Two-Way Street for Yom Kippur 5783 | The Other Tourists

Rabbi Nina Mandel
on September 30, 2022

If I had asked, perhaps the woman selling sesame-jeweled pita might have told me:

Visits of witness and outrage is all we get from them.
They squat at the checkpoints,
they put on grave faces at the Border Wall
And they wrap newly purchased keffiyahs around their necks
to keep out the wind.

They have their pictures taken
together with our beleaguered, our vulnerable and our jailers,
In occupied towns and disputed streets

and in holy spaces.
They weep over our dead children
and rage over our imprisoned teenagers
and blog their reports

over our bitter
coffee in cafes and rented rooms
in Palestinian homes.

One day I sat in front of my shop near the Damascus Gate. I straightened the stacks of bread, parcels of zaatar, and roasted eggs in front of me. A group of tourists stood around their guide and I became their object lesson. “You see that merchant? Those soldiers over there could come and shut her down and arrest her for no reason.” They cluck and cry, “It’s unfair, this is a police state!”
I thought about what Amichai might say: redemption will come only if their guide tells them, “Yes, but in the meantime, let’s buy some of her bread and spices and eggs. For generations, members of her family have opened this shop, just to make a life here.”

But I didn’t ask. In passing, I admired the figs strung like beads on heavy cords and kept moving forward, thinking about the complexity of this not-so-holy place,

and the next trinket I wanted to buy.

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