By: Saleh Ibrahim
When the great withdrawal  took place, my entire being trembled with joy. Yes, I will return to my village, to my home, to my childhood. I will return after a long absence that lasted eighteen years.
I was trapped by a long traffic jam of vehicles and human beings before I could reach my destiny.
My car advanced slowly with the picture of my house invading my imagination. It perfectly blends with the hill because it was built at its foot and was made from its rocks. Being small and rocky gave it all the beauty it needed. A piece of land stretched in front it, which we planted in the past. What was mostly beautiful about it was that it is my home. However, I was forced to abandon it when the great attack  took place. I was afraid of reaching home to find that my house has been demolished.
My car advanced slowly while I recalled parts of my childhood. I could feel my eyes almost watering with tears, especially when I remembered my childhood pal "Ziad," whom I have not seen ever since. I heard great news about him but I never verified them. Will I be able to find him in the village? Is he there in the first place? Everything beautiful about my childhood is tied to him, especially the "small tree" and the "cave."
The small tree remains present in my conscience. Ziad told me once as we broke open the walnuts for eating: "If we leave a walnut hanging on the tree until the end of September, after which we plant it, it will grow into another tree."
I was stunned by the idea in my childhood: Plant a walnut and it will become a tree in September! I did not remember this issue until I saw the walnut hanging at the top of the tree near Ziad's home at the center of the village.
I stoned a walnut until it fell. I took it and went quickly to my small land of my home, where I dug a small hole, placed it in, and covered it with soil.
A few months later, early next summer, the surprise filled me with joy. The walnut grew into a buddy tree.
Ziad said to me: "You must water it every week." I watered it once and the great attack took place… Did my tree die?
The "cave" on the other hand was our favorite place. Ziad and I would play inside with our screams deafening our mothers… We can reach the cave straight from the balcony of our kitchen via a rocky narrow path… It splits into two parts: the first is like a lobby whereas the second is like a small chamber connected to a devious cavity which cannot be easily noticed by others even if they entered the lobby.
This place was a special part of our childhood. It remains present in my memory after all these years. It was a place for our "forbidden" games, such as the game of making dough and baking bread, which we played without our mothers' consent. We would take flower, water and salt behind their backs, and there, we would make a small fire and place above it a metal plate on which we would bake the dough…
The cave was also our hiding place, where we would hide anything we love and treasure. There, I last hid my favorite toy, which was a little white car, the size of my fist… I placed it inside a narrow rocky crack inside the small chamber… There, I left it with my childhood, awesomeness and fear from the great attack.
Will I find it today when I reach there even if I find my house demolished or toppled? What will change the cave especially the inner chamber and particularly the rocky crack where my toy was treasured? Did they (the enemy) demolish the cave as well?
I am still trapped in the traffic jam of the returning vehicles and people. The face of Ziad is slipping off my memory. Is he the man whom they described to me?
As I approached my village I recalled the picture of my house and some details of my childhood again. It is true I was absent for eighteen years and that those details left my mind sometimes, yet they remain with me, inside me, invading my being from time to time, leaving me enchanted by nostalgia. Now, I feel that these years almost equal a moment… I can regain the smell of the place with all its details and colors.
I finally reached my village. The hill looked very clear to me… My mouth dried up, my heart palpitated strongly for my house appeared to me like an unclear image… Yes, it is my home, yet this image looked somehow different from that resident in my memory: the hill remains the same whereas the house is faded in colors. Another scene clearly changed the entire picture: there was a huge tree next to my home which made me doubt for a moment the authenticity of my expectation …
As I arrived nearer the picture became clearer. It is my house with the huge tree next to it. It must be the childhood buddy tree that I planted with my own hands. It is now a magnificent tree, leafy and vivid.
Yes, this is my house; it was not demolished and remains steady in its place… My heart almost pumped out of my rib cage. I entered with my blood almost bursting out of my veins… Everything inside was surprising… There are no spiders or insects… It smells like the rest of the homes that were not abandoned. It smells like human beings… Some smell of food, coffee and cigarettes remain resident… It is not very clean yet it is not dirty! Everything remains almost in its place, or that's how I imagine.
Spontaneously, without any thinking, I entered the kitchen to find another surprise: some dishes and cups were still in the sink… Some good chairs were in the middle… Some ashtrays were full of ashes! I exited to the balcony with a joy, some questions, and a picture of Ziad. From there, I moved along the rocky path to the "cave."
My eyes watered with tears… I almost sobbed… My childhood moved the depth of my soul because of the years that I spent away from this place. However, these years were dwarfed by a moment, one forgotten moment, which my heart treasures inside my memory.
The smell of the place shocked me again. It is exactly the same smell of the house. It was a mix of moldiness and the smoke of our little fire. But now the smell of moldiness vanished to be replaced by a smell of tobacco, smoking and people… Who changed the smell of the place?
I entered the devious small chamber where my feet hit a huge fragile pile. I used the lighter. They were walnut shells. Behind them, bags were packed! I entered my hand inside one of the bags to hit a rough metal, rough cold metal. I retreated to reach out for my toy which I placed here eighteen years ago, but could not find it!
I returned to my house and was surprised by him; is it Ziad? Yes, this is him. This is his walk. These are the colors of his eyes. This is his smile. My eyes cried with tears. He smiled at me and we embraced each other.
We entered the kitchen together in a spontaneous way, like we used to do when we were children. We sat down and I looked straight in his eyes, wondering. He smiled with confusion. I looked at him again and he gestured with his head to say yes! What I heard about him was true! I cannot describe my feelings. All I could say is that I could have slackened the reins of myself to express my joy with him, with my house and my tree…
While I was spinning by my emotions, Ziad entered my bedroom and I followed him. He reached out for the place beneath the pillow that was on my bed. And from there, he brought out my little white car and placed it in my hand.
 The great withdrawal: the withdrawal of the Israeli army from south Lebanon on May 25, 2000.
 The great attack: The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.