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savages in vienna

but it is the tasty part!

explains hassan
from behind the counter
to the decent viennese lady
who is shifting her weight
from one foot to the other
trying to find her bearings
in the middle eastern buffet
on mariahilferstraße
as she attempts to order shwarma

who knows for whom
who knows why

maybe
someone in the office
finally got tired
of knedel and kraut and wurst
and wants a little change

maybe
her friends
convinced the lady to risk
a crazy gastro adventure

or maybe
her persian lover
feels homesick
and longs for
middle eastern aromas

or maybe not

anyhow
the lady is at a loss

she eyes the meat
roasting on the huge
rotating vertical steel

and she wonders
what animal does this meat come from?

she wonders
if it complies
with european union rules?

she wonders
and points at the meat
and asks hassan
to cut her a piece
from the less well done part

to see it up close
to check it
maybe to taste it

hassan cuts a piece
from the well done part
holds it
between his thumb and forefinger
and waves it toward her
explaining passionately:

but it is the tasty part!

the lady looks
at hassan
and the dangling meat
with suspicion

barukh and judit know this look
too well

they got their fair share of it

barukh in eilat
in the liquor store
judit in jerusalem
in the office supply store

when they didn’t understand right away
what hebrew-speaking customers wanted

customers
who were less open
to olim hadashim
to new immigrants

barukh and judit asked back
od paam?
come again?
and customers
looked at them
with impatience
aversion
and distrust

the same way this lady
looks at hassan
in vienna
in the middle eastern buffet

though hassan truly means well

he doesn’t want to blow up the lady

ot shoot rpg at her

he just wants to sell her good shwarma

but she doesn’t know this

she only senses the alienness

because she grew up in the old world

where the clean shaven
elegant waiter
with a charming smile
bowed
and served all the needs
of the dear customer

in that old world
where those dusky faced immigrants
like this hassan here
did not dare
to have a conversation
to discuss eating habits
with the born viennese

the decent lady
doesn’t understand the situation

she doesn’t understand shwarma
she doesn’t understand hassan
she doesn’t understand
that hassan is not a waiter

kal vahomer
not
an elegant and charming
viennese waiter

and hassan
well
he doesn’t understand
the decent lady
either

he doesn’t understand
that his efforts are in vain

because everything about him
irritates her
the colour of his skin
his accent
his smell
and the music
he listens to

two cultures

the lady and hassan

two cultures unmatched
unequal

the lady is at home

hassan fled his home

because eighteen years ago
planes
helicopters
and tanks
arrived in his country
with foreign soldiers
and killed one million
of hassan’s countrymen

the lady makes a face
when hassan turns his back
to put down the piece of meat
he carved before

the kind of face that says
mein gott in himmel

half to herself
and half to barukh and judit
whom she
mistakenly
assumes
to be people just as white as her

barukh hasn’t been to vienna
for three years
and for another ten years prior to that

and now
after so many years
he is happy
to soak up
middle eastern aromas
flavours
colours
melodies
and gestures
seeping in
and taking root
among the palaces
and cathedrals
of the old city
of kings and kaisers

he likes this new vienna
this new europe

this jewish-christian-muslim
balagan-chaos-fauda

feels more like home
than it used to before

when the lady leaves
it’s barukh and judit’s turn

they try to mix salads
for themselves
and the kids
just as they usually do
back home in jerusalem
at their favourite falafel place
at mahane yehuda market

barukh takes hummus and spicy
fred takes only hummus
not spicy
judit and L
take it without hummus and spicy

all this
with gestures
body language
in an english-german mixed language
because hassan speaks
about the same amount of english
as little german barukh and judit speak

barukh and judit sort of have fun
hassan considerably less so
he is not a tourist

when they finally pay
judit smiles at hassan

shukran
she says

thank you
in arabic

hassan looks startled
when he turns to judit

and judit asks him
where he is from
and hassan answers
that he is from baghdad

he is paisan
thinks barukh
he is from our land

he thinks it
in his heart
not in his mind

now hassan asks judit
where she is from

hungary
israel
she answers
and something lights up
in hassan’s eyes

he looks
involuntarily
cautiously
maybe suspiciously
after the decent viennese lady

then he turns back to judit
touches his hand
to his chest
and says:

shalom!

peace
in hebrew

and judit also touches her hand
to her chest
and says:

salaam!

peace
in arabic

that is how
two savages
two mortal enemies
one of them
a citizen
of an apartheid state
and one of them
a member
of a terrorist nation
greet each other
in the very heart of civilized europe

About the Author
a wandering aramean poet / born in hungary / living in israel / longing for a home / and peace / outside and inside // he writes about his new life / and his old one / his adhd and asd / his adonayush / and war and coexistence / in israel / in the middle east / and in the world // hundreds of his poems are available in hungarian / and in a weekly increasing number also in english // “self-appointed poet” (“önjelölt költő”) / his first book of poems / was published in budapest in 2021 / "twelve points of barukh" ("barukh tizenkét pontja") his second book was published in 2022 // he lives in the kurdish suburbs of jerusalem / with his wife and two sons
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