" We are all human beings. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or something else, that's between you and God. "
Location: HaNotsrim Street, Christian Quarter, Old City of Jerusalem
The encounter: Mustafa has a very nice antiques shop in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, not far from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I had actually wanted to interview Mustafa’s neighbor: a woman from whom I had bought some ceramic tiles. But she declined. Mustafa had been listening to the conversation and immediately agreed when I asked if I could talk to him instead. I think he is quite seasoned at being interviewed. Before I left, he showed me a collection of business cards that he displays under the glass plate of the counter. It contained the cards of manyinternational journalists and diplomats. He proudly showed me a picture of himself with Nancy Pelosi.
What are you doing here now?
This is my family's story. I sell antiques and jewelry. I personally make some of the jewelry. My grandfather started this shop when this part of Jerusalem was still under Jordanian rule.
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I'm an Arab, but what does that matter? We are all human beings. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or something else, that's between you and God. We're all human beings and we should all just respect each other. Personally, I'm a Muslim. This is called "the Christian quarter," but many of the shopkeepers here are actually Muslims. A lot of Christians left Jerusalem because they didn't have the patience to endure the suffering under Israel. They migrated to other countries.
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I am married. I have two daughters and three sons. I have two grandchildren.
Where is your family from?
The Abdins are a big family, originally from Jerusalem. For more than a thousand years, we have lived here and in Hebron. Now, we are all spread out: I have family members in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and America.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I hope to live in peace and I hope that my children will have good, happy lives. I hope this not just for myself, but also for everyone on the other side. As people, we are suffering on both sides. But our governments don't act in the interest of the people.
For twenty years they have been talking about peace, and we don't see any results. The Israeli government doesn't seem to be serious. How can they expect us to trust them if they don't make good on their promises and keep building new settlements?
I hope things will turn out well, but I can't imagine the future. Anything is possible. Who could have imagined that things in Syria would turn as badly as they are now, with ISIS? I didn't expect anything like this! Our future may be like Syria or like Switserland. Anything is possible.