July 28, 2015

Ramadan Kareem!

Coming out of my meeting with a client, I see three unanswered calls from my Palestinian Bedouin friend Ahmad, so I return his calls. He says "I'm opening the restaurant today, and I need some money to buy food for the guests"

I had been involved during the building period and in the past two months the restaurant had been opening "next week", so I am kind of surprised. I ask what happened with the money I had given him previously to buy food and he replies with a "You know, we had a lot of expenses…". Since my next and last client for the day had just cancelled, I tell him that I'd meet him in a close Palestinian town, El-Eizariya. We meet at 5.00 PM, on the first day of Ramadan ; everyone, except me, is fasting. I'm excited that a dream comes true. We buy several chickens (dead), vegetables and other stuff. I learn that it is going to be a party, mainly for the workers of his garage, which is next door. Ahmad considers it obvious that at the first day of a restaurant, everyone is invited for free, whereas I had thought that the money I gave will be used to make dishes for sale. Although I like this concept of generosity, I am upset.

Not as planned...

The cook, who had joined us, takes the food with him, and the two of us take off to the restaurant, in a village by the name of Hizma, close to Jerusalem. We find the place still in a mess, with furniture upside down and piles of wood and paint still around; leftovers from the window that they had made that morning. We clean somewhat, arrange the tables, and it actually begins to look quite nice. When I ask whether we should work on the kitchen as well, the response makes it clear that the kitchen will not yet be used and the cook and his wife are preparing the food at home. At 6.30 PM Ahmad asks the manager of the garage at what time the fast will be over, and I understand that this will be at 8.05 PM. Ahmad insists that we drive to the cook's home, in another village, Al-Za'im, to make sure everything's alright.

At 7.00 PM the cook shows us a heap of chicken parts, while his wife is still cooking, and then he disappears. At 7.25 PM I ask Ahmad what happened to the cook, and get the explanation that he went to bake the meat somewhere in a place with an oven. I see Ahmad getting more and more excited. Even in a culture, where time is used flexibly, the end of the fast is on the minute. Moreover, it is considered a blunder to cancel a party. Time is running out and it's still a twenty minute drive back. I try to calm Ahmad, who tells me that I misunderstood, and the fast is over already at 7.53 PM; we won't make it. I suggest to call the garage, to tell that we'll be late (or won't come at all), but my suggestion is dismissed. I realize that the dishonor it too great, in which case one better doesn't say anything.

Fire and cake

I see fire in Ahmad's face and understand that there's big trouble. We're on a balcony, sixth floor. In the house are also the cook's wife and three of their adolescent children. Also, my nerves are wrecked. The best scenario I can imagine is Ahmad's cell-phone flying to its destiny; in other scenarios someone will get hurt. The cook comes back. I wonder if I should warn him before entering, but don't. Both the cook's wife and I do our best to cool down the situation, while the chicken smells deliciously. 7.50 PM dinner is ready, but alas, Ahmad walks out, followed by me, thus returning the insult. Not exactly, since the cook's wife, blocks his way, and her daughter bars mine… 7.53 PM I sit down with the wife and the children on the floor, where a great meal of chicken, rice and other delicacies is served, with date and carob juice. The men are served on the balcony. Slowly, things relax…

We finish the meal with a huge birthday cake for the daughter, with her picture on it, and have coffee. Ramadan kareem ("Ramadan is generous")!

P.S. The restaurant did open at the following night, and everyone was invited for free!


  1. Is the restaurant now functioning and making a living for Ahmad's family?

    1. The restaurant is functioning, and the future will tell if it makes a living for them...

  2. great that you started a blog!!