Thursday, August 10, 2006

Super Deal

There is one grocery store on the west side that I like to shop in, Super Deal. It is about two blocks from my house, and it caters to Israelis from the West. I went last night to pick up some milk and salad.

One of the discomforting things about this place is the tendency of Palestinians to speak to those they perceive to be in positions of authority in Hebrew instead of Arabic. This is particularly true of Arab Israelis, who are legally full citizens of Israel but tend to be relegated to the jobs no one else wants. So much like in the states, where a bi-product of racism meant that you used to see only African Americans (and now Mexican Americans) doing jobs such as garbage collection or jobs in the service industry, here those types of jobs are held by Arab Israelis. Almost all of the road construction crews, fast food employees, etc., tend to be Arab Israeli. And they always address you first in Hebrew. (M went to Ofer Prison yesterday to watch their procedures, and Arab women wearing the hijjab were saying "shalom" to her. When she responded with the Arabic "marhaba (hello)," they beamed and responded "ahlain!" (welcome).)

It is no different at Super Deal. The cashiers and managers are Jewish Israel and the butchers and cleaners are Arab Israeli. For the longest time, they spoke to me in Hebrew. But I try to make a habit, when I know someone is Palestinian (contrary to what people here think, you can't "tell them apart" from Jewish Israelis) to speak to them in Arabic (or at least the five words I know in Arabic). So there is one butcher there, a young guy, that I always say hello to in Arabic and it makes him smile. But last night, the older butcher was there, and I wasn't sure if he was Palestinian or not. So I spoke to him first in Hebrew. And apparently I have shopped there long enough that they know I am not Israeli and will try to speak to him in Arabic. So when I pointed to the meat I wanted and said, "one please" in Hebrew, he said the word "one" in Arabic. Being tired and I bit slow on the uptake, I said yes in Hebrew. So he said to me "wahad is one." That is when I realized he was trying to teach me some more Arabic. You would never see him do that with the Israeli customers, many of whom are settlers (the one draw-back to Super Deal) and therefore pretty nationalistic.

Of course, I do know Arabic numbers (up to the number six anyway!), but I was pleased that he is comfortable enough with me to do that. And I thanked him in Arabic.

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