The market (or as-suq) is well-known in Jenin. You can get every imaginable vegetable and fruit there and they are not displayed on neatly ordered stalls like in the Netherlands, but on a colourful cacophony of carts, crates, shelves and other improvised ramshackle little structures.

The families over here are large and often live together under the same roof. So you don’t go to the market to buy in small quantities but often 5 or 10 kilos at the time. You can imagine their smile when I ask for four potatoes and two peppers. They put the products I have asked for in my hands, they say “You’re welcome” and refuse to take any money as they, more or less, gently push me away from their stall.

But it’s not only the market vendors that are so straightforward. A few days ago I went with a colleague from the centre to a watchmaker, because my watch had stopped. After the usual handshakes we first chatted about Holland, football and volunteering and then my watch was excellently repaired. And again, as I took my wallet, I heard: “No, no, you’re welcome!” Every now and then it’s not easy to pay here. Alright, fair enough, later on that colleague explained to me that Palestinians aren’t that easy with each other, but still I think it’s very special that they treat a stranger like that.

When I walk through the streets of Jenin shopkeepers stare at me curiously with a somewhat grumpy expression on their faces. As soon as I nod my head at them a big smile appears on their face and the familiar “ahlan wasahlan!” (You’re welcome!) sounds again.

Many shopkeepers are curious about who I am, because a foreigner is still a rarity in the city of Jenin which has not been affected by tourism. When I tell them that I’m a volunteer and that I teach English free of charge, they look at me gratefully. Then I hear: “Thank you for being here, we are grateful, we need people like you! Please don’t forget to tell the people back home what you saw here. Please don’t forget to tell them what we are going through.”

And I always promise them that I will tell everything. It reminds me of what many Palestinians in Bethlehem said when I was there in 2008: “We don’t need money, because we’re not hungry, but we don’t want to be forgotten by you.”

Here some photos of the market and other street scenes.

The centre of Jenin

The three hills on the southern edge of the city

The refugee camp (Jenin-camp):

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