Sunday, April 30, 2006

A conversation in Jabaliya souk

Yesterday, Yousuf and I, along with my mother and her friend, went to the Jabaliya refugee camp's market to do some shopping and search for old Palestinian tobes (embroidered dresses) which I collect. Given the economic strangulation of Gaza, the souk was less lively than usual, but as colorful as ever. Here is an excerpt:

Mom's friend: How much for the Mulukhiya?

Vendor: 3 shekels a kilo

Mom's friend: 3 shekels!! The man next to you sells il arba3a bmiyya..four kilos for ten shekels!

Vendor: Life is expensive these days lady

Me: wil bani adam rkhees...and human beings are cheap.

[approving nods]

Vendor: Besides, his Molokhiya tastes like grass. I know what I grow-none of those crap chemicals go into it. And its first of the season. I challenge you to find any Mulukhiya as tasty as this in all of Gaza!

[shelling in the distance]

sh*t! there they go again

[everyone briefly ducks for cover]

Mom's friend: fine fine, bag it.

Further along...

Me: Do you have any askadinya baladiya?

Another Vendor: forget the baladiya...try the Israeli ones, they are the best! But I'm all out today, Karni closed again

Me: The Israeli ones taste like water. And they are unnaturally large. That's not how askadinya should look or taste. I'll stick to the baladiya thank you.

Vendor: Well the baladiya is still sour. You might as well go buy lemons. Here-want some lemons?

Yousuf: Khiyar! Khiyar!

Vendor: No khiyar, but we have fa2oos, come over here sunglasses lady...

[a young boy shoves a bunch of mint in my face]..."na3na3 baladi...want some?"

[more shelling, getting closer]

Me: I'll pass thanks [Yousuf helps himself to a fa2oosa as entire pile plummets to the ground...]

Note: Seven Palestinians were injured in the shelling. Two of them were children.

molokhia soup with rabbits (the man was right, it was fabulous) eaten Gaza-style, with dagga salad and hot chilies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

bon appetite

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to your note you keep on shelling at each other. Palestinians at Israelis and viceversa................sad eh, nobody wants to talk, and everybody wants to shell..........where is the hope for both sides...............

4:32 PM  
Blogger Rambling Hal said...

Gid help you and Yousef and every single Palestinian trying to hold on to their inner strength, wherever they are in this world.

But where did you get the rabbits from? REAL RABBITS??? Not chicken??? WHERE FROM!?!?!?!

5:39 PM  
Blogger Katkoot said...

Oh I love thobes!! I have one my hisband's sisters gave me, so obviously Jordanian :) His family is sooooo tall though, and it has an embroidered ring around the hem and so I cannot take it up without destroying the design. So I am sad I cannot wear it.

6:42 PM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...

and all they show us from Gaza are Fatah & Hamas gunmen running around the street.

This is a glimpse that we all need to see.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Dagga salad! every Rasta in the world would join your cause if they knew;)

Would you have time for an interview with me? Please let me know.

Keep well

7:33 PM  
Blogger Abed. Hamdan said...

This Mlokhiya looks good !!
It looks tasty !!

I haven't tasted Mlokheya in the Gaza-Style , It should be tasty :)

10:16 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Rabbits are from the markets here..:) usually you have to go to the public markets in the balad, and there will be falla7at there selling them, they make a good living out of breeding and selling rabbits, pigeons, roosters, turkeys, chickens, etc. and they are ALL ORGANIC. and nearby some guy is ready with his knife to do the dirty work lol ;)

incidentaly my mother cooks them but won't eat them! she thinks they remind her or cats :)

10:55 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Tomer I think he was speaking generally about what we hear in the mainstream media about Gaza-people could only assume that local news agencies, palestinian and israeli, will cover what's happening, but as far as the mainstream media is concerned, he's right, those are the only images we associate with Gaza, either "violence" or "lawlnessess and chaos" or assasination, i think he means everday life gets overlooked, but even if he means the shelling and casualities, its true that mainstream outlets do not pay as much attention to Palestinain casualities

