My friend Vizan called me today and offered that we go to the fields east of the city, near Bnei Atarot. "It's a twenty minutes drive, and they've got everything there: pumpkins, cabbage, cotton. You can pick everything for free because of the 'Shmita'. Come on, man, Adam is coming too."
A shmita, in Jewish law, is a year on which crops are being neglected so that the land gets to "rest". This is a nice, romantic concept, but it has little to do with the actual needs of the land. Vizan's invitation was likewise romantic, but had little to do with reality. The three of us were stopped by the Arab guard while picking eggplants. He explained that this indeed was a shmita year, but the land owner was selling his vegetables to Muslim markets, so the fields were actully hard at work and we were technically stealing.
Rather than get us into trouble, the guard invited us to his corner of the fields, to smoke a nargila and drink coffee. His name was Abu-Mustafa, and he had a large armchair and a burning campfire at the edge of a citrus grove. We got to know a bit about him, especially that he is a romantic. He warded off all cynical talk about politics, social reality in Israel or matters of the heart, wouldn't hear of it.
"I saw your friend here before," Abu-Mustafa told us of Vizan, "he was with a girl and I saw from afar that he was lifting a pumpkin. I came over to stop him, then I realized that he was just holding the pumpkin so she would take his photo. It is so beautiful to be young like that. You -" he turned to the prime vegetable thief, "you take care of that girl, don't let her slip away."
"She's just a friend," said Vizan, "plus she's flying back to Australia tomorrow."
"You take care of her," said Abu Mustafa, "Don't let her slip away."
Upon arriving back in Jaffa, we saw someone we knew rummaging through a large pile of garbage. It was Tel-Avivian editor, artist, book store owner and general bohemian Avia Ben-David. She found a big pile of old encyclopedia volumes that someone has thrown out and was picking it up for her kids.
"What's more romantic than a beautiful woman looking for books in the trash?" Asked Vizan. He offered her a lift and said he had a few books in the back to add to her loot. On reaching Avia's house, we all went back to open the trunk. This is when the romantic within me finally popped his head out. I just fell in love with that trunk. It contained piles and piles of books, about seven huge, black, stolen eggplants and a basketball.