Today I found these earrings in storage, I had no idea where they were for nearly twenty years.

The earrings came from the short time I lived in East Jerusalem during the Second Intifada in 2002. I had lived in the West Bank for a year in order to keep a children’s school open during the military conflict. I had relocated briefly to East Jerusalem and was getting ready to move back home since at a certain point education becomes futile amidst war conditions.

I was walking through the mostly deserted Old City and I walked by a man sitting on stone steps crying.

I doubled back and asked him if he was okay.

A Father Facing Difficulties In Life

In choked words, he told me he was a shop owner and that due to the Intifada, he couldn’t feed his 5 children and his wife hated him; he was caught in a situation where he had no power to do anything good and this hardship was breaking him.

He spied the violin I was carrying and he asked whether I could play it for him. He specifically asked for melancholy music; he explained music could accompany his sense of devastation which had rendered him alone.

I took my violin out and played the first Bach sonata, then some Vitali, then some Biber.

The sound echoed down the stone corridors, it was eerie.

Help Coming From Unexpected Places

He stood across from me at the door of his shop listening; I felt his gaze.

An elderly Christian Iraqi couple appeared, they were staying at the American Colony, a posh hotel in East Jerusalem. Somehow they wanted to shop, though I found wartime a weird time to want to shop. They bought tons of jewelry. Two more couples came and bought knickknacks.

He intermittently popped out of the shop and waved his arms vigorously at me; his eyes were wild and disbelieving.

I kept playing; when I started playing it was dusk when I finished playing it was dark.

Undramatic End to an Excruciating Difficult

When the customers left, I stopped playing the violin, he prodded me into his shop and he brought out an organized box filled with different stones. He made 4 pairs of earrings for me, this pair in the photo is one of those earrings.

He had made enough money to feed his family for a few months. The joy in his face was the joy of relief after long-sustained anguish.

That was 2002.

I returned around 2004 for a European Union cultural project. Days were better there, seemingly though it was not.

Facing Difficulties in Life After a Break-Up

I walked by his shop not thinking he would recognize me. I walked by, he leaped out of his shop and grabbed my arm, and asked me how I was. He studied my face. He placed his palm on my cheek and said, “something difficult has happened to you.”

I choked up.

I had just gone through a breakup in a long-term relationship, I didn’t know my sadness was etched on my face like that. He invited me into the shop, “tell me, what happened to you?”

I was struck by the turning of the tables of concern. He made tea and we chatted for a while. What a lovely thing that humans can be like this. I have experienced tender human kindness many times in my life.