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laila ... that looks yummy!! What do you put in Dagga-salad ... and how do you prepare/spice the rabbit?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Hi Karin, for Daggs: you mash up garlic with some salt, preferably in a clay pot but a mini food processor will do, then you add chilis and continue to grind them, then add tomatoes and crush them, and finally add the chopped dill (if you can' find green dill you can use dill seed), and top it off with some lemon juice and olive oil is necessary to kill the heat, and you eat it with arabic flat bread.

the rabbit hmm in this case we simply sauteed it with some salt pepper and onions, then we boiled it with cardammon pods, cinammon sticks, whole spices such as allspice, and made a nice broth out of it !

11:09 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Tomer... you should try Ramallah sometime .. hey better yet, come Gaza, we won't kill you I promise :)

though maybe you'll need to befriend someone since food in restaurants can be expensive and of course never as good as the homemade stuff.

have you ever tried to go to Um al-Fahem?

Expand your horizons...

11:15 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Tomer I'm sorry but it doesn't seem you are familiar with my blog long enough at least to know what its about...its a mixture of some of my work and firsthand experiences, not all of which I publish elsewhere, my own "personal" experiences at home with Yousuf and in society and as a Palestinian mother, and of course on Palestinian life. It is all of these things. As I said, the personal is political. Maybe for you posts about food are the most insightful, because they are more comfortable that posts about food shortages or protests or death, but all of this is our daily reality, so there is insight to be gained from it all, its a matter of what you choose to gain insight from.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomer, you get yummy Palestinian food inside the Old City of Jerusalem .. just enter a restaurant but as Laila stated correctly, watch the prices! Enter Damascus Gate ... there are plenty of opportunities if you keep your eyes open! Don't worry at all - I've been there DOZENS of times (if not hundreds ..) and never encountered ANY problem - people are wonderful and warm/caring, as long as you treat them with respect - just the way you want to be treated! Like Laila said ... open your horizon - you just gave to get started!

6:42 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

my eyes fall on the Jalapeno pepper.. mmmmmmmmmmm with molokhyaa ... this is something I am dreaming of 70% of my time here in the US... coming to you Gaza this summer to eat Molokhyaa with Jalapeno pepper.. no compromise.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Surely, Tomer you must know that many Israelis go to the West Bank (Gaza, not so much). Rabbis for Human Rights, Anarchists Against the Wall, Machsom Watch.

If you're talking about showing in your IDF uniform, then, no, I can see how you'd not feel welcome.

Invariably every time I went to Gaza or the West Bank, some Israeli occupation force soldier would warn me about how the Arabs--probably politer than he uses in Hebrew--would harm me and I shouldn't go. What I wanted to say, but didn't because I didn't want to be denied passage through the checkpoint or through Erez, was I was more worried about being killed by him or his comrades than I was concerned my Palestinian hosts would harm me.

Laila: do you have a recipe for the melange that's a part of
(phonetic spelling here) ghursa or ghorsa?

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i see all those little children already in uniforms and demonstrating when they should be playing or watching Sesame Street in arabic/hebrew. Yes, the Iranians will give Hamas 50 million,how many more times? The greatest civilizer is commerce. It is better than children on green-Hamas uniforms.......find a way to make peace, force your leaders to make peace, don't let your children be brainwashed into becoming a "shahid", give yourself a break. do not let your short life be controlled by abusive leaders and remember that violence is a form of abuse.......

6:31 PM  
Blogger Moses said...

