“Mommy, what’s a dirty goy?”
My three year old looks up at me, tears in her eyes. My heart feels like it is being squeezed by cold hands.
“Where did you hear that?”
“Channah and Alliyah called me that. They wouldn’t let me play with them.”
The bottom lip quivers. “Am I dirty?”
“No, no, baby! You aren’t dirty. Goy is a word they use to talk about the people who aren’t Hebrew. Some people are scared of people who are different and they are mean to them.”
My brown eyed delight looks puzzled. “But Mom, we aren’t different. All of us are from here. We aren’t like the fancy men from the cities far away.”
“No, honey-comb, we aren’t that different. But some people think we are. Go play with Shimmi.” His mother Rivka is Moabite too.
“He is a boy,” my little one wrinkles her nose. “He is dirty, Channah said so.”
“Never mind what Channah says, ever.” My voice is too harsh and I try and soften it. “Now, if you don’t want to play with Shimmi , you can help me stook the grain.”
My big girl scampers off down the hill to Rivka’s hut.
It has been a back-breaking few months. We worked so so hard building up the wall.
Everyone who could be spared, even Shallum’s daughters, worked night and day building and guarding the walls.
The rest of us, the mothers and children now had to do all the planting, weeding and harvesting. We had the triple burden of carrying water and straw to the workers, tending the fields and animals, and all of the children – not to mention feeding the workers. I fall asleep standing in the fields not sure if it is the extra work or the extra body growing inside me.
Now that the wall is done, I wanted things to go back to how they were. But the new arrivals from Babylon think differently.
Our neighbours now avoid Rivka and I. They spit on the ground as we pass. Yet, they still accept our water.
Rivka comes up the hill.
“They are going to send away all of us who aren’t Hebrew. Jonathan and I are planning to leave sooner. Come with us.”