“As we waited, I spoke with Avi to learn more about the circumstances of his abduction, in hopes of better understanding how to move forward with the brothers. Up until then, I hadn’t taken much notice of Avi as a person, but only thought of him in regard to his translating abilities, and also as my ally in the cave. He was worried, and the strain showed on his face: anxiety in his eyes, as well as weariness, and they darted here and there searching the other men for understanding, as these spoke together, or walked about, or did nothing at all. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked him. He looked at me with an unconvincing smile and admitted, ‘Not really…to be honest, I thought I might die,’ he glanced at our captors, ‘I still think I might. They may not let me go.’ He took a deep breath, and then another and appeared he might be starting to panic. ‘Avi, look at me,’ I commanded, ‘you will be fine…beseder (which is to say, okay)…beseder, I promise. You will be home again in just a few more hours. Listen, did anyone see when you were taken, was anyone there with you?’ Avi replied, ‘No, I was alone.’ I continued: ‘and how did they take you, what happened?’
Avi answered: ‘through the fence, they cut through and waited, I was at the far end away from the buildings, closest to the mountains. They attacked me.’ He looked ashamed and embarrassed. I stopped asking anything further and we sat a while in silence. Then I commented, as if to nobody in particular, ‘it was three against one…no shame in that…and, they had guns.’
‘Listen, Avi…could you do me a favor? When you get back—you’re scared now—but you won’t be…you’ll get angry, you’ll want justice—vengeance maybe—for the pain they put you through. Can you wait, for my sake? Can you stay quiet for a while, and could you just say that only one man abducted you…and that you couldn’t tell who they were? I need safe passage with them, and I think it is better for me if the security forces don’t know who they are looking for, or how many they are looking for. Can you tell them it was only one…and definitely not three?’
Avi looked pained and slightly irritated at my request. I’m sure he had already, consciously or not, begun his plan for retaliation, and what I had asked him to do interfered with these plans. He struggled for some time with my request, I could see it in his body, as he shifted uncomfortably against the wall of the cave where he sat, and avoided looking at me. He wanted these men—these specific three men—to pay a price, I knew that, and it was a difficult thing I was asking him to do.
‘Do it for me, Avi,’ I said again, imploringly. ‘Please…it will be for the best, trust me.’ After a while, what seemed a very long while as I waited, he eventually nodded his agreement, and promised he would do as I asked: to say that only one man abducted him, and he didn’t get a good look at the man.
As evening approached I asked Avi to do some final translating before he left; since once he was gone, the rest of us who remained, would only have hand signals and guesses as our means of communication. ‘Ubeidiya is not far away, maybe only an hour’s hike, but we’re certain to be seen and stopped along the way.’ I began, trying to persuade the brothers, ‘If you carry your guns you’ll be arrested or possibly killed. You must get rid of your guns before we leave,’ I continued assertively but with little hope, knowing this idea was unlikely to win favor with my captors. ‘No! Then we have no hope,’ the oldest brother replied.
‘What happens when we are stopped? What then?’ I asked. ‘Will you begin a firefight against the Israeli security forces? That’s certain to go well for you, isn’t it?’ I asked sarcastically. The oldest brother stood up, and paced the cave, ‘We’ll take our chances,’ he answered. ‘No, you’ll die! And your mother will lose three sons on top of losing her husband, what a nice gift you’ll be giving her then,’ I replied. ‘We’ll take our chances!’ he said again angrily, and then walked out to the mouth of the cave, peering out, and searching the sky fearfully for helicopters. The middle brother followed after him with purpose, and they talked quietly for a few minutes beyond our hearing.
‘This is a complicated situation,’ I thought to myself. ‘There are many variables here: what will the middle brother do, he is volatile and could explode at any moment, better he explode in here than out there though; and the older brother, he is smart but angry, and beaten down, and wants justice for his family, but he may be willing to chance losing everything in service of that mirage; and the youngest is frightened, and he could run at the wrong moment, and sacrifice himself in his innocence; and what about Avi? Even he could do the unexpected, his emotions could overtake him, like they could any of us. Yes, we are a complicated and tragedy prone people—all of us—each one believing to be justified, but always one step away from disaster. How will this end, I wonder?’
As the brothers continued to talk at the cave’s entrance it suddenly dawned on me that I had stopped praying. When prayer to God stops, we naturally fill that void with our own ideas; when we cease to seek God’s will, we resort by default to our own will. And when prayer to God begins again, we can clearly recognize the delusion that we allowed ourselves to fall into; and the control we hitherto had ineffectively exerted, foolishly, upon this uncontrollable world, dissolves into the solution that is God’s magnificent and rightful power.
So I began to pray again: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Come to our help, oh God…Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, hurry to our rescue…Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, teach me to love as You love.’ And as I prayed these prayers again and again within my heart, though the external situation became no less complicated, my role in it grew clearer to me; while at the same time I saw my role diminishing. Whereas before, I had exerted great effort to control the responses of the others in the cave, in hopes of crafting a positive outcome for everyone; I now agreed in spirit, that this was God’s domain instead, and not my place to control.
However, this did not make me passive nor inert; nor was I somehow now deprived of all power of influence. On the contrary, God’s power was now free to move through me as He wills; no longer constricted by my will, or by my narrow point of view. I was just one instrument in this symphony now; no longer would I attempt to be the conductor. I smiled at this thought, as I looked at the other men around me. We had drums, and clashing cymbals in the person of the middle brother; perhaps a cello in the eldest, or was he a violin? The youngest was maybe a flute…or a trumpet? He seemed to have wide potential and breadth, and could possibly be any of the instruments…and Avi, I think was an oboe–challenging and emotive, with depth and passion. I had no idea what I was; it is difficult to know ourselves—especially as seen in something so oblique as a musical instrument.
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