...Fatima was in her teens and on her way back from the new school for girls that had opened the previous year. Tired from a long day of parroting what the teachers asked her to memorize, she was heading home when she met her elder brother who hurried her along, yelling at the womenfolk in the house to hide wherever they could, because "the Jews are coming."
Fatima knew in a timeless way, in those days of May 1948, that the Jews were coming. For the last six months shreds from the daily news -- traditionally the domain of the men in the village -- had reached her. She was aware that the British were leaving and that the Jews were occupying nearby villages at a frightening rate. She also heard the men complaining about the Arab world's betrayal: its leaders made inflammatory speeches, promising to send soldiers to save Palestine, but not matching their rhetoric by any real action. Yet the daily routine of those days was not interrupted even once, so that the threatened arrival of the Jews was like an evil spell, against which the blue-painted door and ornate ceramic Hamsa -- the amulet hand hanging on one side of it -- should be sufficient protection.
But on that fateful day the evil spirits were stronger than any talisman or benevolent djinns hovering over the village to safeguard it, as they had in the past, from Crusaders, Napoleon and other would-be invaders who frequented the Palestine coast on the way to another conquest, or seeking a Christian redemption of the Holy Land...