Sobs shook my body and I could barely see for the tears in my eyes. The pounding of the horse hooves beneath me matched the pounding of my heart, as terror and sorrow consumed me.
During the ride, I faintly heard shouts, screams, and talking, but none of it made sense. The only thing that I could clearly understand was Daddy’s form fading from my view and a stranger gripping my wrist until it hurt. I didn’t know where I was, who my captors were, and what was going to happen.
We rode the rest of that day. By “we”, I mean the captors, four older kidnapped girls I didn’t recognize, and myself.
That night, the prisoners were each given a cup of water and a piece of bread. Then the men took ropes and bound our right hands to a tree, taking turns watching us throughout the night.
I curled up with my face away from the fire. I didn’t want to see the guard staring at us, watching our every move. I was terrified enough, and missed my family terribly. Would I every see them again?
As I stared out into the darkness, listening to the night sounds, I slipped my left hand into my pocket to keep it warmer and felt something soft. Looking down, I pulled out a handful of semi-dried flowers, leaves, and stems.
I began to cry as I stared at the wilting flowers. They had been so pretty when I picked them for Mommy. Now they were dead. "It doesn’t matter anymore, though," I thought. "I may never see Mommy again anyway." I began to sob.
I awoke to someone pushing me with their foot. “Get up,” a harsh voice said. “Get up!”
I opened my eyes and all the events of the day before came rushing back at me like a flood of water. I sat up quickly and looked around.
The men were saddling their horses, dousing the fire, and cleaning up from breakfast. There were seven of them. They all wore cloaks, traveling clothes, and sturdy shoes. They had fierce eyes and rough voices. They didn’t laugh or talk pleasantly among themselves. They did their job with disinterested and unfeeling hearts.
I looked down at my left hand, which was still curled tightly around a few dry flowers. A lump formed in my throat again, and tears came to my eyes. I forced them back down, though. “Daddy will come for you,” I tried to reassure myself. “Daddy will bring Joshua and Daniel and come rescue you. Just wait.”
And I did wait. Each day, as the men carried us farther away from home, I listened and watched for any sign of anyone following us.
But nothing happened.
We rode over unfamiliar territory, through strange villages with strange people wearing strange clothes and talking in strange tongues. Everywhere I searched for someone with a kind face, someone who spoke Hebrew, someone who might help me. Sometimes I begged people for help. But no one listened. Some of them laughed at me, others turned away in fear. I knew by now that the soldiers who had taken me were from Aram. No one wanted to risk their anger.
I tried to stay strong, tried to keep hoping. I prayed every day that God would deliver me, that he would send Daddy to take me home. Yet nothing happened. I couldn’t understand why. Why didn’t God send someone to rescue me and take me home? What was his plan?
Finally, we reached the end of our journey. Exhausted, hungry, and dirty, I looked around in fright at the city we were entering. It was so crowded. There were people everywhere going in every direction. People sat on the sides of the roads, selling their wares, some of which looked completely unfamiliar to me. They called out in strange languages, yelling, laughing, and arguing. The hot air was filled with strange smells, sometimes of perfumes and flowers and pleasant items, sometimes of funny smells from strange-looking food, and other times of horrid things like animals and sweat. The people bustling around didn’t seem to notice the smell, though, just like they didn’t notice me, a tiny girl grasping a horse’s mane and feeling smothered by the noises, the smells, the business, the strangeness of it all. It was all so big, and I felt so tiny and unwanted and unimportant.
The men weaved their horses through the people, content to travel at a slow pace until they reached a small building to the right side.
I was pulled off my horse onto the dirt road and marched inside. There, someone me handed a bowl of soup and a cup of water and I didn’t bother to think about anything else. Sitting down beside the wall, I eagerly began devouring the food. It was so much better than the few pieces of dried bread I had been given the past few days. This was hot and filling. The water tasted so delicious and soothing on my parched throat. Within a few minutes, I had finished all the provisions I had been given. To my delight, someone came forward and gave me more.
While I ate, drank, and rested, the men talked with a rather skinny stranger in the room. I couldn’t understand anything they said. A few minutes later, though, the stranger took out a bag of money and placed it on a scale. Then my captors took the money and left.
The stranger walked over to the other five of us. I had just finished my second helping of soup and third cup of water. I set them down on the floor and looked fearfully up into the man’s face. What had he and the other men decided? I had felt so much fear and insecurity in the last few days. How much more would I go through before I felt safe again?
The man gazed over us, then began speaking in his language. I stared up at him in bewilderment, as did the other girls. The man stopped, then tried again. “Do you speak Hebrew?” he asked in our language.
“Yes,” one of the girls said.
“You will learn to speak our language. Israel is no longer your home so you will no longer need that language.” The man picked up a book beside him and dipped a pen into a bottle of ink. “What are your ages?”
He looked at me first, so I said in a quiet voice, “Seven.”
He wrote that down, then stared straight into my eyes. “Never speak to your master like that. Speak loud enough so that they can always hear you the first time or you’ll regret it.”
A shiver went down my back. What did he mean? My master? Regret it?
After all of us had given our names, the skinny man set the book back down. “You live in Aram now, and will serve Aram masters. There are already two men here to bring you to your masters. Follow me.” He turned and walked to the back of the building, and the five of us jumped up to obey.
There were two men standing outside beside wagons, one of which had a lady sitting in it. The two men stepped forward when the man opened the door. “Stand there,” the skinny stranger said, pointing to the left.
We all hurried to stand in a line. I squinted in the bright sunshine, trying to figure out what was happening.
The stranger walked up to the two men and began talking to them in a business-like voice. After a few minutes, the three newcomers walked over to us and looked over each girl. I was frightened when the first man stepped up to me, and I didn’t know how to act. He was dirty and smelly. His beard made him look even fiercer, and the man’s brown eyes looked disapprovingly at me. I was grateful that he didn’t stay long; after about five seconds of frowning at my skinny legs and arms, he turned to the next girl.
When the second man came to me with the women, who I guessed was his wife, he took a bit longer studying me. He didn’t show any emotion and I couldn’t tell if he was pleased or angry. He seemed cleaner than the other man and wore slightly finer clothes. He paused a moment before leaving, looking me over as a whole. Then he and his wife spoke for a moment before he turned to the skinny man. They seemed to be arguing; the second man would say something in a negative tone, and the skinny man would answer with something else. Finally, the skinny man said something that made the second man pause, then grunt.
The three men stepped inside for a moment. My heart began to pound faster. What was going to happen?
When they returned, the first man began herding three of the girls towards his wagon. The second man gripped the fourth girl’s arm. When he did the same to me, a wave of terror swept over me. All the fear and sadness that had been building up inside me hit me like a rock and I began to scream and kick. I didn’t want this man to touch me and take me wherever he belonged. I wanted to go home. “Let me go!” I screamed, pulling my arm with all my might.
The man didn’t seemed bothered at all as he dragged me towards the wagon. “No!” I screamed. “Let me go! Let me go! I want to go home! Help me! Please,” I begged, looking towards the skinny man. “Please save me.” The man turned away.
I was lifted into the wagon and dropped onto the floor. “God,” I whispered, shaking, “please help me.”