If I look at out of my balcony to the right I see the Arab district as I live on the 1949 armistice line.
But aside what typical Middle East journalists say, what is it really like to live in between Jews and Arabs?
Back home in Portsmouth and probably most parts of the UK you have a corner shop, well not always but mostly on a corner, and often run by Asian people. They are often usually from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and could be Muslim, Sikh or Hindu. As Britain’s last defenders of small businesses fight against the mighty retail continent of Tesco and their still aggressive marching in of Express stores, our Asian community serves us well so quick trips no more than a mile away shopping for newspapers, fags, phone credit, sweets and milk and food supplies forgotten from the last big supermarket run can be obtained easily.
Here in Israel there are also convenience stores by both non-Shabbat observing Jews and Arabs. To be honest I have no idea if some Arab shops open on Islamic holidays or if this frowned upon by local Arab communities.
At the end of my road here in East Talpiyot, just outside of Jerusalem, is a local shop. My house is on the 1949 Armistice line, therefore just over the threshold into a neighbouring Arab part of Jerusalem. In most part I don’t see any trouble, I saw the police car blocking the middle of the road once for something. (exactly what I don’t know, it wasn’t in the news at all) I would be very naive to say there is never any disturbances sometimes though, to be honest I have seen two car accidents in my street this month though.
Here is the shop, behind the tree ahead. In front to the right is a car tyre place, rear right is a pizza takeaway, on the left of the shop entrance is some garden ornaments (!) an interesting cluster of different businesses. Oh, and the back is a scrap yard, I can see a tower of scrap metal behind. Just next to this place is a field of olive trees, and in the distance are many minarets and mosques. From my house I occasionally hear the sound of the air drills used for taking the wheelnuts of cars from the tyre business.
When I am in this junction, there is a feeling of uneasiness, that you are in a place you don’t belong, I mean that not in an unkind or bigoted way to Arab people, but from the uncomfortable spiritual atmosphere of a place as this area is heavily shrouded by Islam.
Of course some items are sold which are not available in a conventional Israel store. A couple of weeks ago I decided to try some (probably not very unkosher of course, and big surprise – imported from Brazil) corned beef. This meant my dinner was made using a screwdriver and some pliers, as the wretched key broke off the top and tin openers don’t work very well with square tins. Oh well 🙂
There is a bakery in this shop at the back so I can get pita bread and cake here, there is only a few products I can see with just Arabic only labels on them. Incidentally, the Palestinians seem to be very good at making candy, I see boxes of sweets (sold individually) favourites like Turkish delight, Havah (which I think its made of ground up almonds) and some nougat type stuff which is all made by a company in Nabulus.
I think only one of the staff speaks English at this shop, but I have picked up a knack of using gestures (which is a common thing anyway amongst all cultures in this corner of the world) when need to convey what I am buying once at the counter.
Today when I got some milk and bread, the Arab teenager who served me and his friend in the shop had some large scars on their faces that looked like that had been caused by a knife. I think there is a lot of violence goes on between Arab people in parts of the world like this. Domestic violence and partner abuse happens quite a lot in Muslim families in the UK but isn’t spoken about much.
The district of Arab Al Sawahira if you turn left at this junction. The bus I get to work when it rained or if I have my bike fixed goes around this junction. Beyond this shop, I think the separation wall is another 2kms from here which separates East Jerusalem.
Its sad that often when there is a terrorist attack like 9/11, 7/7, etc, the local Asian or Arab businesses in the UK may be the first people to get blamed with threatening behaviour or vandalism as if they are responsible. As a Christian, in the UK I think we should pray for our Asian and Arab shopkeepers that their businesses continue to serve well our communities, and that one day they are touched by the true love of the Lord. Here, there is always the worry from violence from these sorts of places but through my church or friends, or first hand, there are Arab people who have found Christ, and as a side effect of this, have genuine love and compassion for the Jews.