I suppose I've seen too many 18 year olds with American-made M-16s speaking to elderly Arab men and women as if they were dogs. Forcing them to stand in the sun for hours. Seen too many of these soldiers standing around laughing while "settlers" attacked schoolchildren with stones and iron bars in Hebron.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomer ... right upfront - I highly appreciate your approach of visiting Arab cities and talking to people - that's the only way!
To tell you a specific restaurant where you can get typical Palestinian dishes in the vincinity of Jerusalem is difficult! I personally ate most delicious traditional food in Ramallah, Gaza, Bethlehem - and Amman! Would you have a chance to get to Gaza? Without intending to flatter Laila now - people in Gaza are absolutely wonderful! I've been there several times ... and loved them - and each minute of my visits! I went there to listen - not to "teach"!
One idea I have though ... there's a very good Arab restaurant in Jaffa .. I guess the name is something like "Abu Lafia" - they serve YUMMY Palestinian foods! See that you can sit outside on the roof-top ... it's lovely!

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the above is why I as an Israeli usually do not comment on blogs like this. Perhaps I should but as Palestinians always accuse us of sterotyping them aka Abu Shaar's comments, Palestinians never see that they are are very good at doing the same. Plenty of them I have seen in this blog. Perhaps it can't be helped. Here's well wishes to all of you.

Gotten try that soup recipe if I can find it. Do a bit of serfing.....any palestinian food sites?

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

abu shaar: both sides are crazy. Do you remember the Passover massacre? There were children there too. Ah! the soldiers, yes the soldiers. What about the women who are suicide bombers at the Karni crossing or some other point of contact. This kind of dialogue will not take any side to more suicide bombers, no more carnage.....both sides need healing.Both sides need to make PEACE.All the acusations are excuses used by corrupt leaders to mantain their positions, and that definitely includes HAMAS.STOP THE KILLING AND START THE HEALING..........

12:28 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Stereotyping as I understand it makes generalisations based on prejudice. I'm trying to be careful just saying what I saw, not saying that all Israelis or even all Israeli soldiers behave badly.

I'm willing believe some occupation soldiers treat their Arabs decently but I didn't see it in the months I was in Palestine.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:34 AM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Tomer, why would you order food in Hebrew? You obviously speak English. Just pretend to be an American. I'm sure you can fake it competently.

I google Palestinian recipes on the internet sometimes.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Nice dodge.

A question I have for the Israelis and others posting here:
How many have sent money to the fund that Laila's aunt is helping with?
People can't eat words. Instead of handwringing about stopping the violence how about putting some NIS toward feeding children?

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomer and anon 12:21 ...
Just for info in case you guys like to cook - there's a GREAT Palestinian cooking book called "CLASSIC PALESTINIAN COOKERY" by Christiane Dabdoub Nasser! It is published by "Saqi Books", London, ISBN-number: 0 - 86356 - 4 (pb)!
Website of Saqi Books is

8:37 AM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...


Laila had it spot on. By 'They' I was referring to mainstream media.

I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian (Lebanese actually). I can only refer to mainstream media.

The piece written by Laila was a wonderfully written first person account of life, no frills added.

Thank you Laila. It was refreshing.

9:54 AM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...


By the way, to answer your questions posed to everyone about when was the last time any of us visited a synagogue or Jewish museum. Well, I did visit a synagogue last month. It was beautiful. It needs restoration and is awaiting a peace treaty to return to it's former glory. It's in Beirut.

As for museums, every single trip I make anywhere in the world, I always visit the Jewish quarter, museum, memorial, etc...from Sana'a in Yemen to Venice, Italy, etc...

The historical elements draw me near yet the present day circumstances ensure we don't get too close.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know Tomer, I don't have ANY problem visiting a Synagogue (which I saw a number of already) or any Jewish institutions as long as they represent Jewish religion - I have TREMENDOUS problem though the moment, they represent Zionism, which I utterly reject! We have to seperate strictly between religion - which I have no problem with whatsoever - and Zionism, which caused nothing but misery for millions of people and is a political point of view, in my eyes equal to racism ... eventhough I am rather sure you won't agree!
On a personal note ... it's great that yummy food triggered these kind of view-exchanges - I like that!

11:06 AM  
Blogger Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Tomer, did you find something controversial about MECA's support for playgrounds, cultural and counseling centers, health programs and scholarship programs for Palestinians?

