from Chapter 1,
It was my grandmother who introduced me to the Scriptures, when she told me and my brothers and sisters stories from the Old and New Testaments by the light of the petroleum lamp, as we lay in bed. She also gave me the ninety-first psalm as a pillar to lean on in time of trouble. It has served me well.
… Nazareth was a small, closely knit community in the 1930s. The whole populace used to turn out to celebrate weddings, and funerals were a time of general mourning. As a boy I drank the water from Mary’s Well and played with my friends and cousins on some waste ground across the road from our house. Our games were different from those of other boys only in that we did not play cops and robbers. Our gangs were the ‘Jews’ and the ‘Arabs’ – and in our games the Arabs always won.
My childhood came to an end in 1948, when I was 11 years old.
…David ben Gurion claimed the Palestinian Arab showed no emotional involvement in Palestine: ‘Why should he? He is equally at ease whether in Jordan, Lebanon or a variety of places. They are as much his country as this is. And as little.’ But it wasn’t true. I wanted to go home. Bible stories had increased the significance of Nazareth in my mind – they must have done, otherwise why would I choose to return at such a young age and in such danger and difficulty? I remembered watching pilgrims from all over the world walking towards the Grotto of the Annunciation and kneeling as they approached. All of a sudden my childhood, my playground, my school had been taken away from me. I wanted them back and I was prepared to return without my family.
After a year in Beirut I spoke to my father. Dad was worried about the turmoil that still reigned in Palestine, but he agreed that my older sister Suad and I could go back to Nazareth together. It was illegal but we contacted a man who knew a way over the border.
…We walked on through the scrub on the hills of Southern Lebanon until we reached a church, which we were later to discover was the Greek Catholic (Melkite) church of Bir’am – the only building left standing in the village. Here we were given shelter while our guide went to check whether the road ahead was clear. He knew that an Israeli tank would be passing at about that time. Thus I entered Israel for the first time. I was 12 years old and Suad 13.