Journal entry May 1, 2017
Today was unplanned and that is my preference living here in this land.
Magic cannot happen if you plan out your life too much. One must leave space for the extraordinary to occur naturally.
I went to the Old City in search of coffee.
I am a coffee connoisseur and even a coffee asshole.
I decided that my next project here would be to write about the coffee culture in this land.
I am amazed at the vast differences that exist in coffee composition, presentation, brewing and aesthetic within this land.
The Arab villages have different ways unto themselves as to a particular coffee experience.
I had the good fortune of having Bedouin coffee without going to the desert this afternoon.
I stumbled upon a shop and they sold brass antique carafes used to make coffee.
I wanted one, an authentic one, not a new one. Little did I know, I was entering an entire village through a family- a large Bedouin family that also has residence in the Old City.
I made a new friend, Yoseph.
Yoseph- “Each piece in this shop was either in my family or belonged to someone my family knew. My father can tell you about them.”
He showed me several and explained their detail and function.
We began our conversation in Hebrew and switched to half English, half Hebrew.
We talked about Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims. He likes being Bedouin and believes they are the most peaceful with everyone. I tend to agree after today.
They have horses and sheep. They have a large tent for hospitality in Beer Sheva. He showed me pictures of their vast compound. It was colorful and lovely. I very much want to visit.
He took me upstairs and showed me old Bedouin collapsible tables with brass plates, tapestries and stunning lamps.
I told him the last time I was in the Old City, in the Arab quarter- I was stuck for two hours. A man made my daughter and I tea, talked to us, took as all around showing us antique dresses and changing the price many times. He was touchy feely and my daughter was appalled. I wanted to leave and things got weird…-
Yoseph was understanding and said this:
“ I feel with my heart, not my eyes or my head. If my heart feels love I make careful with the person. If my heart does not feel love I do not make careful with the person.”
We bartered and then I purchased the 4,500-shekel carafe for 1,500 shekels.
He gave me a gift. He wanted me to select a pashmina and I did. He told me he wanted me to see how Bedouins wrap their heads and so I let him.
I told him I wanted the tiny cups to go with my carafe and he asked if I wanted old or new? Of course I wanted old. He did not have antique ones so he said he would take me himself to find them. We left the shop and wondered the Old City together the rest of the day.
We ended up getting new ones because I wanted the old ones to be extra special and I wanted plenty of time to explore. I wanted plain white porcelain, but then he showed me some that had a Bedouin pattern. I told him I like plain and simple in all things- never fancy. But when he explained to me the story of the pattern how very Bedouin it was indeed – I said I wanted those instead.
Yoseph- “ No, you want the white, get the white.
Me- “No, you just told me a lovely story and now they are sentimental.”
Yoseph- “ No, it is not what you like, I don’t care really.”
Me- “I want the ones with the special Bedouin story, I have changed my mind.”
In Yoseph’s shop he has a photo album of their village, his family, the horses, the tents and their coffee. He showed me pictures of how they make it. It was fascinating. I noticed the coffee beans were white.
Me- “Lavan? How, where, when can I get some?”
Yoseph- “Yes, Lavan (white), we grow them in the North. If you come to visit you can have some. It is not bitter it is smooth and it is not like Turkish coffee. It has no sugar, but it does have cardamom.”
Me- “I love coffee and I want to explore all the coffee in the land. I have a blog and I want to write about the cultures of the coffee experiences here. I want to come spend the night at the Bedouin village and take pictures too.”
He took me to buy what he said was “the best coffee in the Old City.” I could smell it and he was right. I bought a ¼ a kilo for 8 shekels. This blew my mind as I have been spending 75 shekels on a half a kilo.
Two weeks ago I was in Bethlehem and I bought their coffee. Yes, each village has it’s own coffee. Same phenomenon- ¼ a kilo for 9 shekels. WTF have I been paying so much for coffee??? Live and learn…
Then Yoseph asked if I smoked sheesha. Of course I do.
We remained in the Arab quarter, which isn’t saying much since the majority of the Old City is Arab. The Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters are all Arabs.
