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retread| Jewish-Arab Relations in a Vietnamese Restaurant on Argyle Street 4 April 2008

Posted by EDITOR in Culture, GUESTS, Politics.
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Retreads are quality posts from yesterweeks that are given a second run on Fridays. This is a 25 June 2006 piece from guest contributor David K, a Chicago-based freelance journalist.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005. I had a touching experience today. I was having lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant on Argyle Street here in Chicago. At the end of the meal, I went up to the counter to ask for change with which to leave a tip. The man who gave it to me was Asian, and I asked him if he was from Vietnam. He said he was. I then asked if he spoke French. He learned it a long time ago, he said, in high school.

And that was that.

I returned to my table to leave the change for the waitress. A man who had just come in to the restaurant and had taken a seat near my table asked me if I spoke French. He obviously had overheard me talking to the other man. Yes, I said, I do.

He had olive-colored skin, and I guessed he was from North Africa. Tunisia, he told me.

I felt excited. Tunisia is the one country in Africa I’ve been to. We proceeded to have a conversation in French, talking about my travels in his home country. I told him I had visited the El Ghriba synagogue a month before a truck had crashed into an outer wall and exploded (in 2002).

“Vous êtes juif?” he asked me. (“Are you Jewish?”)

“Oui,” I responded.

We continued talking. About where I had traveled in Tunisia, about Chicago, about other things. When the waitress brought him a plate of rice, I gathered my things and got ready to leave. “Al salem aleikum,” I said to him, using the Arabic expression for “Peace be unto you.”

“Shalom,” he responded.

I felt joy well up inside of me.

WIth that, we shook hands, and I left.

I’m happy to report that in a Vietnamese restaurant on Argyle Street, Jewish-Arab relations are good.

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