So, today Assad came to paint our living room here in Herzliya. He works with one of our neighbors, whom we trusted for a good referral. He arrived exactly on the stroke of 8 a.m., the agreed upon time, and immediately got to work…or immediately after his cuppa.
We were paying him fairly, what he had asked, but it didn’t seem like a lot, especially when we heard he had to travel about 35 miles from his village west of here, to get to us, without benefit of a car. He must have had to be out of his house by 6, and probably earlier, since he arrived with all of his supplies and the paint.
Intermittently throughout the day, we chatted a bit. He has nine children, 13 grandchildren, and it sounds like he supports them all, including a married son is studying for a master’s at Nablus University. That child has two children of his own. And so it goes. Our payment for the painting couldn’t go too far in feeding all those mouths.
We asked him if he wanted to take our old television. We thought this would be helpful to him. It worked well, even though it was about a foot and a half deep — not the thin sliver we mount on the wall today. He explained that he would take it, but he couldn’t manage it on the buses. The thing must weigh about 80 pounds and is super bulky. So I piped up, we’ll take you home. I was eager, even anxious, to get rid of the TV since we never watched it. It had long since been replaced by skinnier models, and I was tired of dusting something that we never used. Sabba, on the other hand, hates to throw out anything that still works so I nagged him about the TV for years and still it stood in one of our bedrooms. OK. Assad agreed, and, once the painting was done, we piled into our car and set out for his home.
His home, his village, is about 20 miles east of Kfar Saba. It’s in one of those areas that has a sprinkling of Jewish settlements, but where most of the cars have P on their blue license plates.
First the settlements: I’ve been to areas where the so-called settlements are situated and, without being judgmental, they are not for me. They lack too much in terms of the niceties of life — like movies, restaurants, and museums, to name a few. I prefer to live in a city or the area surrounding a city, a place where I can park my car easily, but also take advantage of shopping and other amenities. Living on a barren hillside is not my dream, although I do know it is dream fulfillment for some of my coreligionists. I understand the historic ties to the land, but it’s still not for me.
So after a long drive, we reached Assad’s home. He detoured us to show us homes of some of his relatives and some were truly luxurious and very very large. His home was typical Arab construction, or so I think, with a long flight of stairs leading to a single floor of living space. By the time we arrived, we had made so many turns that we were totally lost, but Assad promised to drive with us to the center of the village from where we could easily manage. Waze did not seem to work from his home, but it did work in other parts of the area, so I think he may live on an unmarked street.
He insisted that we must come in, and it was obvious that he was not being polite. He really wanted us to come in. I suggested that it was an imposition on his wife to arrive in late afternoon with two guests, with no notice at all. He pooh-poohed me and in we went!
The family, at least those at home then, included a college-aged son, Assad’s wife, and two of his children and two grandchildren. Without language, I quickly bonded with the 2-year-old, playing the universal game of peek-a-boo. The other kids were friendly, or as friendly as possible without language. We had a cold drink and then the gifts started coming. Home-pressed olive oil. Delicious homemade olives. Pita. Spices. All wrapped up for us to take home. Refusal was clearly not an option. We took it all!
But the finale of the tale was the TV. When we entered the living room, we immediately saw the the family had a very large TV mounted on the wall. Much much larger than ours! And so, I couldn’t resist asking Assad why he had taken our old-fashioned TV when he had a beautiful modern large screen at home. I really couldn’t fathom this, and his answer is probably key to why different peoples don’t understand each other. He told me, I didn’t want to embarrass you.
So we returned to Herzliya, in wonderment. Maybe people need to understand one another. Not so simple for sure, but it certainly can’t hurt.