Friday, 6 February 2015

Falafels and Mint Tea

I’ve discovered a great place for lunch: Abu Shukri on the corner opposite Station V of the via Dolorasa. It’s a great place – but, my, was it busy today when I arrived at about 1.15pm. Of course, I realised, it’s just after Friday Prayers on the Temple Mount. There were all ages and all sorts – and then there was me! I went there yesterday, so I knew the Falafel Sandwich would be good – but today’s was even better than yesterday’s! The problem then was, ‘Where to munch my lunch?’

Station V of the via Dolorosa is a really busy ‘junction’ in Jerusalem. At any one time there will be residents/shoppers coming from four directions, cars from two, pilgrims in swathes of various sizes depending on the group(s) walking the Stations of the Cross, and then the occasional stallholders such as those today – selling dates and plums (at least, I think they were plums – I couldn’t get close enough to see), as well as the ladies who sell fresh herbs by the bunch. It’s a really colourful ‘corner’ of the city and a great spot for watching the nations of the world pass by – seriously, the nations of the world who are here to explore, to worship and to pray, to study and simply to see what all the hullabaloo about Jerusalem is about.

I munched my lunch on the strange set of seats that is just near St Anne’s and the Pool of Bethesda, as well as backing on to the Temple Mount (I only realised that today!) As well as being joined by a good number of cats, I was, in time, joined by a group of three children, ranging in age from about four to thirteen years old – two brothers and a sister. They seemed friendly – and then came the request for money. I have become increasingly aware that it is good to carry some shekels in your pocket as you journey along – ready to give to those in need. Across the city, you will regularly be approached by children and adults alike offering to ‘help’ you by telling where you are (even if you know already) or offering to direct you to where you may wish to go (if you make the mistake of either looking as though you don’t know or carrying a Guide Book). In the Jewish Quarter on Monday, a man followed me offering to help me with where I wished to go. I said I was fine but he continued to follow, asking me to ‘give him a living’. Others walked by and averted their eyes, and I persisted that I was fine and knew where I was. Thankfully, I don’t speak Hebrew very well, for the volley of expletives that followed me as a I walked on was not, I imagine, all that flattering!

With the three children, I asked where their parents were. The answer wasn’t forthcoming. The little girl was eating sweets, and they were all relatively well clothed. What gives an insight into their possible need is the fact that they said they were Palestinian and Palestinians are in a kind of ‘no man’s land’ with regard to their nationality status and thus the earning potential for their parents may be difficult. It doesn’t mean they can’t work, but it does mean that there are limitations on where they can work and live and how they can travel to work.

I visited Nadeer again this afternoon, risking the possibility of another advance from Elias (see previous post), and we were  joined by Nadeer’s son, Omar. Well, what an interesting conversation we had regarding the fact that men may marry up to four wives at once whilst women may only be married to one man at a time (it wasn't me who started the conversation, I promise!) I suggested this wasn’t very fair… well, I would, wouldn’t?! Omar told me that, amongst many reasons for which men should be able to marry up to four women at once, one was that, with up to seven women for any one man and the fact that there are women who draw men into bad ways, it was a way of assisting society to maintain a sense of cohesion and morality. It wasn’t a discussion that was going to go anywhere that I was going to be in agreement with but it was all good natured and they were obviously interested in what I had to say (although they obviously would disagree with it!)

And all this from purchasing a falafel sandwich at Abu Shukri and then a drink of fresh mint and hot water to follow. Life is thought-provoking.

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