I have never liked the Old City because it is too condensed, too many tourists, too many bodies walking closely together on the narrow streets.
Suddenly I decided I liked it very much. It is a different world, a different era, a different feeling altogether. It is ancient Israel, it is Medieval Israel, It is Greco Roman Israel, It is Ottoman Israel, It is British Israel, and it is a fairy tale and a history lesson.
I could try and live here for a year just for kicks…
The places to smoke sheesha are many and they are all lined up with men, only men. We went behind an establishment, pulled a couple of chairs around the corner and smoked. I remarked to Yoseph that in the U.S. men and women could be friends and go out in public together because no one cares. Here, men and women do not do that. I told him how awkward it was for me to see only men smoking and that I was the only woman.
He told me funny stories about women and the culture, the economy, housing in particular and how he swims every day at the YMCA.
Yoseph- “You have a husband?”
Yoseph- “A boyfriend?”
Yoseph- “Where is he?”’
Me- “He doesn’t live here. I had an Israeli boyfriend here, but he turned out to be selfish and not right for me. It’s still rather complicated between us…”
Yoseph- “Where is he, America?”
Yoseph- “He is hard headed, he probably has another girlfriend. Men lie.”
Me- “He doesn’t have a girlfriend and even if he did, there is nothing I can do about it. Why worry about what I cannot control?”
Yoseph- “Why would he let you live here and when does he come see you?”
Me- “It’s complicated.”
Yoseph- “Do you want to marry him?”
Me- “No, I am divorced and do not want to marry again.”
Yoseph- “What about children?”
Me- “I have one daughter and that is all I could have. I am happy with her.”
We talked about birth, health, babies and relationships a bit longer.
I smoked until I felt queasy because I had not eaten yet that day.
We walked back to the shop and his cousin made me mint tea.
His cousin told me I am family now and that I must come back to visit often.
Yoseph gave me another gift. He made lovely earrings and told me to select a pair. I told him I don’t wear earrings, but bracelets. He only makes earrings and so I selected an onyx pair with silver. He was so happy for me to have them. He wanted to keep giving me gifts. But I told him the best gift was that his cousin told me I am family. I explained that I have no family here. Yoseph’s father is 95 years old and the family is huge- nothing I can comprehend. He told me that next time instead of making my heart happy they will make my tummy happy too. They want to feed me. I like this idea very much. I want my tummy to be happy.
I have met so many strangers here and I have spent afternoons in the company of strangers many times. They all want us to be life long friends- both Arabs and Jews I meet.
I have not kept in touch with the people I meet on this journey. Most if not all of them are one time friends- or to put it in Fight Club language- they are “single serving friends.”
I think this time is different. I think I want to be taken in by a Bedouin family.
Yoseph told me we would drive to their village, even though they keep a home in the Old City. I told him I would have to bring a friend because he is a stranger and I do not ride anywhere with strangers.
This surprised Yoseph. He told me I could bring anyone I wanted.
Then he said this:
“If you are with me, you are in my house. Right now we are walking down the street, but because you are with me, you will be treated as though you are in my house. You are family and if I say you are with me, no one will do anything to you. I am allowed to do anything I think I should to protect you. No one can or would hurt you because our culture understands that I am allowed to harm them in anyway if they try to hurt you. Do you understand this? I will never let anyone hurt you and it is because it is as if you are always in my house if you are by my side. It is the exact same thing- just like being in my house. You understand this?”
I nodded and smiled.
Yoseph guessed my age. Everyone in this country asks me my age. For fuck sake, really… He guessed it the first time. He cousin guessed it later on without knowing.
They kept remarking on my being older. I didn’t know how I felt about this. His cousin has five children and now I am number six. I like this very much.
They wanted me to stay longer, but I said I had to walk my dog. I showed them a picture of my pug, Fig. They have real dogs to watch their sheep- my dog is not a real dog.
I hope to return next week, but without purchasing anything. I hope to go to the village, eat a meal, be part of the family and sleep in their tent.
My favorite part of the day was when Yoseph said:
“If my heart feels love I make careful with the person. If my heart does not feel love I do not make careful with the person.”
I am going to make careful with these persons.