Eyüp Sami Yavaş
While sitting in the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque, I remember Uncle Emad, whom I read a news about on the Internet months ago, then heard many things from the friends I met on Al-Aqsa. If I left here before I remembered him, I would be sorrowful. I learn the exact location of the shop of Uncle Emad from my friends: a little shop on the right side, just beyond Babussilsile (Chain Gate). Stores are closed since it is night-time; yet I can still guess which store belongs to him.
The next day, my first job is to get up from the housetop in which I slept as a guest and to find the store going through Babülmağarribe (East Gate). I see Uncle Emad for the first time there, the nice man placing a tabouret in front of the store and having a rest. Not being sure whether he is Uncle Emad or not, I greet him respectfully. “I am looking for a place” I say and he asks “Where do you come from?”. As he hears “Turkey” as a response, a smile appears on his face and “Yes, this is where you are looking for, please come in, what do you want to drink, tea or coffee?” he says.
“I am like these columns, I was born in Jerusalem and inshallah I will die here”
Ustaz Emad Abu Khadejih runs a small grocery store at a distance of 2.5 meters from Burak (Wailing) Wall, and 5 meters to al-Aqsa Mosque. The shop is 2000 years old! There are submerged arches on the ground floor. The Israeli government offers for the store 24 million dollars but he strongly refuses. The purpose of the Jews is to send away Muslims from the region and to excavate for the “Solomon’s Temple”. After rejecting the 24 million dollar offer, the Israelis come again and say that they can give a life to him, in any country, full of money, cars, women… However, he refuses repeatedly.
While talking about his story, he said to me, "I am like these columns, I was born in Jerusalem and inshallah I will die here”, stroking the columns from the Roman Empire in his shop. He could have moved to Tel Aviv with this money and could have a luxurious life in appearance, yet servile in actual fact. But he exactly knows that he is a marabout at the same time. We also talked about home sales. He said laughing that a little while ago his brother made a joke about this issue and Uncle Emad responded “I will shoot you right in the head”. When I talked to the Palestinians regarding the sales, they said that selling real estate to Jews is a high treason. I also wanted to know if Hamas punished the people in this case, but the answers I have received were not the same; some said it is the case, while others not.
“As long as the new owner is a Turk, the price does not matter.”
Israel imposes severe sanctions with substantial amount to tradesmen aimed at convincing them to leave the region. While talking, Uncle Emad asked me that if I have rich acquaintances. Unfortunately I gave a negative answer and asked the reason of the question. “I have many friends in difficulty; they have to sell their properties”, he replied. “Jews offer millions of dollars; however, my friends do not sell their houses to the Jews. If a Turk, who is well off, wants to buy the houses, we may sell them at one fourth the price. As long as the new owner is a Turk, the price does not matter.”
Uncle Emad loves Turkish people and Turkey so much; it truly beggars all description. And he is furious at the Arabian leaders just like any other Palestinians I met before! That Turks visit his store makes him pleased certainly. And he wants from the Turkish government a visit to the store by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, if possible. He also wants a big photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan from me to put it on the wall of the store. (Later I learned from my friends that he in fact had a photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the wall; however, he got punished because of it and the officials took the photo. Exactly the same case happens the other tradesmen having a photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on their wall. Even if the store belongs to you, you cannot put anything you want on the wall).
In addition to high taxes, there were not much clients at the grocery store. While I sat there, from time to time, there were sales of cheap things like water, sugar, etc. “As you see” he said, “There is not much sale; but we are here marabouts. This store is not of Emad. I will be dead sooner or later; but this store should run precisely”.
A Heart Wider Than the Arabic Geography
Before coming to Jerusalem, I started an online petition and collected some money to distribute chocolates and toys to the children of Jerusalem. I have received support beyond imagination for this civilian project. With the abundance of Jerusalem itself, the money had never ceased to exist. After all the shopping, I gave tthe money that was close to 1000 Turkish liras to Uncle Emad, and we distributed the chocolates and sugars with the Turks and Ethiopians I met here walking along the streets. Some of the children did not take the eid chocolates we gave them, I was a little stunned and asked the adults why the children act in such a way. They said, “They think that you might be the Jews”. When I told them that I am a Turk and an Istanbulite, they shouted after the children. He said “Turki” and “Erdogan”, they accepted the chocolates only then. After a few days I left another packages here again and then I saw that the packs the juices into the hands of the children who went to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Friday prayer (this was the last Friday prayer that was held there or the one before the last prayer!). At that time I was with Ahmad, who was a little child, since he had forgotten his juice somewhere, we went back and drank a tamarind sherbet together. The heart of Emad is wider than the whole Arabic geography. Since he wanted to do charity work, he has added products from his own store.
When I found a Turkish group in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, in which I travelled about 10 days, I brought them to this grocery store. Every time Uncle Emad offered tea or coffee, if not a cold water, and he did not accept any money in return. Once I went to the store with two Turks and they attempted to buy bottle of water. Immediately they thought that Emad would not accept money from them, and then they gave up buying the bottle. After we went out of the store, Uncle Emad ran up bringing 3 bottles of cold water. “Well, here you go. Assalamu alaikum!” A tiny grocery store, 3 bottles of water, tremendous happiness.
House of Uncle Emad
I also visited the house of Uncle Emad, which is 5 meters away from the shop and 2 meters away from the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is 1-2 meters away, al-Aqsa’s door neighbor. I photographed the house with his consent and encouragement, which is tiny and a little messy since his wife is out of town for a short period of time. I could not hide my confusion when I reached the balcony. Because the balcony was surrounded with wire fences. As I learned, the balcony stays above the Jews worshipping in the Wailing Wall and police used these wire fences for the security reasons. “See, I am at my own home but it is like a prison; I even cannot go out to the balcony”. Actually, there is another house of Emad in the West Bank, but he is not moving in there. “When I leave Jerusalem, I cannot breathe, and when I go to another city, I immediately miss Jerusalem and come back”, he adds. Indeed, Jerusalem is a city no one can leave or when leaved, the recovery is not possible. Jerusalem is our breath.
Uncle Emad, inshallah, will come to Istanbul in the coming months and will be a guest of mine, which is a great honor for me. But in our last conversation he said, “You see the situation on the al-Aqsa Mosque, I cannot go anywhere under these conditions (meaning X-Ray devices and resistance on al-Aqsa Mosque).
And if Allah gives me a boy, I will give him his name. So that, he will not be obsessed with money; he will remember his own self, identity, and history; and he will choose a life of dignity in the hereafter over this world. He will say that there was a man in Jerusalem, which was under occupation at that time, and he did not sell this store to the occupants, and pray for him.
For the story with his own expression: generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/save-emad-s-store-near-al-aqsa-mosque
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