Saturday, May 2, 2009

Haifa in Ramallah -- חיפה ברמאללה

Trying to get to the Jamal abd El-Nasr mosque as dusk was settling, day rolling away before the night, I passed a small store with "Handmade in Palestine" on its awning in English.
Intrigued, I peeked inside and found not the tchatchke shop I was expecting but a small, tidy shoe store. Walls lined with shoe boxes.

Two women, a mom and her daughter, both veiled in hijabs, were waiting perhaps for one more customer before closing for the night. They welcomed me stiffly. After some initial hesitation, the daughter spoke very good English and began to tell me with pride about the shoes, all made entirely in Hebron. Her father started the shoe company with designs and processes from right there. All natural leather. The very first soles made in Palestine.

Her name? Haifa.
Why? (Need I ask?) "I am from Haifa, but right now we are refugees."

Could I introduce her to people with my little camera?
No. She did not want to be on camera at all.
Could I record her voice but not show her? I want people to know.
Briefly checking in with her mom, Haifa, 19 like my son Yehuda, said that would be OK.

After I shot this little interview, Haifa invited me to sit down. She wanted to talk with me very seriously about Israel and the Palestinians. She had a lot to say and was very strong and clear in her opinions. She was good at listening too.
Her father, who started the shoe company, has been in prison for three years now with no trial. He's charged with something she is sure he would never do. I didn't ask what. He's imprisoned near Ashkelon -- by the sea far on the other side of Israel, hours by bus and through God-knows-how-many checkpoints.
She's allowed to visit him once every two weeks and always goes.