Cyprus Mail

Children of the stones



The ability of our species, present and prehistoric, to endure whatever the elements or other people inflict on us, and survive tragedies such as the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria is always a source of wonder to me. The Syrians, after years of devastation caused by man, found their lives of subsistence made even worse by a merciless act of nature. The Turks, among them people and, unbearably sadly, children of Cyprus, died when poorly constructed buildings collapsed during the quakes.

Stories abound of ordinary folk digging into rubble with their hands to save trapped survivors. Hardened reporters were moved by the cries of people still buried because help wouldn’t arrive on time. Then the shouts of relief and joy when someone was pulled out alive, even amazingly a newborn. In the wilderness left behind, the evident need to pay respect to the dead by ritual burial. The courageous White Helmets, as always, rushed to help, billionaires didn’t. Now, what future for the orphaned young, traumatised and grieving?

Years ago, inspired by children who had survived a horrific massacre in Africa and walked many miles over hostile terrain to find safety, I wrote Children of the Stones, which no one was interested in publishing. Some assumed it was based on the travails of Palestinian children; it wasn’t. I did care about those children, not the factions that divided their families, but the hideous surroundings in which they were living their formative years, witnessing violence that leaves a damaging imprint on young minds.

My fictional children belonged to Chirokitia, the World Heritage Neolithic site in Cyprus which enthralled me from my first visit. The story enfolded the spirit of the African children and their journey to survival. My children witnessed horror and death wrought by a brutal enemy, and their grieving attempts at ritual burial so the spirits of their families could rest in peace. Destitute, they hid in a cave fearful the savages might return. Men from an advanced tribe discovered them and offered to adopt them. They chose to remain among the stones of their homes, two of which the men helped rebuild, to keep alive the proud name and traditions of their own clan.

Micheal Martin, Ireland’s Tánaiste (deputy PM) and Minister for Foreign Affairs called for Israel to pay compensation to the EU for aid, around 2.25 million, destroyed in the demolition of Palestinian settlements including a school. The UN has fought for years to give these people help that ends up as rubble. Many world leaders mumble, paying lip service to the wrongs committed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s governance over years. He now seeks to control the judiciary as well as the Palestinians. Israelis protest his moves. The Unites States, a foremost influential friend, delivers platitudes not worth the air breathing them.

The demolition of Palestinian homes paraded as punishment for crimes against the state of Israel are, as these leaders and the EU authorities know, lame excuses to clear the indigenous inhabitants out in order to occupy and control the land for settlement or military purposes. What democracy worth it’s weight in honest law is willing to put over 1,200 residents (500 of them children) on a winter street having reduced their homes to heaps of stones? Yet these prominent leaders are also aware that such actions fuel anger and insurrection giving fodder to the inability to create a two state home for Palestinians and Jews and, remain stum. Impotent hypocrisy or wariness of being called anti-Semite?

No decent mind could ever accept another Holocaust and honourable Jews in Israel and beyond deplore such callous acts. Not everyone who speaks up hates Jews who gave the world brilliant minds and talents like that of Daniel Barenboim whose cultured, creative genius brought youngsters from both sides together through music, in an effort to promote understanding. Palestinian children have, over decades, grown up among the remnants of demolished homes. Popular Netflix, Israeli series Fauda included this destruction in its tale of an unending war of frustrated anger and retribution.  And before someone gripes, our family doctor in Ireland was Jewish. I shared a roof with Jews for three years. Not guilty, not an anti-Semite!

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