In the wake of yet another embarrassing “cease fire” and withdrawal of the IDF, I stumbled into a nest of Arabs from Gaza during my business trip to Chicago. In my wildest dreams I would never have imagined me sitting at a table across from a so-called “Palestinian” Arab, dressed in army fatigues like the members of Hamas, who insisted on engaging me in a political debate about Israel.
I arrived in Chicago one winter Sunday afternoon about two years ago and met with the attorney, whom I’ll call James, for a deposition in a civil matter for which I was one of the experts for the plaintiff. We both had a nice dinner at one of the kosher restaurants in the North side.
The next day after the deposition, we went out to go see a client of James on another case for a life care plan and decided we would have a kosher lunch on the way. James and I looked online for another kosher eatery and found this place called, “The Jerusalem Kosher Restaurant” which was on the way to the client’s home. James called the restaurant to ask if they were Glatt kosher and the women who answered said “Yes, when are you coming over?” James told her to expect us in twenty minutes.
When we arrived, I thought that there was something off, being that we were the only customers in the middle of the lunch hour. I walked up to the counter in the back and ordered a beef special pita with lentil soup. The older man standing at the grill began assembling the ingredients. I remembered that I would have to say the after-blessings for bread and asked for a bencher. The cook gave me a puzzled look and said something to a younger guy in a language that didn’t sound like Hebrew. The second man emerged from the back wearing army fatigues and handed me a menu.
I said, “No, no. I need a bencher.
He looked puzzled and replied, “I do not know what is this bencher?”
I must have looked even more puzzled and asked, “What Hectsher do you have?
“Hectsher? I don’t know this Hectsher”
“It’s for kosher.”
“We are kosher. Muslim Kosher.” That’s when I looked up and noticed all of the Arabic writing on the walls and store window.
“I’m in the wrong placed.” I retorted. “I have to eat Jewish kosher. I don’t have anything against you personally.” I was turning to leave with James.
“No, you are in the right place. We serve you kosher food. The cook is making it already.” He was getting agitated, putting his hand on my arm. James said it would be a good idea if we just order the food to go. Then the militant-looking Arab invited us to sit down at one of the tables in the center of the store and asked, “What do you think about all of this killing in Gaza?”
“Better we shouldn’t talk about politics; we’ll just make each other angry.” I wanted to keep him calm at first.
The Arab smiled and continued to press me for an answer. I tried to change the subject to talk about children and families but he insisted on getting me to state an opinion about Gaza and James was getting visibly nervous.
“The Israelis murdered four hundred children. Why they murder our children?”
I couldn’t hold back anymore. “Your guys were using their children as human shields.” I thought I was in trouble. The Arab’s eyes seethed, but he stayed calm.
“That is an Israeli lie!” his voice was terse but still low keyed. He was remarkably well controlled.
“We shouldn’t get into this. We are here in America and there is a cease fire now in Gaza.”
“How can we have peace?”
I thought it was a strange question, coming from a Palestinian dressed in army green, but I was willing to give it a try. “Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist?”
“What, in my country?”
“What country is that? Gaza is not a country.
“What is Palestine?”
“All of Jerusalem, Telaviv, Haifa – everything.”
I thought for a moment, realizing there was no reasoning or negotiating possible with this typical Arab street mentality. This man was living in the zone regarding “no Jews in Israel”. In other words, in this man’s mind, Israel’s right to exist is not an issue because there is no Israel; there is just a large group of space-occupying Jewish squatters, who deserve death. Then I said, “You should know that I am a Zionist and I have been one all of my life.” The Arab’s dead eye’s bulged, but he controlled his emotions and stayed calm, which was unsettling because by this time another young Arab man showed up carrying and assortment of knives and there was a fourth one talking on his cell phone at another table. James then showed me his bag of pita sandwiches and said, “We need to go now.”
Once we got outside, what had happened started to sink in. A group of Palestinian Arabs were running a restaurant that had no visible clientele and were falsely advertising that they were kosher in order to lure Jews to that place. For what, I don’t know; perhaps these guys are just running a pita shop and want to make some kind of anti-Jewish statement, but the main point is that this brief but intense episode underscores the futility of attempting to make peace with Hamas or any other Arab faction. The last president kept saying, “They [Palestinian Authority] must recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Correction; they must first recognize that Israel exists. Actually, somebody forgot to tell all of the politicians that we don’t need their permission to exist; HaShem gave that to us at Mount Sinai, and once “Egypt” has had their fill of the ten plagues we will have our final redemption.
In any event, shortly after I arrived at my final destination in Los Angeles, I called Homeland Security and got shuffled around by phone all over the United States, until out of exasperation I called the Chicago Police Department. I spoke to a detective who said that he was part of a multi-agency anti-terrorist task force. He took my report and said he would investigate. A week later he called me back and said that the restaurant was an empty store and looked like it had never been occupied. I gleefully had mental images of those Arabs in a mad rush sneaking all of that retaurant equipment out onto U-Haul trucks in the middle of the night.[/box]