by Mark Chmiel

Years ago a friend was working in Palestine
She was a violinist with a major symphony orchestra in the US
Among other activities during her several visits
She held two-week violin camps for the youths of a refugee camp
Like many others, I contributed funds to help purchase the violins

Once she and I had a five-hour lunch
At the Bourgeois Pig Café
Near DePaul University
And she told me of this encounter:

Ambling through the touristless Old City in Al-Quds
She instinctively gravitated to a forlorn, elderly man at one stall
He moaned,“There used to be so many shoppers, and now…”
And slowly waved his hand
Towards their absence in front of and around him

He noticed her violin case

He asked her to play him something

“What would you like to hear?”

“The saddest thing you know”

And so, she did

And so strange
As the minutes went on
More and more people appeared out of nowhere
Till by the end of her playing the saddest piece she knew
The man was smilingly overwhelmed with customers
Who wanted his trinkets and gifts
For their friends and family back home

You might say
(if you’re in a cynical mood)
“But what about the next day,
The man still had to face the objective decline in business
What good did she really do?”

It’s true
For the Palestinians under occupation
In refugee camps
Facing increasing ghettoization
Living amid or far from the ruins of their lands
Nothing is enough
Nothing anyone from outside does
Will ever be enough

Still, I believe that man
Will never forget that one afternoon
When one young Japanese-American musician
Gave him all she had to give
And his very face itself
Must have sparkled