The contrast was sharp. The contrast between the girl who grew up on a farm in the Negev desert, in a trailer at the foothills of the Hebron mountains, and the young lady who danced freely at a party on the landscaped roof of an apartment building in Tel Aviv, was drastic.

Their little trailer contained two sisters and two brothers, parents, countless dogs and cats, and many other animals that came without invitation. Her father practiced lassoing the calves by sending his sons running around outside the trailer and roping them.

The children drew freely on the walls, and when nature called, they simply went outside.

“Let’s go visit Noam Naomi and the hungry children,” we used to say.

I knew this girl would one day be a writer.

“She is sensitive and talented” I used to tell her parents “and you’ve already made her suffer enough.” She was a painter. She would pick and crush flowers of different colors for her pigments.

We used to play “animal-vegetable-mineral” with them. We looked for a word beginning with C for something that grows.

“Cancer,” said the little writer who did not yet know her calling.

“Why cancer?” we asked.

“Because it grows,” she declared victoriously.

“Key,” we said, when we needed something for K.

“What is it? What’s a key?” asked these children of nature, who had never seen one. They never locked the small trailer, and in any case there wasn’t anything in it worth stealing.

THEIR FARM was near a Palestinian village, and a bit north of there, there’s another one.

The family’s olive trees were uprooted from time to time, and sometimes calves were stolen; guarding the land at night with weapons was routine.

One night two beautiful calves were stolen from their herd. A Palestinian friend from one of the villages gave them information about where they were being held. At dawn we reached the village. The lead was not very specific and we searched but found nothing.

“This way of searching is not effective,” I said to my friends, “We should search only in places where there are hay and straw barns.”

With a smaller number of targets for our search, we soon found one of the calves.

In this way the children grew up – horses, cows, guards and thieves. Goat milk from the yard, saplings of trees and vines.

The years passed, their parents got divorced, they left the farm, and for many years we have not seen the “hungry children.”

And here she is on a rooftop in Tel Aviv; the child writer is now a doctoral student in literature, writing stories. She has the same sensitive look, with a hint of sadness in her eyes, a bit lost. She proudly displays her wedding ring. Like her, it is very thin and fragile. Here she is on some rooftop in the city, dance music in the air, yet she will perhaps always hear the howling jackals of her childhood.

The writer is author of Sharon: The Life of a Leader (2011).

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