I remember it like it was yesterday – the day I met Ethan.
It was the day that changed my life forever.
I had grown up in the city of Aenon my whole life–all ten years of it–never knowing anything more or less than the village where my family lived. We were content with our little one-room dwelling, though it was tight. My two brothers and I shared one corner of the room and my parents slept in another.
My father, Lavi, provided for our family by working the fields. He and Alon, my oldest brother of fifteen, worked alongside our neighbor Meshulam to ensure our families were cared for.
My brother Ira, who was eleven, watched our sheep in the pastures. His name means “watchful“, and he was ever so vigilant, always making sure our sheep were safe.
I had a good family, and a good life. But everything I had grown to love would soon become nothing more than a shadow of my past.
It started one Nissan morning.
This particular morning I was roused from my sleep by the smell of fresh garlic and onions. As I stretched on my mat, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and pulled the goatskin a little closer. The mornings were still quite cool, though the afternoons grew very warm. Alon and Ira already had their breakfast and were out tending to their duties.
My mother smiled at me from her spot near the hearth.
“Safra tawba, Adina. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, mama” I yawned. “You let me sleep so long!”
Mother smiled as she continued cooking the vegetables. “Yes, Adina. You were such a big help yesterday with the vegetable harvest, I thought I might let you sleep a little longer this morning.”
As I watched her face, I saw a small smile pulling at the edge of her mouth.
“What is it mama?”
“Well, my daughter, it is such a nice day today I thought you might enjoy a trip to the river. Would you like that?”
“Heh mama!” I squealed, already pushing aside my mat and scrambling for my clothes.
“Oh, today is going to be such a wonderful day!” I finished getting dressed, grabbed the lunch she had prepared, and darted for the doorway.
“Wait daughter, your hair!” Mother caught my arm and guided me to a stool. I impatiently waited for her to finish, and the moment I sensed she was done, I jumped up and dashed out through the front of our stone tybb.
“Be back in before the sun goes down Adina!” My mother called after me.
“Yes, mother!” I answered back, already preoccupied by the adventure of the day.
It wasn’t long before I was gazing across the Jordan River. This was one of my favorite places to play. I enjoyed many adventures along the banks of the river, but my favorite was when I pretended I was one of the multitude that stood watching as Yahweh parted the Red Sea. I loved to imagine the towering walls of water on either side as we anticipated the whole of Pharaoh’s army baring down on us.
If I were honest, I might have said that I enjoyed these imaginary miracles because I wasn’t sure I would ever experience one myself. I had heard the stories of Moses and Joshua and of David and Solomon. One of my favorite times was when we would sit with Grandfather and hear the stories of old.
But the stories always seemed to carry a hint of bitterness. See, we were Samaritans. Now, to me that was simply who we were. But Father and Mother would warn us that, though we shared history with the Jews, we were not like them.
“You must be cautious around anyone who calls himself a Jew, little one.” My father had once warned me. “They do not accept us as one of them, and they will not be kind to you.”
I had never seen a Jew that I knew of, and part of me wondered if since they kept so much else to themselves, do they not also keep their God to themselves? It was because of this that I forced myself to be content to imagine that Yahweh would work miracles for me too.
The day had grown warmer. I kicked off my sandals and waded through the shallow water. As I made my way down the bank, I noticed something dark in the grass up ahead.
“Hello?” I timidly called out.
I took a few steps closer and called again, this time a little louder, “Hello?”
Suddenly the form began to move. As it straightened out, I noticed that it was a young boy about my age, maybe a little older.
“Hello yld, who are you?” I inquired as I was now mere feet away.
“My name is Ethan.”
“I’ve never seen you before, Ethan. Where do you come from?” I asked.
“From Galilee” he answered simply.
“Galilee?” I asked perplexed. “I don’t know a Galilee. Is it far away?”
“Very far,” he answered. “We’ve been traveling for two days now.”
I glanced around to see who else he could be talking about. “Who?” I asked when I didn’t see anyone else.
Ethan explained how he and his family were traveling in a caravan from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. They had spent the night on the other side of the river, and he had wandered across to explore. He had gotten so caught up playing that he didn’t notice that his caravan had left. Not knowing what to do, he just sat down in the grass and waited.
“So…you’re lost then?” I asked him, not understanding much of what he had talked about.
“I suppose so.” he said noncommittally.
“Well, you can play with me if you’d like. I can only be here for today until the sun goes down, but it would be fun to have someone to play with! Maybe by then someone will come back for you.”
Ethan agreed, and we once again began playing Moses and the Red Sea.
Ethan became my best friend that day. We played for hours, only stopping to share the lunch I had brought. I hadn’t had that much fun for as long as I could remember.
It came time for me to go home, and I was just about to invite him along when we spotted some people in the distance.
“Mother! Father!” Ethan called.
He turned to me. “Goodbye Adina! I will never forget you or this day!”
And with that he began wading back across the river and toward his family. He stopped a couple of feet in and turned back to me. “We come this way the same time every year. I will try to visit you again! Maybe we can play some more!” Then he turned and waded several more yards into the river.
“Goodbye Ethan!” I called to him. He turned and waved and then continued to the opposite shore. I watched as they walked off in the distance, hoping that someday I would see Ethan again.
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