Beverages matter. My co-workers once called me down to the foyer and offered me tea brewed with maleesa (an herb). I added sugar from a small metal bowl, using a little spoon, to my tiny glass cup with no handle. Just then, Saliba came from his office. I immediately rose and went to the kitchen, bringing another glass and setting it on the tray.
“He doesn’t take tea– but you are getting better…”
Two microscopic ripples of emotion collided in that moment. I saw the shift in my orientation, my ability to not only notice there was not a glass for Saliba but be actively caring whether or not there would be enough glasses for everyone. At the same time, I felt sad that I had sat with Saliba so many times and not noticed that he usually is just sitting with us: being present.
I do not know how to tell these people I love them in a genuine way. In fact, I feel as if the normal activities of life are supposed to be love, so that it does not have to be explicitly mentioned. When we orient to ourselves, we want our acts of love recognized as special. When we orient to others, we want our acts of love to make them feel welcome and accepted. Since I have returned, I notice how often Adnan is ready with the coffee-pot, filling our فناجين as we enter. Today I sat by the coffee-pot and did the same, for everyone but especially Adnan. Shortly after, he asked for the pot so he could pour himself a second cup. Then, he put the pot by his feet. That is what I should expect from a Sulha man (a mediator) and his negotiating tools: I suspect he usually keeps the coffee under his thumb. My imagination engulfed me and I tried to picture all the فناجين of coffee Adnan has drunk, plastered in a pattern on the giant concrete wall by our office. I cam confident that if there were an individual فنجان for each dose
of Arabic coffee, we could really do something like that. Now I am picturing all Zoughbi’s cups, plus the cups from all of Bethlehem and the surrounding villages, materializing and clinging like hungry suction-cups to the annexation wall. Then, by magic, the wall disintegrates and fills all those little coffee-cups. They fall in waves and cascade down our adjacent driveway, or into the playground, or the ditches around the distant Qalandia check-point near Ramallah. Cups falling in Al-Waleje, in Al-Masra, and rolling down the divided streets of East Jerusalem.
When all the cups have finished their work, we can see Rachel’s Tomb and all of the Israeli officers running into the street with their guns drawn, panicked, because they know what Arabic coffee is but they don’t begin to understand what it represents, nor what it could do for them if they did.