An Oasis of Humanity

“Oh my gosh! What a view!” I had not anticipated it. As I turned and gazed across the open expanse, I was looking toward the site that the Hamdan family would enjoy from their home not yet built. An open picture of southern Palestine lay below. Olive groves; small villages; open desert in numerous hues of red, yellow, and brown; and the village of Fawwar at our feet below.

I paused for a long moment and inhaled deeply. In the two-and-a-half months that I had lived in West Bank, this land and its people had seeped into my heart. So similar were these people and their country. Like the desert land of their home, these people transformed austerity into their thriving home, abundant in harvest and community. In my moment of reverie, I acknowledged how intimately connected I felt to this desert land and more so to the people who inhabited this place.

A sputter of a humming machine broke my trance. As I stirred from my meditative spell, I realized that folks had jumped busily into action. Inside a small concrete shed, Fahim had powered up a small generator. Suhana and Tahira were busy preparing tea and biscuit snacks. Faisal and Hamza each held a long garden hose and were focusing on their task of watering the garden.

Mohammed called me and offered one of two chairs on a small concrete platform. Out of respectful consideration, I sat, accepted a cup of tea and played the part of guest. But I was antsy. Everyone was busy with various tasks. I couldn’t just sit and watch. I hurried to gulp down my tea, then sprang up to assist Farouk with the primary task of the day.

Through the months of spring, Fahim and Faisal had driven to their plot three times each week to spend two hours watering plants from handheld hoses. Although father and son enjoyed visiting their future home site, the task was burdensome and time consuming. Farouk had an improved solution–installation of a drip irrigation system. 

The lot, roughly a half acre in size, was already filled with young green plantings. Predominant was the line of young olive trees, which had been planted on three sides near the perimeter. Of course, the western side looking out across the valley remained open so that the family would forever enjoy the view. The entire lot was being transfomed into a garden. Long rows of vegetables and herbs were springing forth into springtime growth. In Palestine, all of this young greenery needed watering, often and regularly.

Farouk was already busily orchestrating the irrigation system. At his instruction, sons Mohammed and Masood were unrolling the long lines of black hose tubing. After father demonstrated to the boys, they began cutting lengths of tubing so that there would be a break at each plant. Beginning at the top of the lot, the boys spread the new hosing around the perimeter so that each olive sapling would have a drip joint. 

It fell to Farouk and me to accomplish the arduous task of joining the cut ends with the drip-irrigatiion joiners. The fittings were tight and required a surprising amount of muscle power to fit together. None of the boys could do it. Fahim, a slender man of small frame, did not have the strength. Only Farouk and I could manage it. And after a couple dozen arduous connections were made, my hands and arms fatigued. Only Farouk had the strength to complete the couple hundred fittings.

When it was finally completed, everyone gave a rousing cheer. Hoses were attached to the water spigot in the shed. At Farouk’s bidding, Faisal turned on the water. Everyone watched in eager anticipation. Slowly the line of drips joiners sprang into action. We all watched and followed our eyes as the water seeped forth from successive irrigators. When the final joint at the bottom of the garden put forth a steady drip stream, we all hooted with delight. Hurrah! 

Now Fahim and Faisal could visit their land every other day, turn on the generator and the water spigot, and sit back to enjoy the view while watering was accomplished labor-free.

A simple thing–this day, this task, this accomplishment. It’s what these people do in everything. They live and work and play in their desert home. In their simple tasks, they transform a barren landscape into an oasis of humanity.

Published by Ric d. Stark

New to a post-retirement commitment to literary non-fiction, Ric d. Stark will focus memories on gay life, Hawaiʻi life and Hawaiian quilting.

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