When you go down our Carmel Mountain in the direction of the old city of Haifa, you will arrive in Vadi NissNass, a mishmash of narrow streets built ages ago. Every year in December we celebrate in Haifa the Feast of all Feasts, meaning we celebrate Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukkah and New year at the same time. Four weekends in a row the Vadi is turned into one big shuk where many things happen at the same time. Thousands come from all over the country to experience this. I myself joined my wife and Bassam and Zhida, our friends, whom we have known for years. We parked our car near the Muslim-Jewish-Christian center, Beit Hageffen, and strolled into the shuk.
“You’ve got to come with me!”, Bassam pleaded. “My brother is Santa Claus here!” I nodded in agreement and we walked the narrow street, while magicians made shawls appear out of nowhere and street musicians sang something that reminded “Jingle Bells” in Arabic.
“Don’t stuff yourselves this year with humus, please!”, warned Zhida both of us.
“But to be here and not taste the humus…”, I started.
“…is like going to swim without jumping into the water!”, tried my friend to help me. We both love humus and in the Vadi the humus is outstanding.
“Sorry, we are all having lunch at Chaled’s restaurant, all the children will be there waiting for us later on.” , said the love of my life while Zhida nodded in agreement.
“Here is my brother!”, shouted Bassam and he hugged Santa Claus…who got very angry. “Are you meshugge? “ shouted Father Christmas angrily. “Don’t touch me!”
Bassam looked confused at Santa. “But you really look like my brother…”, he said seriously. Santa made a sign with his hand not really fitting the Christmas Man and walked on.
“Have you bought your candles for Hanukah?”, asked Zhida while pointing at a stand with candles. My partner in life nodded. “There he is! Ziyad, Ziyad!”, shouted Bassam while running to another Santa and hugging him wholeheartedly. But this Father Christmas got angry too. “Pervert!”, shouted the jolly man at my friend and ran off. Bassam look with disappointment at the man in the red-white suit walking angrily away and mumbled “I swear it could have been my brother…” I threw my arm over his broad shoulder and on we went. Bands played music, from every second store people offered us coffee, a magician pulled a rose from the ear of my wife…as usual the Feasts of Feasts was perfect.
We saw quite a lot of police and security personnel as the concern for a fanatic wanting to do something bad is always there. When our wives stopped at a stand, Bassam and I gave each other a fast look. We quilky accepted a free cup of fantastic black coffee and the sweetest baklava on the side. We had to be quick, as our wives have sensors for us doing this. Indeed, they joined us and my wife just shook her head. “You guys really can’t be left alone for a moment.”, she said while cleaning some crumbs away from around my mouth. I decided wisely not to say a thing.
“Ziyad!”, shouted Bassam suddenly. I guess the rumor of a crazy giant weighing 130 kilo was around, as Father Christmas opened his eyes wide and started to run away.
A bit later at lunch with our children, Zhida told the story of Bassam and Santa, which made everyone laugh.
“But I swear, he really looked like my brother!”, tried Bassam once more. This time it was Zhida who got him silent, with the help of sweet baklava.