JERUSALEM POST BLOG 24 – Rumplestitchkin down South
After a first concert, and the Ramallah workshops our destination is Yata, a small village south of Hebron. Mahmoud, who works for an organization that helps disadvantaged children flags our van, greets us with an energetic smile that could power Las Vegas. He’ll be our unrelenting guide for the coming two days. “Welcome to Palestine!”
We follow his car; one arm flailing, pointing, gesticulating from the side, toward the day’s playground. The battered Subaru seems held together by chewing gum alone, thrust onward by the sheer force of Mahmoud’s pitiless enthusiasm.
It’s a sunny day, the roads are okay, and there is music in everything. From the trunk the snare drum snares effervesce, almost but not quite seashore-like with every speed bump and careful pothole swerve. A car honks for unseen reasons. I honk back, not knowing why. The blue hills demand it somehow. With newbie tact I demur.
Over forty kids pour from a bus onto the tent-lined scout grounds. By now it’s gotten really warm; a Palestinian flag hangs hunched from the central mast. Motionless, pressed down. Not so the children. This will be a day unlike other days. The scout drummers sound off first, marching round with that bum-bum takatak you can feel in the belly. Beams abound. The sun’s excess can’t touch us.
Rumplestichkin’s Thomas, Koen, Wim, and Olivier play “Honey’s dull”, a highly contagious ditty with a chorus that would make Kim Jong Ill hum along with unblinking fervor. Mahmoud lines up the kids and explains the day’s goal. “After four hours you will all be able to play this song.” The group is divided into more manageable cohorts and each repairs to a tent.
The kids pull it off in half of the allotted time. Magnificently, but perhaps that’s simply my lack of expertise talking. We have a break, sandwiches, and chocolate milk. Curious interpellations on the side. “Are you Israeli?” an eight year-old asks.
“Um… no,” Koen murmurs, “I’m from Belgium.”
Mahmoud and I flit about the terrain translating.
“Oh.” The boy saunters off a tad disappointed.
Late afternoon we trundle, once again tailing Mahmoud’s beat-up tuna can to an orphanage in Dura. They’ll put us up for the night, in exchange for an impromptu acoustic session and one particularly harrowing game of soccer. Racked, we eat chicken and rice, all the while answering a million questions fired randomly by eyes big as plates. With daunting matter-of-factness the children volunteer the various circumstances that have brought them to this particular table, in this particular building; accidents, disease, and jail, jail, jail.
The next day springs on us like a caffeine-crazed succubus. It’s 06.00. No rest for the wicked, least of all for dazed, sun-struck rockers who are used to a first, tenuous dose of consciousness about a mere morsel shy of noon. We make do. After breakfast and a game of volleyball with the faculty we’re thanked, thanked, and thanked again. Not to mention tanked to the brim with coffee. Supersize me.
Buoyant on the black gold and on good vibes we set out for a second day of fun and games. We play a variant of musical chairs. Without the actual furniture though, but with enough music to offset a bigger dearth of chairs than the big 1949 chair-fire in the chair-factory of Chairville. We make do, adapt. Graver worries persist beyond the confines of a single day’s aloof joy. For the children tomorrow will be a day, quite unlike this one.
“Everything revolves. Everything changes. The birds in the sky are lost.” A ten year-old sings, awing, goose-bumping all. Everyone chimes in with what they happen to hold. The spectrum brims, uneasy. My ears are filled and yet, for a short moment, I feel an awful quiet grab me.