Sold to the Bedouins, Bought by the King

Khalida Wukawitz

When the Six-Day War broke out in Israel on June 6, 1967, my mother was pregnant with me. She was injured in the war, and a cousin came and moved her from Gaza to Bethlehem, where a few days later she gave birth to me. Eleven days later she died. No one knew where my father was, so I was put in a Jewish orphanage even though I was of Palestinian descent. The orphanage staff became my family. We spoke both Hebrew and Arabic in the home. We had a house in Lebanon where we went for the summers and another house in Jericho. When I was nine years old, there was much fighting going on between Israel and Lebanon.

One day I was sent to get water from a well. On my way to the well I heard a horrible sound of a crash or explosion. I looked back and was stunned to see that the whole orphanage had been destroyed! A rocket or a missile from an airplane had dropped on the house and killed everyone in the house. It sounded and felt to me like the sky had fallen to the ground. It was terrifying! I was the only one who walked out alive except for one other little girl a few years younger than me who had gone for water with me. Some people took her away and I never saw her again.

An Israeli found me wandering around crying. He was in a military vehicle and had a few other soldiers with him. They asked me where I lived. I spoke Hebrew to them and they realized I was from the orphanage. No one came to claim me, and they didn’t know what to do with me.

They ran into an Arab man and talked to him and told him what was going on with me, and he said he would take me. The Arab man took me to a marketplace where he met with a man. The man looked rough, like he hadn't had a bath for a long time. He had a long beard and was dressed in Bedouin clothes. I knew what Bedouins were from the market at home. He gave the first guy five shekels and said, “I’ll take her.” Then he said to me, “You belong to me. Now you’re my servant.”

I had been sold to the Bedouins as a servant. That day I became part of a caravan of camels, a dog or two, some horses, and plenty of kids. The tribe was called the Hassan tribe. My new owner introduced me to his pregnant wife. I wasn’t covered in the Muslim way. The wife said, “You need to cover your head. You’ll live with us and your job will be to get water and to gather food. We don’t pay you for living with us, but we give you food and shelter and you travel with us. She gave me a cover for my head and said, “You are a Muslim now.”

The tribe followed the Muslim practices and I soon loved doing them. Though the Jews had only been like a loving family to me, I came to believe what the Bedouins told me.

During the times we were in the desert, I used to have dreams. I didn’t understand my dreams, but I had wonderful dreams in the desert. I heard music and saw pleasant things. They were peaceful. One time I was so hungry that my stomach hurt. I fell asleep in the desert with my camel. In the dream a man came to me with wonderful food. I could not see his face, but he was urging me to eat and feeding me wonderful food at a table. When I woke up, my stomach did not hurt and I felt I had just eaten a wonderful and satisfying meal. I was no longer hungry, as if the dream was real.

So many things happened to me. Then later, as a young mother, I was living on the streets and while I was walking down the street I saw a lady in a shop. I felt so drawn to her. I finally walked in. The moment I entered, she was very loving and cheerful.

I said, “I’m looking for a job.” She said, “I know. I will give you a job.” She hired me right then and there as a cook and even with good wages. We started building a friendship from that moment on. When she found out I was homeless, she immediately invited me and my children into her home; they didn’t charge me. Then she helped me get a place of my own for me and my children.

When I finally asked, she started telling me about Jesus and what she believed. I just interrupted her and told her, “The Qur’an is the truth and Muhammad is the final prophet. Don’t say God has a son. That’s not to be believed." I went back and forth with her. I would tell her, “You are going to hell for your beliefs. We’re the true religion. Everyone needs to come to Islam and believe in the last prophet. Our Qur’an teaches God is not a weak God who needs a son. He can help himself. He has no need for a son.” For two years she told me about Jesus, but because of how I was raised, I couldn’t believe God had a son.

One day I was at the store working in the back room. I thought, Nothing is working. I’m making money but I’m so unhappy. Where is the truth? Even though He didn’t make sense to me, I said, “Jesus, if you are the son of God, come down and show me.” That moment, something started to happen in the room…

—Excerpt from the book. 

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