Since I already donate to Israel through my tax dollars, I would hardly donate to an Israeli charity. My country gives you the equivalent of $500 per person per year in aid...If someone gave us a comparable per capita sum, that would be the equivalent of $150 billion per year. And people are hungry in Israel? Whose fault is that? No other country in the world gets anywhere near as much foreign aid as Israel--not starving Africa, no one. You choose to spend that money starving the Palestinians, and now there are people in Israel who are hungry? Maybe it's poetic justice!

12:17 PM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...


As you can tell, I'm not Jewish. But I don't buy the argument that a synagogue symbolized zionism. That is like a mosque representing Osama. This is not a valid argument.

While we're busy separating Zionism from the practice of Judaism, it would also be nice to separate Islam from Politics. Think it can be done?

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perpetualrefugee ... NO, you misunderstood me! I do NOT connect a Synagogue with Zionism .. please read again what I wrote! As long as it is a religious symbol or represents Jewish religion alone - I have no problem whatsoever, as soon as Zionism is involved, I do. Don't you think Zionism caused enough tragedies? As Lebanese I don't think I have to tell you ...
The truth? I don't know if Islam can TOTALLY be seperated from politics, to a great extent I do think though. Religion should remain religion, the worship of one GOD ... don't you agree?

2:28 PM  
Blogger Isaac Demme said...

Thanks for this post. It helps me as an American to realize what daily life is like Gaza. My prayers are with you and Yousuf.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Moses said...

Thanks for posting the larger MECA link. I meant to, but didn't want to post twice in a row.

So should I put you down for words?
Do you have anything besides lecturing to contribute?

We each have our own preferences

That's one word for it, certainly

9:20 PM  
Blogger Christopher Brown said...

Just another wonderful day in the camps. The sounds and sights of the souk, the haggling with merchants and the distance roar of death from the israeli occupation army. Ah...memories

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Camps." Is Gaza City a camp or a city? Camp is not a good word, it invokes images of tents with wells for water and no electricity or any real permanent dwellings and buildings or real infurstructure. How big is Gaza? Sq metres. What is the population of Gaza?

10:32 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Jabaliya, about which the post talks about, and to which Christopher refers, is a refugee "camp", yes. It was actually the first of all refugee camps in Gaza. 58 years ago it was a tent city, today they have been replaced by crumbling cinder block shelters, but it is still a camp. And yes, "camp" isn't meant to invoke pleasant imagery, because that is the reality in refugee camps today in Palestine, the result of 58 years of dispossession on May 14 2006-al-Nakba. Gaza City is not designated as a camp. Population of gaza strip 1.4 million. 350 sq. km.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abu Shaar,

Does not everybody have their own preferances? Do you want to donate to my favourite African charity? No, I did not think you would be interested. What is wrong with that? I do not see the point in blaming someone for their own preferances, would we all be blaming each other and so easily offended. I don't think you should use blackmail/ try the you are guilty-prove you care, method on Israelis just because they are Israelis. Isn't the point of this seeing it from someone else's point of view, however and whatever it might be.

We are all prejudiced, even you. Seems there is no safe way to express oneself without offending someone. We should all stay off blogs and bar anyone we do not like from reading and posting. I do not agree with everything Laila's writes but I appreciate the insight. I am sure I will be labeled just by writing this, don't we all do it. And just for the record I am neither Israeli or Jewish.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Laila, Bat Yam, Naharia, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Shmona, and many other Israeli cities all started out as refugee camps. None of them are camps now. And money that could go toward relieving the shortages your're talking about was instead diverted towards sniper scopes and the like. 58 years of the wrong priorities, and still going strong.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Moses said...

Of course I have my own prejudices.

What I was responding to was a number of posters sincerely asking what they could do to help what Jews and Arabs both call the situation. One response is to argue history on blogs or blame Palestinians for choosing their leaders or blaming the entire population for the Qassams.

