sara, who upon meeting us showered us with greetings. My parents spent the afternoon chatting with our hosts on the terrace, while I ran around in circles with their children, their faces lit with friendliness.