May 6, 2005
We probably should take on part-time jobs in our retirement -- perhaps New York city tour guides. We love showing off our city and taking visitors around and have become pretty knowledgeable.
Yesterday was no exception. Visiting New York and the United States was a young man from the town of Biddu in Palestine. Stacey had met Mansour during her trip there last summer.
We picked up our visitor at an apartment in Brooklyn. But before we left on our tour, Mansour showed us a video that had been made in his town of Biddu showing, firsthand and graphically, the horrible reality of the occupation. Here, in one scene, an elderly Palestinian man, in tears and outrage, watching as the Israeli's clear his humble plot of land that fronts his modest house. They, chainsaws in hand, are cutting and uprooting some dozen or so of the old man's olive trees to make way for the construction of the infamous Apartheid wall being built by the extremist government of Ariel Sharon.
Olive trees, the very staff of subsistance for many Palestinian farmers, take some 50 years before they can produce their fruit. Many trees live for hundreds of years. To violently and arrogantly take a chainsaw to olive trees would be like Donald Trump taking a bulldozer to Central Park to build another of his Trump monstrosities in its place. The world should know what is being done in Palestine in the name of Sharon's "security." Mansour's trip here is to shine the light of world opinion on the brutal reality of the occupation.
We picked up Mansour at the apartment where he's staying.
We drove down Atlantic Avenue, showing our guest the shops in downtown Brooklyn's Arabic community. At Court Street, Stacey double-parked and Mansour and I made a quick tour of Sahadi's, the mideast grocery that we love and frequent so often for our supplies of olives, almonds and cheese - all at fabulous prices.
Sahadi's at 189 Atlantic Avenue.
Next on our tour was breakfast and, where else, but our favorite: Cafe Luluc at 214 Smith Street. Readers of this Blog are familiar, by now, with this wonderful little restaurant.
Coffe, tea and brunch at Cafe Luluc.
After brunch at Cafe Luluc - 214 Smith Street.
Mansour had to make a train at Penn Station and we had to get him there at 2:30. It was after 12 already, giving us a bit more than two hours to "show him the town." Impossible! So we opted for a walk, on this lovely spring day, across the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge walk is, in my opinion , one of New York's most magnificent attractions, blending fabulous views of Manhattan with the beauty of walking across the bridge with its magnificent, gothic, granite arches and steel cables. An archictectual masterpiece in a heavenly setting!
Stacey and Mansour on Roebling's bridge.
The Lady of the harbor through the cables of the bridge.
Mansour - he loved the bridge and the views.
Mansour said he was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all and so too were we. Despite the dozens of times we've been over this bridge by foot or bike, the effect each time is the same: a euphoric uplifting of one's senses and a feeling that, despite all the world's problems, life is pretty beautiful and that humanity can be so creative.
Running out of time, we did a quick perusal of City Hall and its recently renovated park and then a quick viewing of the empty space that once contained the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. It was a very moving and emotional experience for our guest who had difficulty, coming from a small village in the West Bank, comprehending the enormous height to which the buildings had once soared.
Stacey and Mansour at the former site of the World Trade Center.
A very moving experience at the WTC site.
It was late now - how to get back to our car on the Brooklyn side, and quickly? We opted for a Taxi which was only a few cents more than three fares on the subway and quicker. Then a quick ride back across the bridge and uptown to Penn Station where we dropped our friend off for his trip to Washington.
A self-portrait: Me - in the taxi back to the car.
Mansour, the activist that he is, confided that he enjoyed, for the moment, being a simple tourist - no meetings, speeches, cell phones to annoy him, as we walked the streets of downtown Manhattan. "It almost makes the troubles disappear," he said. "At least for the moment.