Thursday, May 09, 2013


My young friend looked at me aghast as I dipped into her stuffed grape leaves and told her to take some of my chicken salad off my plate.

She had told me that she wasn't used to being spoken to on public transportation. Swedish people are extremely reserved and quiet, yet, she prefered boisterous Israelis. And I had become one of them, calling loudly to our waitress, budding into conversations and sharing food. I wasn't the only one, as 2 other restaurant patrons looked at our food and talked about it with one another.

"In Sweden", she explained, "it's unheard of that people interrupt conversations to add their own 2 cents, they don't talk about other people's food in restaurants, and they certainly don't share food on their plates" she laughed, and her rasta-hair laughed along.

I remember horrifying another Dutch friend as well when she came for a visit in 1998. We were waiting to be served in a bakery, and the line wasn't moving. I wasn't being attended to, so I helped myself to 2 challah breads, while my friend put her hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter, and explained that THAT was never done in the Netherlands.

"Well, it's done here. As long as I pay for it, it's fine to walk around the counter and get it yourself."

I seem to be unintentionally shocking nice Europeans these days.

We went over to the Abraham Hostel after our meal. This was the funkiest, coolest hostel around and I had never ventured inside before tonight. The place was vibrant, colorful and full of assorted tourists of all ages and types. We went there because she was planning to write a children's book about Hebron and wanted to tell both the Jewish and Palestinian narratives of this holy and tense city. I know that dual-narrative tours leave every Wednesday from the Abraham Hostel and she might want to book herself a tour. Meanwhile, sitting on the couch in the lobby, I saw Eliyahu, who runs the Jewish leg of the Hebron tour. I introduced the 2 of them and she put out her hand for a friendly handshake, but since he's quite an Orthodox Jewish man, who doesn't touch other women other than his own wife, he simply put his hands together in a Buddhist-type greeting to welcome her. He gave her contacts on the Jewish side of Hebron, since she already had Palestinian contacts in place and told us a story of one tourist he guided, who went to inside Abraham's tomb in Hebron. On the Palestinian side of the tomb, the Moslem worshippers were complaining to the tourist bitterly that the Jews were being loud on purpose while they were trying to pray. When the tourist went over to the Jewish side, he saw that there was a circumcision ceremony going on and thus the reason for the loud whoops of joy accompanied by singing and dancing. Nothing was done to spite the Moslem worshippers. So there you have 2 narratives of people who need to understand one another by just going over to the other side (not possible at the tomb these days) to see what is really going on.

We ended our evening by walking over to the shuk, to show her the new restaurants that had sprouted up since she had last been here a year ago. She ordered us 2 beers, but because of my Jewish genes, I guess, I couldn't down the entire giant glass of brew.

"Sorry, I just can't finish this." I told her, leaving 3/4s of my beer intact.

"That's ok. I'll just take whatever's left," and she took my glass, pouring the entire thing into her glass and for that moment, she stopped being Swedish and became one of us...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your blog by accident and it is nice to read such amusing and yet important comments after all the rubbish in the newspapers.