Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Chance encounters: busfare or knafeh

Rana Zareef | 21-09-2015

Knafeh vendor in Beirut (photo by Anwar Amro/AFP)

Every day at the end of school, I wait for around 15 minutes for the bus I take to return home. Finally, it arrives! Most of the faces I see are familiar to me. I meet these people every day on my way home: the bus driver, some secondary and university students, an old lady sitting in the exact same place as usual.

This time, however, the bus stops and new faces come in—two children carrying their school bags, returning home just like many others. I’ve never seen them before on this bus. The driver gives them two tickets and waits for the children to pay him. The boys seem to be brothers; the elder is around nine, while the other doesn’t seem to exceed seven. Both of them are holding in their hands a piece of knafeh, a popular Palestinian dessert.

The older brother gives the driver 500 L.L. (Lebanese lira). The driver gives them an astonished look, and waits a second until he realizes they both are walking to find seats. He stops the bus and says, “But you gave me 500 L.L! I need 1,000 L.L for each one of you.” The younger child looks at his brother and replies, “Mom didn’t say that; we spent our money on the knafeh and…” Before continuing his sentence, his brother breaks in, “But we don’t have more money.”

The driver says, “Sorry boys, I can’t keep you on the bus if you don’t pay me the needed money.” The two brothers look at each other as if they are wondering how they will return home!  Suddenly, a voice booms from behind: “I’ll pay you; let them stay.” it was an old man who I usually see on the bus. I have had many conservations with him. The man pays the money, letting the two boys stay.

A few minutes later, the elder brother approaches the man, holding in his hand a portion of his knafeh. “Thanks for what you did; please, will you accept this?” The old man smiles and replies, “No need. Keep it for you; you’re my son.” The boy returns to his seat, and the two brothers continue eating.

At this moment, I remember a conversation I had with this man before, when he complained about not having enough income, and that his only son had migrated many years ago—never returning or asking about his parents’ needs. 

Posted September 22, 2015

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