Several years ago I was getting gold chains on 47th Street to show a customer at the Plaza Hotel store opened by Richie Boy. Business was slow at the exchange and the older gold dealer asked with a Levantine accent, "Where are you from?"
"Boston." No one in the Diamond District had ever asked my origins. I am a goy. Gentiles don't really count except on the Shabbath, when the Hassidim need us to turn on the lights.
"Are you Jewish?" He picked out several heavy necklaces.
"No, I'm the Shabbath Goy."
"I'm not Jewish either. I'm an Armenian born in Israel." Armenians are scattered through the jewelry business. "I left in 1957."
"That's a while ago." I had been five when he arrived in the USA
"I've spent my entire working life on this street."
"And have you ever seen times like this?" I signed the memo.
"Not even in Palestine." I put the gold necklaces into a packet and slipped it into my jacket.
"That's the first time I've ever heard anyone on this street call it that." He smiled with a lost sadness. "Palestine. It wasn't like they said. All that dreck about changing the land from desert. Feh. It was beautiful. More natural. Like Utah. And the fruit. It wasn't fake like now. But what can you do?"
"Just remember I guess." Like I remember so many good things in New York like the Second Avenue Deli, the St. Mark's Movie Theater, and CBGBs.
"Well, have a good day."
I thanked him for his best wishes and headed back to the Plaza Hotel. It was a little after 10.
My cellphone rang. It was Richie Boy.
"Why aren't you at the Plaza?"
"I had to pick up some pieces to show a customer." The Plaza store had nothing like them in our inventory
"Yeah, sure." I hung up and slowed my pace.
In the past no one was in such a hurry as the 21st Century.
Certainly not in Boston and not Palestine.
I was going to open late.
It happened every day when business was slow.
It was a land of many faiths.
A land of Milk and Honey.
Palestine had access to the sea.
The Wailing Wall.
The beauty of Palestine is not gone.
Just buried under modernity.