One More River
by Lynne Reid Banks
ISRAEL! That was the last place in the world where Leslie Shelby wanted to be. But, on this most dreadful day, her father, Nat Shelby, of Jewish parentage, had announced without prior warning, that this was going to be. Their whole family would soon leave Canada, the place where she was born and grew up, the only place in the world that she had called “home,” to settle permanently in Israel.
Leslie Shelby and her family had lived in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, in the town of Saskatoon. Here, her father has established himself in the business community with a very successful Shelby’s department store, where all kinds of general merchandise were being sold. With this, Leslie has lived all her life in affluence. She lived in a beautiful home with her parents just a few yards away from the banks of the Saskatoon river. She went to a good school where she was quite popular, not only for her physical attributes and talents but also because of her father’s prominence in the town.
But today was different from all the rest. She had expected normalcy before the bombshell was dropped. No sooner had her father announced his plan, than Leslie displayed all kinds of protestations that she could think of, if only to stop her father from pursuing such nonsense. But, to no avail. And soon her mother, Miriam, was briefing her on what to expect, what to bring, encouraging her to learn the Hebrew language and whatever she could possibly learn about the place.
ISAREL! Here she was now. As she had expected and dreaded, the place was a far cry from “home”. Now she not only had to live in a tiny house with small rooms, their family had to share the quarters with other Jewish families. The worst part for Leslie was to hear that soon they would be transferred to a kibbutz. A kibbutz! She knew much about life in a kibbutz, which was not the best thing that could happen to anyone of her upbringing. Here she would be separated from her parents and made to live with other Jewish kids. Here work had to be done by every member for the sake of the community. Here you do not work for yourself.
But Leslie was brave and in her pride she refused toe affected by all the dislike she was feeling inside. She bravely set aside all the luxurious items she had brought from Canada to be like the children around her.
She still rebelled deep inside of her especially with her Hebrew classes but she determined to be “in.”
As the days wore on, she found herself getting closer to some of the kids she had to share the room with. Association with the Hebrew children slowly eroded her strong rebelliousness and in bits and pieces, she found herself adapting to the kibbutz way of life.
Now there was this river just a way off the kibbutz. She found out that this river, the Jordan, was the only thing that separated them from their enemies, the Arabs. Her curiosity brought her many times to a place where she could observe the other side of the river. Here was where she regularly watched a boy almost her age, whom she called Mustapha and his donkey, whom she called Eeyore.
Then in happened. In one of the activities of the kibbutz kids, she was dared to go to the middle of a broken bridge on the Jordan. She accomplished the “dare” but had the donkey Eeyore follow her to their side of the river. Faced with the problem of returning the donkey, she went back and soon found herself face to face with the boy she had always watched from afar! She knew their peoples were enemies but somehow she had found a friend in him. After some pleasantries, the boy left, leaving Leslie with a sober sense of satisfaction.
The war soon came but Israel’s army won in just 6 days, over the neighboring Arab nations. After the war, a trip around the devastated city brought her once again face to face with the boy Mustapha. But this time, it ended on a sour note. Mustapha, being an Arab, had now declared ‘war’ with Leslie, and soon ended their friendship with harsh and hateful words. This disheartened Leslie but she soon found herself praying that someday the enmity between them and their peoples would stop.
One more river to cross to reach out to the enemy. One more river…this was Leslie’s hope…and prayer.