| Teen Diary Serial |

Sara’s Story: Chapter 9

Would the wilderness ever end? Would we ever make it to civilization again?


Tehran, Iran 1978

Masud pushed his head out of the jeep’s window. “We’re going to visit family in Pakistan,” he told the guard outside.

“The border is closed. No crossing tonight.”

Masud sighed. “You mean we need to spend the night in Iran?”

“That’s right.” The guard’s voice was guttural and harsh. “The border’s closed.”

Masud pulled the lever and put the jeep into reverse. It wasn’t a punishable crime for an Iranian to visit family in Pakistan, but it wasn’t permitted either. Fortunately, the guard did not suspect us of trying to escape the country forever. If he would have, he would have imprisoned us on the spot.

I clenched my fist and drew my Pakistani dress tightly around me. Where would we spend the next six hours until dawn?

“There’s a hotel not too far away,” Masud said, as though intuiting my question. “We’ll spend the night there and continue our journey tomorrow.”

Hotel conditions in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran were a far cry from hotel conditions in first world countries. But I didn’t know what first world country hotels were like back then, so I simply allowed myself to sink onto the sheetless bed in my room with relief. We were safe and unharmed. And on our way out of Iran as well.

The next morning, we all congregated in front of Masud’s room for a quick planning session.

“We’ll have to try a different route this time,” Masud said. “Last night the border was guarded. But if we approach it again this morning, hopefully everything will be okay.”

Masud was right. As I pursed my lips tightly together and uttered a silent prayer that our escape meet with success, Masud drove his jeep past the area where we’d been stopped the previous night.

There were no guards to be seen.

In my heart I knew that we’d just experienced a miracle. But the natural order of things at the time was that the border really was not too heavily guarded by armed soldiers.

Sometimes the soldiers were there. Other times they were not.

Masud continued to drive over sand and rock. The sand flew around the open jeep and stuck to my hair.

Sand, sand, and more sand.

Would the wilderness ever end? Would we ever make it to civilization again?

After 14 long and dreary hours in the desert, we received our first sign of life. Houses scattered haphazardly all around. Gravelly roads. And people.

Swarms of Pakistani children surrounded our jeep as we pulled into the city.



The children held their hands out, waiting. Yitzchok pulled out his wallet, but the gesture was meant for our guard, Masud. Not for the eager children.

“Thank you,” Yitzchok told our guard, tears in his eyes. “You have helped my whole family. We will forever be indebted to you.”

Masud bowed slightly. He seemed to revel in his role as redeemer. And indeed, years later, I learned that his almost altruistic kindness was rare. Too many Iranians were killed by their smugglers in the desert as they attempted to flee the country.

Most of the smugglers were money-hungry people, and it was easier to kill their clients in the wilderness than deliver them to safety. We had experienced a miracle.

The Pakistani children continued to hold their hands out.

“Money. Food.”

Yitzchok shook his head. Whatever money he had needed to be heavily guarded. Every last riyal that he, Yosef, and Dovid had saved up over the years, had come out of Iran with us. It was all going to be used in our escape.

“There is a hotel down the road,” Maman said pointing. “Come. That is where we will spend the night.”

The Pakistani hotel was hardly an improvement over the rundown Iranian “hotel” that we’d spent the previous night in. But this time things were different.

This time, we were past the border and on our way to freedom.

For four days, Maman, Yitzchok, and Dovid took care of the paperwork that we needed to continue our trip. Bribery, or baksheesh, as we called it, was used with almost every clerk and government worker whom they met.

Finally, our paperwork was ready. We boarded a plane to Berlin, Germany, enroute to London, England.

Goodbye, Middle East!

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 911)

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