Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Uncertain homecoming for Syrian Jew

Herbert Hadad's family, now resident in the US, had been in Syria for 40 generations. He did not know how he would be received when he took his wife and children back for a visit, but he was pleasantly surprised. Here is an extract from his account for the International Herald Tribune:
When our van pulled into al-Hatab Square in Aleppo, I was seized by the feeling that I had been here before. This city had been my father's home. I was very comfortable as I gazed at the restaurant and coffeehouses, the jewelry and antique shops, and entered a store that sold spirits and cigarettes.
The middle-aged shopkeeper reached across the counter, took my head in his hands and kissed the top as if he had found a long-gone relative. In English and broken Arabic, I told him who I was and asked if he had ever heard of my family. I had already made more formal inquiries to no avail. He shook his head and sold me a bottle of red Lebanese wine.
But as I entered nearby Sissi Street, narrow and stone-paved, with the houses and other buildings rising boulder-like on either side, I decided that this street, this square, this neighborhood was where my father had lived as a boy, where he had played and fetched milk for his family and went to school. It made me happy to believe so.
Shortly after we arrived home, headlines announced that Syria and Israel had begun peace talks, mediated by Turkey. The e-mails and phones began to crackle with congratulations: "We don't know how you did it or what you did, but thank you, thank you." The last word came from our dentist: "When my lease is up, I want you to negotiate the new one."
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