Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

One, Two or…

September 29, 2008

The Jews and the Muslims are busy in Jerusalem today. They have close to a mutual holiday, the Ramadan is ending and Rosh Hashana is on its way. The air is filled with prayer. They are passing each other on their way to their holy places. My wife told me this morning that is was a serious traffic jam at the borders. From Jordan to Israel.

I read the following in New York Times today:

“The Hebrew name for the city, Yerushalayim, ends with “-ayim,” a grammatical construction used for pairs of things. The device, known as a dual, exists in Hebrew and Arabic but few other languages. Which duality is being invoked has been lost to history, but it would not be hard to imagine that it is the one of heaven and earth, of holy and profane, and the difficulty of their coexisting. But of course everyone tends to focus on the holy. “


It is funny. Or merely interesting or fascinating. When I lived in Iraq 2003-2006 I ran into the phenomenon constantly, at restaurants, shops, car repair shops etc.

I lived in the north were most are of Kurdish origin but it was the same. In the novel I am writing on right now I have incorporated the Ardabil carpets in one passage not because they are pairs but because they have an interesting history. They are from Iran and I know that even there things are often made and sold in pairs.

But why? I don’t have a clue. In Sweden we had “Dussen” (twelve) and “gross”(twenty)

Maybe the pairs are older than we think. Merchants in India invented the comma and the zero. That became a tremendous improvement while reaching the Middle East probably through the Silk Road.

In Iraq they sell many things in pairs. Not only shoes. Wooden material is sold in pairs, tikka sticks (meat on sticks) is sold in pairs. If you order one, three or five of something that is normally sold in pairs, two, four, sex etc the salesmen get an insecure look in their eyes.

 To break the rule could lead to trouble sometimes. A waiter was threatened by a pistol wavering police officer some years ago when he came with two meat sticks instead of three. A friend of mine had to call the Asayish that came and arrested the police officer that was screaming for the scared waiter that had embarked himself behind a door.

So one, two or three matters.