An Angel, Angelic Kids and the Impossible. No Problem.
Yesterday Susan and I left the very lush northern Israel and headed south to the Negev Desert. What a contrast. Mile upon mile of dusty mountains and plains. When we got close to Be’er Sheeva we headed east and stopped at the tomb of David Ben Gurion. There was a quote from him on one of the walls. Although I don’t know it word for word, the paraphrase is that the greatest challenge Israel faces is not foreign enemies, but making this desert bloom.
And quite a challenge it is.
After stopping here and there for a bite to eat and lovely conversation, we met up with Laurie Ornstein. She’s been living in Israel for decades, raised her girls here and now works as an adviser to seven Bedouin schools. She’s an angel to them and today, she was my angel, as well. She had arranged for me to sing to and with some Bedouin children.
Susan and I stayed the night at Laurie’s home and this morning, we headed to Be’er Sheeva to meet the kids (with a brief stop a mall!). On the way we passed poverty in Bedouin communities that I can hardly describe. The closest thing that I’ve seen in the United States is the tar paper shacks that I used to pass driving though Georgia.
In some ways, they’re like teenagers anywhere, but there are differences, too. For one thing, the boys and girls stay very separate. And yet both are very communal and seem extremely comfortable and at ease in their social groups. The boys often hold hands and seem much more intimate than American kids. The girls are very tight knit, as well.
Another thing… the girls are more engaged in school than the boys. They seem to understand the importance of education to their culture surviving. And, perhaps, to their individual survival, as well.
They lit up as I sang some rock ‘n roll tunes like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ . After I stumbled a bit, we got to talking about how we Americans have used music to express ourselves personally and as a culture. When I asked what they would like to write about, one girl chimed in right away…’Revolution!’
I asked for what?
And together they came up with… ‘Freedom. Equality. Power’. I told them that I had written a song about American Children of all types wanting peace and suggested maybe we could change the word ‘American’ to something that would describe them.
I thought for sure they would say ‘Bedouin’. But they said ‘Palestinian’. We all sang together. It was a beautiful, but heart breaking moment. It was such an honor to be there to share their dreams. To witness these beautiful kids, these angels who are up against it and positive against all odds.