Having made a new friend who walked some of the same roads I did, the memories rise again to the surface, unanchored:
Sunset on the edge of the village of Nahalin, a family gathers on the rooftop of their cement and rebar home. Two ancient women. A beautiful young mother, striking yet modest in dark hijab, her child climbing onto her lap. Simply-dressed, elegant-limbed young men.
I smell the Arabic coffee from the car as we drive by, cardamom and sugar mixed with the earthy, deep smell of the Middle Eastern roast. I ask the men I am riding with, “What’s the occasion do you think?” They say, “Evening.”
The moment stops for me, a freeze-frame set in my mind’s eye. “This is what the world is like when it slows down,” I think.
Riding from a peace gathering outside Bethlehem back into town with a car full of Arab men I don’t know, I am grateful for having taken the road less traveled by.
The driver is jovial. He drives fast. The three men sing boisterously along with an Arabic pop song on the radio, laughing, for a moment entirely carefree.
I watch ancient terracing and olive trees flit by outside the window. The evening turns a deeper shade of shifting gold, horizon molten and the air dusky.
“I will remember this moment for the rest of my life,” I think.
This is only one petal, of one rose, of a garden of roses. Too many stories to tell. But slowly – shwaya, shwaya – some of them will find their way to my lips, ensh’llah.