Alice in Wonderland and the Treasure Box

“When I speak with you,” Alicia said with her big smile, “it is a bit like falling into a legendary world, with all these unbelievable stories that just can’t happen in real life.”

As if to stress her point, there was this new unbelievable event just as she came to visit us for the first time this June.

When we bought the house 22 years ago, the old lady that went to live with her daughter told us that there is a treasure buried in the small patch of land behind the house. She didn’t know exactly where it was and felt too old and too tired to dig for it.

This stayed the most neglected part of our small garden, with wild thorny roses and even wilder, all-scratching, Lantana competing for space under the mighty Olive tree that expanded over the roof of the house.

But this year we finally cleared the impenetrable bush and planted some vegetables. They grew to be an unprecedented success. They even were so kind as to supply us with fresh micro-tomatoes and an odd cucumber every now and then – so we had a good reason to visit this neglected piece of land almost every day.The pit in the garden

One morning, one of the first mornings after Alicia came, just as I went to see whether there is anything to pick in the back garden, I saw something strange.

Someone dug a hole in the back of the yard. The hole was some 40 centimeter deep – but there was not much mud around the hole. And the inner shape of the hole was suspiciously square. It couldn’t be anything else. 22 years later the old owners came and dug their treasure box. The crime tool was still there – an old iron pole that used to be part of the fence but was for a long time thrown useless in the garden. The fresh earth was still glued to it.

They didn’t mess around in the garden. Apparently some heir found the treasure map and came for it, digging exactly in one place, about one meter to the left of the garden’s end, near the rear wall.

I call Alicia to show her the unexpected scene.

“I told you so”, she concluded.

The pit and the crime tool

Adam goes alone to a demo

You can ask yourself: At what age did you, for the first time, go to a demonstration to which your parents objected? When Adam first did it he was under five years old. And he was not drawn to it by some older friends.

Adam in the garage - February 1996

Independent minded Adam, February 1996

It was in 1996. On January 5, Israel assassinated a legendary Palestinian guerilla, Yahya Ayyash, in Beit Lahiya near Gaza. Hamas militants revenged his death with a series of suicide bombings. One of them, on March 4, killed 13 pedestrians near Dizengoff Center at the middle of Tel Aviv.

At that time the Oslo accord between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (signed in 1993) was still new, and many people held the illusion that the Israel’s leadership really wants peace and is ready to bring an end to the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Some Arab activists in Haifa decided to make a vigil protesting the revenge bombing. They wanted to show the Israeli public that the local Arab Palestinians support peace and denounce the killing of civilians.

I never thought it was a good idea to demonstrate against activities of the Palestinian resistance, no matter how much you agree with or abhor any specific action. First, the demand by Israeli authorities and public opinion from Palestinians to always apologize for actions of the resistance is part of a systematic witch hunt that holds every Palestinian responsible. Second, we always demonstrate against those who hold power, as demonstrations are an expression of the power of the masses against the misrule of the elite. And finally, for any act of Palestinian resistance, violent or peaceful, Israel’s mighty oppression machine exerts a disproportional revenge against the Palestinian masses as a whole. Giving moral support to this repressive apparatus may only exacerbate the suffering of the innocents.

Baby Adam in a demonstration

At the age of four and a half, he already had a long experience with demonstrations

When friends came to our house to invite us to take part in the vigil, which they planned to hold in the small half-deserted commercial center of Halisa, near our home, I didn’t want to argue with them. It was not a long time since I was arrested by the Israeli police for taking part in a demonstration against Israel’s war crimes. So I laughed and said: “You have seen what happened to me last time when I went to a demonstration. I don’t want to be arrested again…”

Young Adam was present and heard the invitation and my cynical refusal. He already had a long experience in demonstrations, which he used to attend with his parents, from the first year of his life. He was shocked by the bloodshed and felt it was a just cause. So he told us: “I want to go to the demonstration!”

At the designated time, Adam went out of the house and walked to the Halisa commercial center. At a safe distance, so that I will not be encouraging Adam, neither intervening in his independent move, I walked after him. I stood on the other side of the street during the demonstration, to keep an eye on the brave independent minded little demonstrator.


The day that Nur took responsibility


Nur, Christmas 1993

They were four kids from Halisa, this struggling poor neighbourhood on the slopes of Mount Carmel, on the eastern entrance to Haifa. Nur was the biggest of the four. At the time that this story happened, in the spring of 1994, he was about six and a half. Yes, half a year is important at such an age. He was already going to school, a first grade student at the Carmelite school located between Wadi Nisnas and Downtown Haifa.

The other 3 kids were still going to kindergarten, in the Sacred Heart monastery. Hadaf and Yasar were the son and daughter of our good friends and neighbours. Adam, my other son, was not yet three years old, the youngest in this small bunch.

The school and the kindergarten were some 3 kilometers away (by air) and, naturally, we had to drive the kids there every morning and bring them back after school hours. I used to take the four of them in the morning on my way to work. Osama, the father of Hadaf and Yisar, had a more flexible job and would take them back home.

Once Osama came to our house and informed me that on the next day he will be busy and would not be able to take the kids from school.

On the next day I went out of work, initially heading for the Carmelite school to pick up Nur. When I arrived there children were already pouring in a steady stream to the street, some of them finding their parents waiting, others, some of the older kids, walking home or going to catch a bus.

I waited patiently, but there was no sign of Nur. As the stream of kids dried out, I went into the schoolyard and looked around, hoping to find him playing there. But there were very few kids at the yard and Nur wasn’t there. I entered the school’s office and asked about Nur. Yes, he was at school but probably went home… Nobody really noticed.


Hadaf, Yasar, Adam, Fady, Luay – Probably 4 years later…

Going out I looked in the small streets around the school but there was no hint of where Nur might be. I decided to go and pick the other three kids from the kindergarten, some 500 meters away, before I will think of new ways to look for Nur.

I parked the car in front of the kindergarten. There were no kids waiting at the entrance, as most of the kids have already gone. I went in to take my three kids, but they were not there either. Finally one of the teachers told me: I think their brother came and took them.

It could seem crazy, a six and a half years old kid taking with him three small kids from the kindergarten in the middle of downtown Haifa, into the messy streets busy with traffic, far from home… But, to say the truth, for me this was a big relief after the daunting worries of the previous hour. So, Nur was not kidnapped after all. The four kids will not easily disappear together.


Nur & Adam, Christmas 1993

I started driving along the road home, but there is more than one way you can drive to Halisa and even more ways to walk. If I remember well I didn’t find them until they came home.

Nur explained that he heard Osama saying that he was busy and will not take the kids. So he simply did what he had to do.

When I think again and again about this day, one of the most frightening in my life, sometimes I think it might show how little trust Nur had toward his parents. But apparently he didn’t think he was abandoned or that there was anything unnatural in his parents being busy or him taking the kids walking home. He used to be a responsible kid, the biggest one in the bunch.