a new year’s story from jerusalem
January 1, 2016 - single portrait
there are hundred reasons to visit israel: the weather, the light and the colors, the landscape of all forms (sea and beaches, mountains and woods, olive trees hills, desert and wide open spaces), the wondeerful people of all origins and religion, the inspiring cultural mixture, achitecture (the ancient, bauhaus and international style) and (street) art, the delicious food of all international influences, local brews and wines, the vibrant cities, the sleepy romantic villages, the colorful markets, the historical past that reaches farer back than anywhere else, and, for me personal, the very good friends. unsurprisingly that many of my strangers i met in israel. but none of them and his story mean so much to me like hamada’s.
i met hamada two times. the first time he was still a young salesman in his uncle’s shop in the old city of jerusalem. we negtiated over a scarf when he learnt that i was from germany he was all smiles and digged up a german flag from the depth of the shop’s goods. it turned out he was a germany-fan (not only for football), two of his brothers live in munich and run a cafe near marienplatz he visited once just recently. i took his portrait and another with his uncle and cousin. we since then re connected via facebook.
one year later, when my friend (and collaborating photographer) victor and i were on the hunt for a good hummus place for lunch a young man stopped me politely, pointing onto my fingerring (it was made from a silver spoon and looked quite catchy therefore). i saw his face and shoted out: “hey, i know you, you are hamada”. and then, with a huge smile he remembered me as well and was overwhelmed by his surprise and happyness. meanwhile he lived in his own house and opened an own shop in the muslim quarter of old jerusalem since his dear father had just passed away. he proudly invited us to his house, his little brother served us tea, we sat together surrounded by the family’s treasure collection (very old jewelery and traditional clothing, vessels, daggers and swords his family once brought from syria) and talked about everybody and his dog. we hardly could overcome our surspise and luck of having met each other again. his uncle showed up and wished السلام عليكم. he had a faded memory of the other meeting and was probably wondering that a christan woman and a jewish man drank sweet tea in his nephews house during ramadan.
this picture shows hamada’s skillful hands making me earrings from red beads and silver coins, which are now one of my very favorites, a wonderful gift representing my personal jerusalem memory.
this is not a classy new years story, but it is about what a new beginning can be. it is a story of hospitality, trust, impartiality, unity and friendship. it is about how the world should be, where religion, race, social background, biography and color of skin don’t matter at all. even if we require stories like this more than ever in israel and palestine, syria, afganisthan, nigeria, kenya, france, germany and everywhere in the world, sometimes very small things might make a big change. if this happens in a little house in jerusalem, it can happen everywhere! it doesn’t need a savior, a superhero or bombs and tanks, but only a glass of tea, an honest smile and a warm hearty welcome. it is possible!
we wish all of you in this world a happy peaceful new year 2016. please carry in your heart and make it your new year’s resolution: meet strangers and make them friends!