Articles & prose, poetry, reviews, interviews, comment, e-texts, news and views
|Famous Reporter # 33|
BLOG: 'PERPETUAL REFUGEE'
19th May, 2006
Mi casa es su casa
Tel Aviv, this past week.
A couple of days back I was running late for a meeting. I had made a detour to my hotel room to freshen up. Id already had a full day in the office and it was approaching 5:00 pm, the time of my next meeting. As I made my way to my hotels front entrance, a feeling of dread came over me. An American lawyer had just flown in to meet with me and my local law firm. I knew I had a long night ahead of me full of boring corporate habibi-habibi chit-chat. Im good at it yet it makes me miserable.
He was in a hotel about 15 minutes away. The plan was to meet with him at his hotel and discuss strategy prior to moving onto the local law firm. I took a cab from in front of the entrance. A new Mercedes, black leather, car phone in the back. Nice, I thought to myself. This is the way its supposed to be.
Just as soon as we started our drive, my lawyer called me. "Where are you? How long do you need to get here". An American, used to meetings starting on time and going according to a set agenda. "5 minutes" I told him. Hung up. The taxi driver, without hesitation, looked me straight in the eye through his rear-view mirror, laughing mockingly.
"Your accent is American, but I can tell you my friend, you are no American!", he said authoritatively.
"How did you know?", I replied, knowing full well what the answer was.
"You know as much as I do that his hotel is 15 minutes away. Youre working on Israeli time". Israeli time. I thought I was working on Lebanese time. But Ive learned that in this arena, we are one and the same.
The inevitable question came. The question that I hesitate to answer honestly when Im unsure of my own personal security. "So then, where are you from my friend?".
I gauged the situation. He didnt seem like a fanatical person. He seemed friendly. His eyes spoke softly. He cared to know. I told him.
I felt that he wanted to lurch to the back of the car and grab me. But not in an aggressive manner.
"Inta Libnanae? Ana Libnanae" (Youre Lebanese. Im Lebanese.)
I was stunned. Speechless.
A Lebanese Jew. A Lebanese citizen who practiced Judaism. Ive never met one before. I should have known he was Lebanese from the beginning. It was after all the nicest Mercedes taxi Ive been in since coming to Tel Aviv. We have a weakness for brands.
He went on to tell me about his father and his grandfather before him. His youth in Lebanon. How his family still owns a house in Baabdat*. He talked warmly of his familys business partner, a Lebanese gentleman, whom they still have relations with in Lebanon. This man who opened a bank account in Cyprus after they fled so that the financials can be shared by all shareholders. This man who ensures that their house in Baabdat* remains untouched by intruders. The man who saw beyond the politics of the day and did the right thing.
We arrived at my destination. 20 minutes
late. And I didnt care.
My God is his God. My country is his
country. My land is his land. And my house is his house.