Friday, August 18, 2006


Yesterday as I was leaving the office, mouth full of falafel that one of the local staff had just handed me, I was thinking about how this place is not a good place for weight loss. Eating is a communal activity, and the FSNs (Foreign Service Nationals, our locally-hired staff) bring in some sort of food almost every day. Usually it consists of falafel, kike (a local bread), pita, hummus and labeneh (a yogurt dip or sorts). On Fridays, we have a full breakfast and stand around in the file room eating and laughing together.

Yesterday wasn't falafel from a full breakfast, but just one of the random servings of falafel that crops up around the office with an FSN standing nearby telling you to help yourself. Good thing these folks are our friends...they could poison us easily!

So I got in my car to head to Post 2 still eating my falafel, when I saw the people begging at the intersection. Palestinians are proud people, so you seldom see begging. And when you do, it is usually the random kids tap tap tapping on your car window trying to get a few shekels for "cleaning" your windshield or for selling you packs of tissues or other items you don't need. We are discouraged from giving money to these kids, because most of them are essentially being pimped out by an older boy or man who takes almost all of the money they get. So you shake your finger at them, a sign here that the discussion is over.

The beggars yesterday were different. The woman is an observant muslim woman in a black dress that covers everything from her wrists to her ankles and a white hijjab covering her hair. I imagine her husband is dead, in prison, or has abandoned her, because I can not fathom the pride of the husband of an observant woman letting her beg. She is carrying a child of maybe two. He was an infant when I got here. With her is her older son, a boy of maybe 6 or 7 with horrific scars on his face that look as though he has been badly burned. I have given to them in the past, but yesterday I didn't have any coins. Then I noticed as they walked away that the older boy is much thinner than he used to be. Painfully thin. They had walked to the next car by the time I noticed, or I would have given them something. Anything.

Suddenly my falafel didn't taste as good.

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