Muawiya personified ‘hilm’, the wisdom and patience of the Arab sheikh: “I apply not my sword when my lash suffices nor my lash when my tongue suffices. And even if but one hair is binding me to my fellow men, I don’t let it break. When they pull, I loosen, if they loosen I pull.
Simon Sebag Montefiore, “Jerusalem. The Biography”.
This is Gunter, he owns a German restaurant in Iraq, in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Ordering a beer in his restaurant was a small home-coming for me. Because the beer was brewed 10km away from where I grew up. The food Gunter cooked was the same my grandma always prepared for me.
Gunter comes from a small town in Thuriniga, in the middle of Germany. Him owning a restaurant in Iraq was not a propect he could have fathomed some 25 years earlier. It was the fall of 1989 when he went for “a walk” and demanded freedom of movement, when he demonstrated against the government of the German Democratic Republic. In a childish move of vengeance this government enlisted him for military service. A couple of weeks later the Wall came down and the East-German forces were reunited with their West-German counterparts. Gunter stayed in the army and did what he had learned. He cooked. In Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Kabul. It was in the Afghan capital that he opened his first restaurant in 2003. Times were good at that time in Afghanistan. Everybody was optimistic, Gunter recalls. With every bomb attack this optimism vanished further, making him closing his restaurant in the process. 30.000 Euros were lost. He started again in Iraq. Same story here: many Internationals, optimism, no competition. This time it worked. Gunter wants to open his next restaurant on the island of Sri Lanka.
When I was asking Gunter what he thinks of Germany, if he would go back, he replied: “What could I possibly want there?”
One of the soldiers we encountered at the Olive Tour, caught my attention because he looked like a big boy with a gun. He was born in Chicago and described his job in the West Bank as follows: “I protect the settlers from the Palestinians and the Palestinians from the Settlers.”
Hat Tip: While I was busy taking pictures and keeping my distance Vanessa just started talking to the soldier – and shared his story afterwards. Danke!
Landscapes, in childhood’s dream, were so vast and silent. We looked backward through our memory for the prototype upon which all men had walked, between walls, toward such an open square as that in front where the road seems to end.
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) describing Wadi Rum
Greeting me sternly, [Lloyd George] remarked that complaints of me were reaching him from Jews and Arabs alike. I answered that this was all too probable, imagining for a moment from his tone that he was leading up to my resignation. “Well”, he said as we sat down, “If either side stops complaining, you’ll be dismissed.
Sir Ronald Storr, britischer Gouverneur von Jerusalem in den 1920er Jahren
Snow on bleeding Jerusalem
as though bandaging her wounds
all rests in tranquility now
filling the cracks of yearning in the Wall
children in your streets, Jerusalem
the sons of Isaac and Ishmael
are staging white wars
(and their blows are soft)
even the pigeons are hurrying today
cooing because they have found new footprints
on the way leading up to the Gate of Mercy
All the players in the Middle East do [moral double bookkeeping]. They keep one set of moral books, which proclaim how righteous they are, to show the outside world, and one set of moral books, which proclaim how ruthless they are, to show each other.
Thomas Friedman, “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, Anchor Books 1990, p. 165