Monday, April 17, 2006

The Vegetable Seller

Pomegranates on the Road to Jerash

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" said Martin Luther King. This statement appeared on my computer today; it happened to coincide with a visit from Issa, my vegetable seller.
Issa does not have a shop, a car, nor a regular supply of vegetables and fruits. But he does have his wits about him. Given the excess produce by a caring farmer, Issa arrives on my doorstep laden with plastic bags. He has been selling me parsley, aubergines, potatoes or cucumbers for the last twenty five years on a monthly basis, until recently. I had not seen him for more than four months and last week he reappeared. "Where have you been" I asked. "Palestine" he said "my mother is there. She is sick, but the Israelis would not let me stay, so I came back to my sister's house." I handed over a couple of dinars for the parsley and bag of potatoes – and he pressed the money to his forehead and beamed a beautiful smile as he glanced upwards in a silent prayer of thanks, as he always does. "My sisters can cook for me now" and off he trundled, with a wave of his arm, eager to get home for dinner. It was a long walk to the bus stop. Fortunately today it was not raining for in all the years I have known Issa, he has never worn a coat.

Issa, you see, has special needs. Unable to work, he sells vegetables from door to door and the money raised goes towards his upkeep. The approaching years do little to dim his spirits; but he can't understand why he can't stay with his mother.

Issa is a Palestinian from Ramallah and has been given refuge in Jordan since 1967. He has no grand ambition, nor unattainable desire but that which is God given: to live as one family in peace in his own homeland - Palestine.

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