Chapter One

Humble Beginnings

Roza heaved a big sigh and shuddered slightly. She had woken up suddenly with an uneasy feeling that something awful was about to happen. In the darkness, she strained her ears for unusual noises, but all was quiet. She was used to the sound of the night insects and an occasional screech owl; cats and dogs were often vocal too. It was footsteps or creaking floorboards that she was hoping not to hear. As she lay there, feeling anxious, her mind wandered back over the events of the last few weeks. Groups of Syrian bandits had been crossing into Israel raiding rural dwellings and destroying crops, also taking livestock. Some shepherds had been killed defending their flocks of sheep and goats. Her parents had forbidden her to wander alone in the fields in case of kidnap.

Roza was thirteen years of age. She was a beautiful girl, the gentle curves of her body beginning to form. Long black hair, deep brown eyes and a smooth olive skin were her main attractions. Clad in her long dresses, with a veil about her head, she was often seen carrying water from the well, feeding the goats and sweeping the courtyard of her house. Her friends envied her slim figure and small features: a curved mouth that always seemed to be smiling; a finely shaped nose; eyes that made many boys hearts melt. She had a quiet manner about her; slightly shy she was always polite but could be quite outspoken if necessary. This sometimes got her into trouble as in her culture females were not encouraged to express opinions, especially in the presence of men. She thought about things a lot and had ideas of what she wanted to do with her life. Once, Roza had spoken out in front of her parents. “Why can’t I do all the things that boys do?” she had complained. One look from her father had silenced her.

“Be content with your life girl,” he had said sternly. “God has made you a woman so be glad and do not moan!”
It would not be long before her father sought out a suitable husband for Roza; a tingling, weird sensation always filled her whenever she thought of this. Marriage was a mystery to her and not openly talked about at home. A lot of whispering and giggling went on among her friends as they often eyed up the local boys passing on their way to the Chief Elders house for lessons. Girls did not go to school; they were kept at home to do the domestic work until they married and had a home of their own. If they had younger brothers or sisters then they helped look after them so that their mother could go and tend the crops in the fields.

The village that Roza lived in was called Thirza. It was just outside Samaria where the prophet Elisha lived. He was known throughout the land as a man of God who did miracles; people had been healed by him and a widow woman even had her son raised from the dead when she asked Elisha for help. Roza had never seen him but her parents talked of him often.

Her house was a simple brick and clay building. It had two upper rooms, an outside staircase onto the flat roof, then on the lower floor a kitchen, a storeroom, and there was a stable at the back of the building for the animals to be kept in at night. There was a courtyard and a brick wall around the house. A separate small annexe built onto the house was where her brothers slept. There were shutters around the windows which were closed and bolted each evening. The sturdy door to the house gave security to those inside. There was a place for making a fire in the courtyard. This was often used for cooking the meals.

Thirza was small but set in lovely surroundings. Lush fields were surrounded by high hills, and a river ran alongside the clusters of houses. There was a large meeting place in the centre of the village where worship and communal gatherings took place. Sheep and goats grazed in the further fields, looked after by shepherds who sometimes took their flocks to the hills for better pasture. The main well was outside the village and the flocks were watered there in the evenings. It was also a meeting place for women and girls who came to get water twice a day. They had to wait for the shepherds to lift the heavy stone off the top of the well, then after the sheep and goats had been watered, it was their tubibrn to fill their urns with water for the family.

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