Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Day in Nürnberg

I'm in my hotel room with a plastic bag of about 4 kilos of Palestinian almonds, around 30 soaps made with Palestinian olive oil wrapped in tissue paper, two bottles of the finest Palestinian olive oil, five packs of zaatar, two boxes of incredibly sweet, caramely dates from Saudi Arabia, and one box of soft madjool dates from Jordan. All of it organic and all of it presents from my corner of the fair.

See, some well-meaning soul put my stand beside the Saudi Arabia pavilion, not far from the Egyptian pavilion, and just a couple of stands away from our Jordanian olive oil producing colleagues and thereby saw to it that I always had kindred spirits only an el salam 'aleikom away.

Safwan with the frozen unfathomably juicy dates from Saudi Arabia. Bahaa with the gorgeous shopping bags made out of Egyptian linen. Rabih who looked after me once Nasser had left for his product launch in the UK.

Arabs always look out for one other, and it doesn't really matter that I'm not Arabic. I speak Arabic well enough, and besides, olive oil, fresh bread, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and green nabali olives with a huge sign saying Delicacies from the Land of Milk and Honey--Palestine bring us all together. We eat our makeshift lunch together, made up out of samples from each other's stands, and speak of organic foods, fair trade and Palestine.

Israelis stop by too. Maybe six or eight of them mostly to check us out.

"Is this oil from Palestine?" Unbelieving. Testing us.


"From where?"

"Mainly Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Salfit on the West Bank. Where are you from?"

"From the same country."

Clearly not Palestinian. They smile. Testing us.

"Oh yeah, from where?" I ask.


"Ah, but this is from Palestine."

"In my opinion that is the same country."

"In my opinion it isn't."

Although, of course, I wish it were. In the sense that I wish Palestine could be one country for all of the people who live on the land, and all of the Palestinian refugees who wish to return, with equal rights regardless of ethnicity, religion, nationality or any other social identity.

Another man who walks up to our stand thinks I should speak Hebrew, since I have an Israeli name. I kindly let him know that my last name is German and my first name is Hebrew. Not Israeli.

Yet another man tests my historical knowledge by acting ignorant about our company name.

"What does this Canaan mean?"

Fully aware that he knows, I still play along and go, "It's the ancient name for Palestine."

"Oh," he says. "You knew. You are vell trained."

Indeed I am.

They walk along quickly. Not really interested in our products as much as what we represent. And, I think, in making a point out of the fact that they are Israelis.

But then there are two ladies from Israel who come by our stand in the morning, with a sincere wish to congratulate us and reach out to us, and support our cause in spirit. They take our hands, and they say they are really very happy to see that we are here representing Palestine. And they said they are proud to see us here. And they wish us well. And they invite us to come to their stand, too.

Oh, and I partied with Israelis and American Jews yesterday. The Dr Bronner's Magic Soap gang. Very interesting people. Very cool. They source 90 % of the olive oil they use in their soaps from Canaan Fair Trade. That is to say, a Jewish-American owned soap company uses almost exclusively Palestinian olive oil. That's something else.

So, at the end of the day, Canaan Fair Trade really brings all of us together. With the olive oil and the Fair Trade and the organic farming.

And now Nasser is in the UK to speak of his project that is consuming his every waking hour. He will go on a speaking tour, with Equal Exchange and FLO. Things are happening. So much so that Prime Minister Brown has even issued a statement on our newly FLO-certified olive oil--the very first olive oil to be certified by FLO ever. Go Canaan!

I must sleep. Have to catch an early flight tomorrow. And figure out where to put all these almonds.

Yalla. Good night.

PS My heart goes out to Egypt tonight. To the people who were on El Hussein when the explosion took place. In support of all Egyptians, I will still go to Egypt as planned in March.

No comments: