A Sweet Surprise | Stories of Life

In 1976, for the second time within less than two years, Valerie accompanied her husband, Alain, to Tel Aviv on one of his business trips.
Valerie liked Tel Aviv’s vibrant atmosphere with hordes of people walking through its streets harboring modern and old buildings, restaurants, and shops.
The restaurants in that city, were a combination of western and Middle Eastern eateries. They even had a diner called McDavid’s. Every time Valerie passed by McDavid’s, she laughed within, thinking the name must be the Jewish version of McDonald’s.
Something that surprised Valerie during her strolls through the streets of Tel Aviv, was the fact that people mostly yelled at each other. Valerie wondered if they were fighting, or simply that was how they conversed.
One Saturday morning, Valerie and Alain set out to discover different districts in Tel Aviv as well as the near-by surrounding small towns and villages.
After a few hours of driving around and exploring the neighboring hamlets, Alain and Valerie arrived to the ancient city of Jericho; which used to be a marvel before its destruction in the Babylonian conquest of 1400 BC.
As Valerie strolled through the rugged areas of Jericho, exhibiting different interesting monuments, her heart skipped a bit with excitement thinking Jesus must have stepped upon the same ground as she was walking on that day.
Then, after all their sightseeing, Alain and Valerie left the town of Jericho and drove further, hoping to see more interesting sites.
As they advanced, the environs took on a more tired and humbler look than what they had seen before arriving to Jericho. Presently, dilapidated huts and occasional tatty tents here and there tinted the dry landscape. Soon the couple arrived at a location where two armed Israeli soldiers, stood guard. One soldier, approached the car and said in English, “We don’t recommend you to drive further than this line.”
“Why?” Alain asked.
“Well, from this point on you will be entering Palestinian territory, and we won’t be responsible for your safety.”
“Never mind,” Alain answered, as Valerie looked on anxiously.
Having uttered those words, Alain pressed on the pedal fearlessly and drove through the unmanned Palestine border.
For Alain and Valerie, it was very interesting to compare the Israeli landscape with that of the Palestinian setting; which looked really poor and rough. So did the little town in Palestine, which they now had entered. It was derelict all over, with its unkempt huts and stores. To add to the bizarre atmosphere, Alain and Valerie could not see too many people walking through the streets. There were not even any chicken, roosters, stray dogs and cats roaming the narrow walkways.
As they advanced slowly and cautiously, they suddenly heard a boy running behind their car and calling out, “Panchar…panchar!”
You might have guessed what “panchar” in Arabic means. Doesn’t it sound like “puncture?”
Indeed, the car had a flat tire. So, upon hearing the boy calling “Panchar”, they stopped the car and walked out.
As soon as Alain, saw the punctured tire, he slapped his forehead, and said, “Why did it have to happen here?”
The Palestinian boy made them understand that they should wait for him; as he ran to the near-by grocery store.
In no time, he walked out with a middle aged bearded man wearing a beige skull cap. The man approached them and uttered in English, “You don’t have to worry at all.”
Alain and Valerie looked at him with dubious eyes. “Can we really trust a Palestinian?” They asked themselves. Like any westerner, they believed that the Palestinians were all nothing but terrorists, who wanted to blow up any non-Arab person that they came across.
The grocer guided Alain and Valerie toward his store, while giving some instructions to the boy in Arabic, who in turn, ran at the speed of light away from where the couple were standing.
Then, their host walked them into an aromatic grocery store with piles of melons, watermelons, apples, grapes, and oranges. Besides fruits and vegetables, he also carried different other household goods and food.
As the two stood in the store, not knowing what to expect, the grocer pulled out two tall stools and asked them to sit on them. He then disappeared behind a curtain in the back of the store. In no time, the grocer appeared with a tray containing two cups of Turkish coffees and some cookies. The husband and wife each took a cup of coffee and a cookie. Soon, a head geared young woman appeared, said hello to them, and offered them some grapes. The owner, meanwhile, said smilingly, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be all right.”
As they sat there, enjoying their coffees, while chatting with the grocer, another man walked in, shook hands with Alain and said, “Sir, your tire is repaired.”
“Thank you, thank you so much. How much do I owe you?” Alain asked.
“Nothing sir, you are a guest here. All we wish you is to enjoy your visit.”
Alain and Valerie looked at one another with surprise.
They were so touched with Palestinian hospitality. Husband and wife, who had traveled almost all over the world, later admitted that nowhere had they experienced such warmth and kindness.
That day at the grocery store, Valerie smiled and asked herself, “Aren’t these same nice people supposed to be the so called, terrifying terrorists?”

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