A few weeks ago, my cousin visited from Italy. We were supposed to drive from the Galilee to Jerusalem together, and from there she would continue on her own to visit Hebron.
In true Mediterranean fashion, she was late. “Sorry,” she said as she finally arrived at my car, “It took me a few changes of clothes until I found something appropriate. I had to make sure that I am culturally sensitive to those in Hebron’s old city.” She told me how she visits Hebron whenever she comes home, boasting about her dinnerware collection of plates, cups, and so on, all bought there. Hebron is known for this sort of craftsmanship; it makes sense that she would go to the source.
A little before we arrived in Jerusalem, she put some money in an envelope and handed it to me. “Someone will call you to pick it up,” she said. It was a little strange to me, but I agreed to the arrangement. And off we went our separate ways.
A week passed, and no one called me. I contacted my cousin and told her I hadn’t heard from anyone to collect the money. A few hours later, I received a phone call from an international number. The man on the phone, Hani, talked to me as if he was my cousin, and asked me where I would be so that he could have his friend collect the envelope. A few hours passed, and then Hani’s friend, Lana, contacted me saying we should meet because her other friend who is going to Gaza will take it with her.
The minute Lana said “Gaza,” my curiosity got the best of me. Who is this money going to? What is the story behind it? The attempt to meet to pass on the money took a few days as we had to coordinate a mutually acceptable day and time.
We finally agreed to meet at a particular restaurant. As I approached, I thought to myself, “How am I going to recognize Lana? I have no idea what she looks like.” I walked in and went up to the first woman I saw sitting alone. I asked if she was Lana. She said no. I went on to the next one, and she too said she wasn’t; then she laughed and said “Just kidding, I am Lana.” Her dinner friend had just arrived as well. I felt awkward as I pulled a white envelope out of my purse and handed it to her. I opened it and counted the money in front of her and her friend. She did not seem uncomfortable. It seems that it wasn’t her first time doing this kind of favor for friends. She offered a small explanation, “Lana is good friends with Hani whom she knows from when he lived here. His mother in Gaza is very ill and she needs money for treatment. She tried to help him out by trying to find doctors, journalists or anyone who has access to Gaza to pass the money to his mother.” I was satisfied with the explanation.
After returning home, I texted Hani: “Hello. I gave the money to Lana. I hope your mother gets well soon.”