"We need peace, like a flower needs water."

Muhammad Hussein

Location: El-Wad Street, Old City, Jerusalem

Residence: East Jerusalem

Age: 43

The encounter: I usually speak English with people in East Jerusalem.  I don’t speak Arabic and can't assume everyone speak Hebrew. I had wanted to interview a young man at a store across from Muhammad’s, but he led me to Muhammad, explaining that Muhammad spoke English better than any of the other shopkeepers. Indeed, in his self-taught English, Muhammad succeeded in making politics sound like poetry.

What are you doing here right now?
I work here, selling souvenirs. This is my uncle’s store. Business is very quiet... It’s destroyed. There are no tourists. They are afraid to come because of the political problems.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I am a Palestinian Muslim. If I wanted, I could become an Israeli citizen, because I live in East Jerusalem. But I don’t want to. If you are under the occupation and you agree to get citizenship, it’s like saying: ‘You’re welcome! Take my life! Take my house! Take everything! You’re welcome!’ Even if it makes life easier for me, I don’t want it.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have seven children. I’m a dangerous guy! Ha! No, not really.. I have just one wife: the one and the last! We have been married since 1996. My wife stays at home with the children. Their ages range between two and eighteen.

Where is your family from?
My family is originally from Jerusalem. I can’t count how many generationswe go back, but we have always been here.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
We need the genie from Aladdin’s lamp to fix all the problems, because the politicians can’t do it. Or they don’t want to. The people want peace, but the politicians don’t. Jerusalem is like a flower. We need peace, like a flower needs water. There is too much blood. Now, I see only craziness. In the last few years, the Israelis have been expanding the settlements, and then they started attacking people here, and they kidnapped and killed that boy, Mohammed, from Shuafat.
I can see blood if the situation doesn’t change. They are pushing people here to the edge. They are making life harder and harder. Most of the young boys here don’t work and can’t even think of the future. They have no work, no future, no dreams. Where will they go? They will turn to violence. Even I... I have seven children. If I don’t have work, what can I do? This is the question. I’m just sitting here all day. For how long can it go on?
We are all losing hope. We worry about our family and our life; about every-day things like work and bringing food to our family. But, just like allrivers eventually end up in the sea, our every-day problems actually are actually political problems. Netanyahu destroyed our business. He wants to cut everything. He wants to cut the hope. Even the Israelis, they know this: Violence makes violence and peace makes peace. If the Israelis are clever, they push out Netanyahu because he will take them the wrong way.
I’m not saying there were not a lot of mistakes on the Palestinian side too. The Palestinian Authority should not have come back before they finished the Oslo agreement and established the borders. They just talked and negotiated, but they did nothing for the people.
The powerful, they make mistakes. But who pays the price? The people who are looking for their daily food, who look for a regular life, they are the ones who pay the price!
The politicians are all the same: this one goes and a that one comes, but nothing changes. The only one who could have done something was Rabin. Before Rabin’s murder, people could smell the peace. But because he walked the road of peace, they killed him. Rabin was our enemy, but he was brave. Most people here cried when he was killed. You know how what it’s like for us people: we are drowning in the sea and we are waiting for anything that can save us.