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October 31, 1986 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-31

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An Arab and a Jew
discuss the events in the
news over a cigarette at a
Jerusalem news stand.
The conversational style
between Arab and Arab at
shops in the Muslim
quarter is markedly dif-
ferent from that between
Arab and Jew.


Friday, October 31, 1986


over and expand into her apartment. Just
as the Jews periodically objected to the
high volume of the amplified muezzin's call
to prayer in al-Aqsa mosque, Arabs also
complained that the Jews in the offending
yeshiva would pray loudly all night long,
keeping them awake. Normal Jewish
families would be welcomed as neighbors,
many of the Arabs told me, but just get the
crazies out of there.
In essence, this was a clash of propri-
etary interests: The Arabs thought that
the Jews were moving in to demonstrate
rights of ownership in the Muslim Quarter,
and the Jews thought so too. But much of
the everyday friction at the points of Arab-
Jewish contact is cultural, a conflict of
East and West, a bad chemistry of mixed
styles. Two areas of frequent encounter
have the special capacity to inflame

mutual distaste. One is bargaining in the
marketplace; the other is the confrontation
between the individual and the bureauc-
Few Jews who shop among the alleys of
the Old City seem to grasp the finest
nuances of agreeing on a price. In its best
form it is a dancelike duel, a graceful feint
and parrying, a pursing of the lips, a bit
of flattery, a touch of humor, a smiling nod
of accord in which both sides feel vic-
torious. When Arab merchants bargain
with Arab customers, there is a good-
natured tone not always present when the
customer is Jewish, as documented by the
psychiatrist Gerald Caplan, who studied
Arab-Jewish interaction in Jerusalem. He
found that Arabs usually assumed that
they would get the goods for about 20 to
25 percent less than the merchant asked,

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