As we said goodbye to a more relaxed Hebron, we faced the biggest struggle which was to get a bus driver to understand that we only wanted to get the bus as far as the Al Quds restaurant…..most drivers left the restaurant part off the place we wanted to go and thought we wanted to go to Jerusalem (its Arab name). Eventually we managed to get someone to understand, he told a taxi driver and bundled us into a car which sped off up the road. I am glad we didn’t as it was a further walk than we thought.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat then haggled with a taxi driver to take us to the village. As we drove through, certain landmarks stood out, then others had changed as building works had taken place. Three times we asked the driver to stop as we thought this was where we had to get out of the car, then eventually, it all looked so familiar and we could see the Hara, the street we had lived on. I had butterflies.
Mohammed, who last time was an absolute pain, ran out from his new shop to greet us and told us to go to his house. Children seemed to appear from every nook and cranny, many were giggling, a few shouted “What’s your name?” (now I know that anyone who was on our trip last year will have read that with a Palestinian accent as we were asked this constantly!)
The first familiar face we saw was Charlie’s, he was back in the village to do the football tournament. We hugged and then I saw the two ladies from the house next door to where we stayed, the co-wives. They seemed really pleased to see us and came over and hugged. Eventually we were able to go into our home last year. Standing in the doorway was Rafika. I admit I had tears as we hugged. She invited us in and there on the sofa was Majid, glued as usual to his WWF wrestling. A huge smile lit his face, then he shooed us out of the way of the telly.
Mays came out of her room and hugged us, she seemed smaller than last year, a delicate bird who worked like a trojan.
After a refreshing drink and some cack cakes (sound disgusting, but are delicious and made especially for eid. Think of fig rolls but made from dates instead.) we headed down the hill to what we nicknamed “The Little House on the Prairie”. The route down seemed more tretcherous and the ‘path’ was precarious to say the least. A lad from the house at the top accompanied us and ran ahead to bang on the door. It was obvious that the kids were home, but mum wasn’t. (This was a common occurrence). He banged on the door and told them the foreigners were here come look. I climbed to the top step, to see the girl I had really connected to last year. She screamed and tried to get her hand through the bars in the door. Then the older girl Farah, opened the door and threw herself at Jo. The kids just flung themselves at us. We crouched and received huge hugs from the 5 kids. Then we heard another squeal, and there was mum who dropped her bags as she turned the corner and saw us. She hugged us until we couldn’t breathe. And yes there were tears, from all of us, it was amazing to see these little ragamuffins yet again.We left them gifts and hugs and with heavy hearts we had to make a move and say our goodbyes back down the road, as we needed to be back on a bus from Hebron before 5pm as public buses are not allowed on the roads after this time….public Palestinian buses should I stipulate!
We said goodbye to the friends we made yet again and took one last look at the sign which made our street, much faded, but never forgotten.