Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thursday 10th June 1943

Yesterday, Karmel Sheik Said packed his kit; today, like Hamad, he went to the Palestine Depot to be discharged from the Army. Everyone liked Sheik Said, even the Jews. He was so good natured, so honest and simple, and such a good worker. Before going, he sorted out his kit and gave John Store and I about 30 cigarettes each, also a few boxes of matches. This was a great gift, in view of the prevailing tobacco shortage. We couldn't give him money, he wouldn't take it, but eventually he accepted a Moslem rosary from me.

We begged him to save up his credits – about £12 – towards the cost of a wife - £100 or more – but he shook his head sadly and said (in Arabic) that as soon as reached his village, his father and sister (both very poor) would want money and he couldn't refuse them.

Poor old Sheik Said, too kind to live... (His father had been a sheik until they lost their money) “Aboui, ow-wul... America...” said Sheik Said yesterday. “Ed deesh sana?” “”Talata eshreen sana,” replied Sheik Said to my surprise. “Ish ballad?” “Buenos Aires. Houer b'kallum Espanyol qwise. Ana mush b'arif Espanyol.”

Extraordinary to think that the father of this simple fellah should have spent a third of his life in South America! Amazing even that a Palestine villager should have ever heard of Buenos Aires! But not only that, he knew the correct pronunciation better than I!

Store, Lias and I took our usual dusk stroll last night. We came back a little later than usual, tired and tranquillised. Pleasant sequel! The new kitchen man, an enterprising youth, had obtained a late brew somehow, so that each of us discovered a bowl of cocoa beside our beds. Just the thing after a long stroll. All three of us slept well, for once.

This morning Sheik said went away. I nearly missed him as I'd been out changing the linen. But I saw him on the way back to the ward whilst he was striding along to the lorry which would take him on the first stage of his journey out of the Army. He came up to me with his honest old face glowing, “Ah! Corporal Dawsee. Kallum where Coporal? Jemean mush b'arif, mush b'shuf.” Then, again, inshallahs, and hand shakes and mi-salamas.

Hamad and Sheik Said are the best two people I've met in Palestine. And why the hell should the greasy Jews take their land from them?

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