Walking With Baba
I’m walking with Baba. It’s my greatest joy; walking with my father.
“Come Tabitha, my princess,” he says, taking my little hand in his. The warm, dry and capable hands of Baba. Thirty years on I still feel the heat from that gentle grip. We lived in Abu Yeshua, a short walk from the Jaffa Gate. We were Druse. Palestinian Christians, clinging to the barren, arid Judean hills. Arabs, shunned both by our Muslim cousins, and by our Jewish masters. Father would not allow us to feel like outcasts though. He saw the good in everyone.
Though little did it profit him; or us. He had two jobs, and still we were dirt poor. And yet when walking with Baba I felt privileged and rich beyond measure. By day he sold tea in small glass cups at the Central Bus Station on the Damascus Road. At night he served tables in a Lebanese restaurant opposite the King David Hotel. A small, fastidious man, with a self-effacing smile and a large bushy moustache.
He held my hand tightly as we walked toward the checkpoint on Allenby Road. It was quiet; the Israeli soldiers grouped in pairs, paying us little attention as we approached. With a disinterested flick of the wrist, the young Israeli sergeant motioned us through.
“Come Princess,” said Baba, beaming down at me and squeezing my hand. That’s when it happened; the flash, that searing ball of light, the absence of sound. Baba’s grip slackened and I grabbed at his hand. My eyes felt sticky. I could taste something salty and metallic splashed across my face. A long time later a young female soldier knelt in front of me.
“Come Princess,” she whispered; beckoning with arms outstretched. I kept hold of Baba’s hand.
I’ve lived here in New York for the past twenty years. I have a nice home, a good job and there is the wonderful absence of checkpoints. But I’m still walking with Baba, my small hand in his.
“Come Tabitha, you really must let go,” says Dr Felstein in that soft kind voice of his