Updated: Apr 23
It was April, 2002, Nablus city north West Bank. My dad’s cell phone was ringing, over and over.
Each time, I moved closer to him so I could hear the conversation, but I couldn’t understand
what the callers were saying, even though it was in Arabic it was an accent I didn’t recognize.
What we did hear all throughout that month was bombs, guns, and Israeli F15 air force missiles shelling our city. There was no electricity, a strict curfew, and Israeli snipers on the roofs of Palestinian homes.
My dad received yet another call, and this time he answered in a loud voice, “She wants to go to Oslo. She was nominated by her university. I have to get her to the borders, no matter how...
she should tell the world about the truth. OK, no problem, she will ride a donkey to get out of
Nablus, and then she’ll meet a car that will drive her safely through the Huara checkpoint.”
Huara was a deadly Israeli army post, and I’d have to take another three cars to get to Jericho
and the Jordanian Palestinian Israeli borders.
My mother was furious. “Are you out of your mind? The snipers are just outside! It is a war
against us, and it is too dangerous to leave the house. Oslo is not a priority.”
I was still trying to understand what I’d just heard. He said I’d ride a donkey? I’d never even
touched a cat! How would I ride a donkey? It will smell bad for sure. We haven’t had water for
3 weeks, even in the city! When did the farmer and his donkey from the village last have water?
What will I do with my suitcase? It’s new, and I want to use it for the first time, but I hesitated to
mention it. Instead, I bravely asked my father, “Are you serious? You want me to ride a donkey
with a foreigner, to get to the borders? Really??”
He replied calmly that he wanted me to get out of our neighborhood, where there were snipers
and tanks everywhere, and even ambulances were being targeted. He said I should reach his
friend’s house, Abu-Abdullah, who would give me a ride to the mountain, where I will get on the
donkey. Abu-Abdullah is a Samaritan, he explained, part of a small group of people who kept
the old version of the Jewish religion. Samaritans regard the top of Mount Gerizim as their
holiest site. During the military operation in the West Bank in 2002, my father said, “we shared
our homes, food, and water. After more than 5 weeks of continuous curfew imposed by the
Israeli army, the only news we learned was the number of dead among Palestinians, including
both civilians and fighters.”
We were all filled with terror, and the smell of death was everywhere in the West Bank that
year. I prepared to leave, and to try to get to the airport in Jordan. It was very hard to say good-
bye to my family, wondering if this would be the last time I would ever see them.
I set out. After I climbed a few rocks, there was a very old man, Abu Falah, waiting for me, with
a black donkey. I admitted to Abu Falah that I had never rode a donkey before, and I didn’t
know how to do it. He comforted me, saying it was just a 25-minute ride to get to the taxi, an
Israeli taxi with a yellow plate, which would not be targeted at the borders.
Honestly, I was terrified of falling from the donkey while riding its back.