“It was laughter that would one day resonate so loud that this wall would come tumbling down. ”
right,” Saeed’s uncle went on. “Saeed never keeps his kites, you know, not one. He just makes them, waits for the east wind, and sends them off. Did you see what he draws on each one? A dove of peace. Did you see what he writes? Salaam. Shalom.”
“How many has he sent?” I asked. “A hundred maybe. About one a week since they killed Mahmoud. He believes that one day they’ll send the kites back, and everything will be right, friendships will grow, and peace will come and the killing will stop. Let him have his dreams. He’ll find out soon enough what they’re like over there.”
“There was a girl who found the kite,” I told him. “She waved back. I saw her. It’s a beginning.”
“It costs nothing to wave,” he replied bitterly. I stayed one more night. So I was there to see the embryo of the next kite taking shape, Saeed kneeling on the carpet, his whole family watching intently as he constructed the frame with infinite care, ignoring all their advice and the food and drink they constantly offered him. “Maybe it is good,” Saeed’s uncle said to me, when Saeed had gone up to bed. “Maybe it helps him to forget. Maybe if he forgets, he will find his voice again. Maybe he will grow again. God willing. God willing.”
I said my goodbyes early the next morning and left with Saeed and the sheep. Saeed held my hand all the way. There was between us, I felt, the same unspoken thought: that we were friends and did not want to part, and that when we did we would probably never see each other again. The sheep were in clambering mood, their bells jangling loud in the morning air. We sat down on the hillside where we’d flown the kite the day before. Saeed had brought the frame of his new kite with him, but he was not in the mood for working on it.
Like me he was gazing out over the valley, over the wall, towards the settlement. The flag still fluttered there. A donkey brayed balefully nearby, winding itself up into a frenzy of misery. I felt it was time for me to go. I put my hand on Saeed’s shoulder, let it rest there a few moments, then left him.
When I looked back a while later he was busy with his kite. I stopped to film him. It would be the perfect closing shot. I had just about got myself ready to film when Saeed sprang to his feet. The sheep were suddenly bounding away from him, scattering across the hillside.
Then I saw the kites. They were all colours of the rainbow, hundreds of them, like dancing butterflies they were, rising into the air from the hillside below the settlement. I could hear the shrieks of joy, saw the crowd of children gathered there, every one of them flying a kite. A few snagged each other and plunged to Earth, but most sailed up triumphantly heavenwards.
The settlers were pouring out of their houses to watch. One after the other, the kites were released, took wind and flew out over the wall towards us. And from behind me, from Saeed’s village, the people came running too, as the kites landed in amongst us, and amongst the terrified sheep too. On every kite I saw the same message, in English and in Hebrew: “Shalom and Salaam”. Everywhere on both sides of the wall the children were cheering and laughing and dancing about. I could see the girl in the scarf waving at us, and leaping up and down.
Around me, some of the mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, began to clap too, hesitantly at first. But others soon joined in, Saeed’s uncle amongst them. But the cheering, I noticed, and the laughter and the dancing they left to the children. The hillsides rang with their jubilation, with their exultation. It seemed to me like a symphony of hope.
As I raced over the hillside towards Saeed, I could hear him laughing and shouting out loud along with all the others. I realised then – idiot that I was – that I had quite forgotten to film this miracle. And almost simultaneously I understood that it didn’t matter anyway. It was laughter that would one day resonate so loud that this wall would come tumbling down. No trumpets needed, as they had been at Jericho, only the laughter of children.
Michael Morpurgo, MBE, OBE is former Children’s Laureate.
Resurgence No. 258 January/February 2010 63