“Capital Poultry” is located in a low-income neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It's about 200 metres from an important junction in Southern Jerusalem, were often, after suicide bombings in the city, wild crowds demonstrate shouting “Death to the Arabs!” and waving signs which the Israeli official TV station avoids showing.
Jerusalem is a city of ironies. A great deal of the names of its streets cause the casual onlooker to raise his or her eyebrows. “Valley of Ghosts” and “Wings of Eagles” are two main streets in our eternal capital. Having a butcher's shop on “Zealots of the Galilee” street is not something you would see in any other city in the world.
Regardless of the zeal expressed in the name street it happens to be at, “Capital Poultry” is a hectic, busy place. Its owners are Moroccan Jews, a middle-aged couple who supervise the cashiers all of whom are young Jewish girls, and a team of young Arab men cutting up the meat, storing it and serving the customers.
One specific summer, Israel was shocked by the disappearance of a little baby-girl, Hodaya Kedem. The public feared the worse: that some savage terrorists had kidnapped her from her Jerusalem home. Yet, such kidnappings are very rare in Israel and no ransom request was received. The whole country was following the case. As the days passed, strange details started to emerge, especially regarding her father, with whom she had been just before her disappearance. Where could the baby be? She couldn't have disappeared all by herself, she was too small.
Eventually, the father was arrested. The story he had told the police didn't fit the details uncovered in the investigation. From grieving father he became a suspect.
As the radio announced the arrest, I was waiting in line to buy minced meat and some chicken, cut on demand. As always, I was listening to the young Arabs talk. Their dialect told me they were not from Jerusalem, but from a rural area south of Jerusalem, probably near Bethlehem. My other pass-time at “Capital Poultry” is to watch the young guys at work. A Chinese circus could hire them. Their agility with the large knives is incredible. One of them, his hair combed like a movie star from Hollywood's heyday can hold a whole chicken up in the air and have it land completely cut to eight pieces after a series of quick manoeuvres with
his long knife, while his colleague cuts large blocks of frozen meat on table-saw in gentle strokes as if it were a harp.
The news on the radio was heard on a central loudspeaker system. They were saying that the father was the prime suspect now. By the way the newscaster was talking, it was clear that searches for the body were being carried out on that very moment, probably with information extracted from the father.
The lady who owns the place was standing nearby, among some customers. The Arabs were working. The ceiling was blasting the news. “No way!”, shouted the lady, unable to contain herself. “A Jewish father doesn't kill his daughter!” The public around hummed in agreement. And then she added the inevitable sentence: “Only an Arab can do that! It must be an Arab!”
The guys behind the counter didn't flinch, their expressions were not altered, not even for a second. Deftly cutting meat, sharpening the knives, displaying their amazing dexterity, they continued to work for their living.
The baby-girl's father is currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, whose body was found by the police that same day I was standing in line at “Capital Poultry”.