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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #99

[Mia Morelli and her brother Leo have come from Naples, where they were orphaned during World War II and reduced to living on the streets, to Israel, where they are helping to build their new country in a children’s kibbutz called Gan Shalom (Garden of Peace).  Here, Mia begins to overcome her shyness and fears.]  	Mia had found another interest in life, which now occupied most of her free time.  It seemed that while Dan had plant-magic in his fingers, Mia had craft-magic in hers.  She had tried painting first, and though she liked it, things never got on paper the way she wanted them.  But in hand crafts, like weaving or pottery or even sewing, Mia found that her hands seemed to come alive, knowing instinctively what to do and how.  New and charming designs came into being, and Devora was delighted.    	“We’ll have to give you some special time and lessons,” she said.  “It’s people like you who will create a new folk art.  You like this sort of thing, don’t you.”  	“Oh, yes!” breathed Mia happily.  	“Maybe you can come and teach crafts in my gan yeladim when I have one,” suggested Rachell, whose fingers, she declared in disgust, were all toes.  She glared now at the beginnings of a curtain, which at the moment more resembled a discouraged dish towel.  	Rachell had already decided to be a kindergarten teacher.  She adored mothering in general, and children in particular, and the small fry at Gan Shalom heartily returned the compliment.  Small Hanna, Imma Miriam’s daughter, was at this moment peeping in the door, waiting for Rachell to be free and come play with her.  	“There’s nothing like starting now,” observed Devora.  “Hanna, come in, dear.  Would you like it if Mia were to show you how to weave and make baskets and pottery?”  	“Yes,” said Hanna promptly, coming in and leaning her small, plump person against Mia.  “Will you, Mia?”  	Mia had a moment of terror.  How could she, the meek, the stupid, teach anyone?  But Hanna’s rosy and earnest confidence made her think twice.  Good gracious, Hanna was looking at her with the same admiration which Mia herself gave to Shari.  How odd!  But what a wonderful feeling!  Perhaps she could teach Hanna after all.  Devora seemed to think so.  Craft was something Mia could do better than the others.  How amazing and how nice!  She looked at her short, tanned fingers wonderingly, and quite unconsciously her back straightened a little with the faint dawning of confidence.  She smiled at Hanna.  “I’d like to teach you,” she said.    	Devora nodded to herself, well pleased.  Mia would be all right.  She was getting there.  Sally Watson, To Build a Land (1957), pp. 127-128

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