Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What you can learn in Jerusalem about the Middle East

Once a week, my wife and I travel into Jerusalem. It’s our Shuk (market) day. We go there to supplement our local shopping. The produce at the Jerusalem Shuk is fresher and, generally, cheaper than our local supermarkets. Plus, the Shuk is always an adventure.

Jerusalem is a bus ride away. The ride costs the equivalent of 90 cents one way, each. Our ticket comes with two free transfers, so once we get into Jerusalem we can continue riding buses—or transfer (free) to the inner-city light rail.

To get to the Shuk, we typically bus into Jerusalem. Then we transfer to the light-rail. Although the light rail takes us right to the Shuk, we usually get off early. We like walking through Jerusalem’s ‘downtown’ before heading off to the Shuk.

We love to walk in the big city crowds. We love looking into the shop window displays. We love the human diversity of this Holy City.

Today was our Shuk day. As usual, rode the bus in, then transferred to the light rail. We got off before the Shuk stop and set out along Jaffa Road. We turned up Ben Yehuda. We went towards King George Street. While there, we decided to stop at one of our favorite shops. We like buying there—and we’ve become friends with the shop owner.

When we entered his shop, our friend was sitting in his office, at his desk. His office is situated so that, at his desk, he could see most of the store and—most important—the front door. As soon as we entered, he called out immediately, ‘Just the man I want to see! Come over here!’

At his desk, he was looking at his computer screen. He looked up for a brief moment. He said, ‘You’ll love this. I’m trying to solve a problem. I want to order something specific for my shop. I found out yesterday that the distributor for this product is located in the Middle East. He’s in Dubai. Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates.’

I nodded.

He pointed now at his computer screen. He said, ‘I wrote an email to the distributor. I told him I need to talk to him. I asked if he could email his phone number, so I could do that. What do you think he wrote back?’

I told him, ‘No idea. What did he write?’

He smiled. He began to read from the computer screen, ‘sad to say but I cannot give you a phone number. There is no phone connection between U.A.E. and Israel.’

My friend looked at me. We both smiled at the same time.

We talk politics, my friend and I. He’s a reader of mine. He likes my point of view. We both knew what the email meant.

There is no phone connection between Israel and the UAE. The world of the Arab and the world of the Jew don’t connect. The UAE will not allow phone connections to the Jewish state.

Arab Jew-hate runs deep. It’s not just for show. It’s for real.

For my Jewish friend trying to do business, there will be no phone connection between the UAE and the Jewish state. For a Jew living in Israel, a statement like that seems to say it all: the Arab will not connect to the Jew.

Of course, if you live in Israel, you’ll also know that that may not be true. There might actually be phone service between Israel and the UAE. But this distributor may, for any number of reasons, not want to talk to my friend. For example, referring to a ‘no connection to Israel’ policy will allow him to keep his phone bill down.

This is the Middle East. Jew-hate runs deep. But then, so does the way business works. In this part of the world, the way you do business has a name. It's called, 'why spend money or time on a prospect?'

You must remember: this is the Middle East. It is not America. They do things differently here.
Things are not always what they seem to be. For example, that $80 "Rolex" watch you find at a Shuk stall might not be what you think it is. ‘There is no phone connection between the UAE and Israel’ might not mean what you think it means.
You can learn a lot about the Middle East in Jerusalem. All you need is a friend who owns a shop.



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