All day every day for the past three weeks there has been a steady flow coming inside our blue gates. By Thursday morning there were some two hundred pressed against our door and window. All pushing. All shoving. All waving documents. All shouting. Some fainting. We politely informed them that our building project was completed. No one listened. No one heard our words. They wanted a house, now, and would not leave without the promise of when blocks would be delivered. Those who could no longer stand, squatted on the ground. It was mayhem. Each one had a file. Behind that file, inside the yellow and orange document sleeves were stories. Stories that spanned generations cut off in one minute of time. Stories of lives that had been reduced to a section number or a tent number.
They pushed through our doors. In the heat of the day no one could breathe. It was like watching a stampede of wild animals, crushing all in their way. We heard as many stories as we could. We wrote down section numbers, tent numbers and phone numbers. We tried to explain but no one heard our words, “our project is completed." We had become to blame for all the woes of this broken community. One young man refused to leave our office. He was threatening us with destruction, preparing his FB post on how ugly we are. Khero ensured he left. One hour later he returned. Still some two hundred pressing in and numbers increasing by the minute. The angry young man demanded to speak with me. I told him that I had one minute as I had to give one minute to each one waiting outside. I sat him down and gave him water. We talked about him, his life in Shingal, his life in the camp, his hopes and his dreams. His desire for a block house. When his voice was not stifled, his anger abated. He deleted the FB post he was constructing. He showed me with great pride that we are FB friends. As the noise of the shouting raged outside, and sweaty noses glued to the office window there was a still thin moment of harmony inside with my guest whose name is Star. Tears welled up in his eyes when I told him that he was right. That this was his first chance in eight years of tent living to maybe receive a house and he was going to fight for that chance with all his might. I told him that I honored his determination. That I too would be the one to push through the crowds. I told him that simply we had done the little that we could and our money was finished. I could not hide my tears. He handed me a tissue. “I understand. I asked for one minute, you gave me twenty. You gave me water. You shared your heart. You respected me. You heard me. Thank you. Now I will go. I am at peace. I will chat with you on FB. I am your friend. God willing, one day I will have a home. Thank you for all you have done for my people.” We hugged and he left.
Five minutes later he sent me this message. “I felt that I came late to the party. The cake was cut into twenty pieces and you fairly gave those twenty pieces of cake away. I came wanting the twenty-first piece which did not exist. You respected me and you respected my destiny. You gave me your apology and you opened my heart as if you had given me a garden of roses. I went back to my tent and my broken heart rejoiced as if you had given me all the twenty pieces of cake. I will continue to live in my tent in this broken country and I will remain your friend, Star.” As I read and reread his message, I thought of the heavy burden that our prophet Moses bore as leader and judge of the endless disputes. I turned to my Bible and read the Torah Portion for this week, “Shoftim, Judges” oh how timely. I then turned to Exodus 18, which focuses upon Jethro’s advice to Moses to appoint judges. The Exodus passage closes with “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain and all these people will go home satisfied.” Star went back to his tent, satisfied.