Israel Stories

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Half Baked Swede

Jaffa, once again. Can't stay away. Something about Jaffa that encompasses everything that is Israel. The mixture of cultures, the history, the architecture and the bread. Well bread is important and although man cannot live by bread alone, it's still good and I probably could. Even within the baker it was an international cosmopolitan multi-cultured, multi-ethnic experience. Every country and culture was represented by bread, French baguettes; Russian Loaves, Challot, Pita, Danish things and Viennese other things, even Ethiopia was represented.

Among the loaves stood one man, alone, smiling, dressed in an Arab robe, but with hair as blond as something very blond and eyes as blue as his hair was blond. There was no way he was the Middle East, maybe Stockholm East would be more accurate. He began cursing anybody that walked within 20 meters of him, he began to throw bread rolls at passers-by and yelling that he was a priest purifying the world. OK, I thought, these guys fill columns every week in the papers and magazines. I mean religious nutters in Israel account for one in ten of the population (I just made that up, but when you think about it, it seems plausible!)

Anyway, as with all these unfortunates, I ignored him and carried on browsing among the loaves. As I stood inspecting a loaf trying to work out if it was filled with raisins or dead flies, I felt a tap on my shoulder. My shoulder, my bloody shoulder, why not somebody else, why my shoulder.

“Can I bless your bread?” The Swedish Arab asked me, his eyes rolling back into his head, wild hair flaying in all directions as his head bobbed uncontrollably.

“No, you can't!” I had my reasons ranging from not getting spittle anywhere near my food or body, to religious doubts that was correct practice.

“I am a priest of the lord, I have the power of healing, take up thy bed and walk, I and no other. Cast of your shackles, possessions are useless all property is theft. Man cannot live by bread alone”. There then proceeded a jumble of gargled rhetoric spawning or spewing random verses from the bible, Koran and even Oscar Wilde (the one about lying in the gutter).

Naturally we all backed up and the poor innocent security guard, whose biggest worry up to today was how to get a double stroller through the narrow doors, approached him with caution, one hand outstretched in friendship, the other firmly at his waist, he actually looked like a teapot to me; funny what you think about in times of duress.

“Please leave the shop,” whispered the guard, “You're causing a disturbance and I don’t want to have to call the police.”

“Fascist, bullyboy, bastard”, he screamed (the nutter, not the guard), “Take you hands off me, I am pure and you are an infidel”.

“I’m not even touching him,” said the now astonished guard in very eloquent English.“He’s right you know,” said an old American woman standing next to me, “hasn’t laid an finger on him. Me, I would smash his face in. In New York if someone comes up to you, you have two choices, run or smash his face. I prefer the latter.”
Now it was my turn to be astonished.

The police arrived. Two young Ethiopian rookies entered the shop and as we backed away, the Swede assumed the Matrix (never seen it? Watch it then and you’ll appreciate this more) martial arts position urging the police to take it further. One of the policemen removed his gun and the Swede collapsed to the floor crying “lord why hast thou forsaken me.”

Off he went in the back of the car for questioning. The owner came running out into the street shouting “he owes me money, 20 shekels, he took a loaf, how can I make a living if nobody pays for my bread”.
I guess man can't only live by bread alone.

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