So, I was suggesting, instead of handwringing or being satisfied with Oh look, I'm dialoging with a Palestinian in Gaza, how about actually putting some money to feed some children?

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is dialoging? I don't see that here. I did not see that in the dialogue you had with T. And I did not see any wrong with anyone defending themselves, he was questioned on his horizions after all.

The speak is cheap/ Do something is a kind of guilt trip, seen it before in many countries, what makes you think he was someone who does only talk and never does anything?, and is donating to Laila's favourite charity the only way to go.

What makes you think he was just feeling and saying - oh look I am dialoging with a palestinian from Gaza and does it make me feel good, see I do care. His comments do not strike me as this type of person. You were sterotyping, you also mentioned he was lecturing, I did not see that either. He was after all questioned . I did not donate to this charity, does that make me bad?

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I told here before,differently what Tomer said,yes I´m going to acuse the corruption for the fact you have no money.
Some people already asked heer before: What happened to all money went to Arafat´s wife for example?
Why is she not helping you? I´m sure that this money would last for the whole Gaza.
What about all the Arab countries?
At this Meca site I read only about the money the EU is not giving anymore,no line mentioning your own "brothers".
They are rich.
And I´m sorry again I´m going to ask you,haven´t you see a picture from a starving child?
The children in Gaza,are really far from that,thanks G-d.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for my ignorance, but what is askadinya?

12:13 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Not ignorant at all...I just didn't figure out the english translation until now (thanks to "Chef Ramzy"'s coobook, lol)...they are Loquats,

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laila,sorry for my ignorance,but in Judaism we are not allow to eat rabbit,no sea food,pig,as many as other animals.
Besides the pig what else are you not allow to eat concern to Islamism?

1:22 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

Laila, may I invite you to travel with me at least in blogworld to Munich and have a sightseeing-tour? I opened my own blog today (it was about time!) ... AHLAN WA'SAHLAN!!

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karin, I read your blog & am interested in reading about Munich!! I don't have a blog, I tried to comment but I couldn't.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

Welcome to my blog, H! I will very soon start to show my hometown the way a naive sees it, present you with glimpses of history, tell all kind of stories and - for the ones who plan to come this way - will give hints where to get what and where to stay reasonably without paying an arm and a leg! I will try to relate the Bavarian flair ... and what we call "Gemütlichkeit" a word which is almost impossible to translate - it means something like coziness, snugness, sociability. I'll see that my blog will accept comments from non-blogholders as well!
Thanks for visiting my blog ... come again!

6:07 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

H ... I might have a problem getting anonymous comments - why don't you just open a blog-account without having to actively blog later on ... just to have an account? That might be a solution ... what do you think?
Sorry Laila ... just a little chat on the sidelines!

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello! big greetings from the Kingdom of Kernow! ;)

you have a very interesting blog (my first visit here!) .. i shall be visiting during my lunchtime this week, to read a lot more

hope all is well!

(visit my photoblog to experience my photos!)

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know the English word either, but in Hebrew: Shesek. Funny I just went to see Paradise Now and there's a scene where the mom picks some askadinia/Shesek from the tree and gives him. I remember wondering if Nablus is not too high for this tree what's the name in Arabic.

Messy fruit isn't it? with all the stones and the juice.. but when it's sweet it's worth it

3:00 AM  
Blogger Halla said...

My husband & I go for walks here in the US and once in a while we run into a tree hanging on the sidewalk & I can never resist picking one. He doesn't understand this obsession but it really is worth it. I rarely see it sold in the states..

Bytw, I thought its pronounced "akadinia" where did the "S" come from?

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:48 PM  
Blogger Moses said...

Sigh. Yet another spammer.
That link prompts you to vote for his blog.

Don't bother: Laila's blog isn't even one of the choices.

10:54 PM  
Blogger J said...

Greetings from Germany. New reader here, I found your blog through Here in Korea. I hope you don't mind if I blogroll you. I've read a bit of your blog and love it.


8:08 PM  

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