This afternoon I took a service (like a taxi but cheaper) home from the office since I was already late meeting up with Tony. We ate sandwiches and kebabs for lunch then he took me to the grocery store. At the cheese counter I met Abed Al Rahman, a Palestinian refugee who has never seen his country and has a degree in cheese (or something to that effect). ?Do you know Jaffa- that is my home- for what it is famous?? he asks me as he scoops a bit of labneh for me to taste.
I wrack my brain, searching for some recollection from Fisk or anything that would enable me to ingratiate myself to this man who seemed so proud of a land he has never even set foot on. I recalled that Israel and sou thern Lebanon are known for citrus. ?Oranges?? I guess.
Hi face brightens and he sticks out his hand to shake mine. For the next half hour he gave me tastes of various delicious local cheeses as he told me of the injustices Palestinians suffer in Lebanon. ?I have a degree in cheese, but we are not allowed to work behind the counter- the only jobs we can have are sweeping,? he tells me bitterly. How could he work here then? ?Illegally.? Pulling out a crumpled identity card he shows me the Arabic words that declare him a Palestinian refugee and therefore prohibit him from certain types of employment. ?I am not even a citizen here.?
When I tell him I am a journalist (ana sahafia) he immediately asks if I want to go to the camps and says that h e can arrange it. I tell him I want to interview him later about his thoughts on the Quartet?s ?road map? to Middle East peace. He says that with the strength of the U.S. he thinks it can succeed. I thank him and promise I will be in touch after I have le arned more about the issues. I try to keep in mind Phillipa?s story about Tewfik?s advice to her upon her arrival in Beirut: Keep your mouth shut and listen for the first five years. ?When someone asked me what I thought about something,? she told me in her beautiful English accent, ?I would tell them I had only just arrived and turn it around to ask what they thought.? It?s amazing the stories you hear in Beirut.
Posted By Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)
Posted Apr 9th, 2007