Jail and Laundry
Clothes hang on a line and blow in the breeze. There are fewer than usual: two dresses, a head scarf, and four pairs of sweat pants, each one smaller than the last. The slacks and button-down shirts that usually hang beside them are no where to be seen.
A fifteen year old boy comes down a dirt drive-way and greets me with a wide grin. I ask him how he is and he makes jokes as he collects the laundry. We both laugh.
What neither of us is saying is that there is less laundry than usual because his father has been in jail for the last eight days. He was arrested when soldiers came into the village of handed out demolition orders to seven new houses, a cave, and a cistern. The soldiers said that the houses had no permit, but didn’t mention that the Israeli government never gives permits in this area. All building is illegal and the father of teenage boy before me was arrested for protesting, for demanding the things he needs to raise his sons on his land. He was arrested as a part of an action designed to claim land where the people of his village used to live until the violence of Israeli settlers drove them out of their homes. Now we don’t know when he will return home or how much responsibility the boy will shoulder in the meantime.
The boy gathers the clothes from the line, still grinning. His bright eyes shine and I smile back. As he walks away, clothes in hand, I wonder how it is that a boy his age can cope with this situation. And what will happen when he grows up and tries to build a house for his own family?