"I’ve spent my whole life right here at this spot"

Baruch Keter

Location: Carmel Market, Tel Aviv

Residence: Ramat Gan

Age: 60

The encounter: Baruch has a stall at the entrance of the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, where he sells souvenirs and religious articles such as good-luck charms and miniature prayer books. I bought a box of Hanukah candles from him. When I asked if I could take his picture and interview him, he hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said, “Usually I don’t agree to be photographed, but oh well... Maybe you’ll put me in a book!”

What are you doing here right now?
I’ve spent my whole life right here at this spot. My father started this stall in 1942. When I was a little boy, he used to bring me here every day. Back then, he sold newspapers. He started selling papers when he was just twelve years old, and over time he build up his business and opened this stand. That was before the establishment of the state. When he died, twenty years ago, I started selling souvenirs and religious articles because the newspaper business was in decline.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m religious! Very religious! Also my children, God bless, are religious. I’d say I’m ultra-orthodox [haredi], even though you may not see that from my clothing. You can usually judge people’s religious affiliation by the kind of kipa [yarmulke] they wear. People, like me, who wear a black kipa, are usually ultra-orthodox. Those who wear a knitted kipa, like the ones I sell here, tend to be religious nationalist.

Can you tell me a bit about your family? 
I have twelve siblings. My wife and I have, God bless, four children and six grandchildren. God willing, there will be another twenty or thirty grandchildren!
My father was blind. He was seven when he lost his sight. Two of his brothers were blind as well. Apparently it was a genetic disease. But we never talked about it because my father acted as if he wasn’t blind. Nobody believed he couldn’t see. He handled four hundred newspaper subscriptions all by himself. Every day, he’d make his round through the Carmel Market and the Yemenite Quarter with his cart full of newspapers.

Where is your family from?
Both my parents were born in Yemen. My father came here in 1935. His older brother had decided to move to Israel by himself. So then my grandmother decided to follow him with the whole family. My mom came in 1949, when all the Yemenite Jews immigrated to Israel.  My parents met each other here in Israel.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I hope we’ll have peace with the Arabs, and with everyone. I don’t expect it to happen right now, but you have to believe. It’s like the Messiah. You just have to keep believing that things will turn out well, even if it’s taking its time. Initially, we didn’t believe we’d have peace with Egypt; and, see, then it happened!
But I don’t expect much from the elections. It’s always the same script: one goes and another one comes. It’s been the same since I was a child: They take money, they give money, they help a little, take a little... Nothing changes.
But I’ll vote anyway; for a religious party of course!