Nov. 28, 2019 Steve Martin, Love For His People ministry
Growing up in Cedar Falls, Iowa in the 1960s and 70s I heard the good friends of my Dad, Louis Martin, call him, “Louie”. Even on occasion, my Mom would address Dad using that name.
So, when I had a young man come up to me, as I walked just inside the Jaffa Gate on the west side in the Old City of Jerusalem several years ago, and introduced himself as “Louie”, my ears perked up.
Actually, Louie was born Loai Mubayed, but not until October 2018, after knowing him now for several years, did I know that.
“I use the name Louie because it is easier for people to remember,” he told me then. But my actual name is Loai.”
As for me, I will still like to call him Louie, this Arab friend who operates a Judaic and jewelry gift shop, along with his brothers who have a larger shop in another location nearby, on a main walkway inside the old city.
As the four of us walked back from the Western Wall one night, I made sure we stopped at his shop, so I could introduce them to my friend.
I honestly can’t remember how many years Louie and I have now been friends, but I do remember when he first came up to me as I was on my way to the Western Wall and wanted to show me his shop. As a brief side note, as you walk into the Old City, and someone meets your eye, or knows you are a tourist and walks up to you with a greeting and invitation to come with them for a cup of thick Arabic coffee or a glass of orange juice, more than likely they are looking to draw you into their livelihood. It is up to you if you comply or not.
For this relationship that the Lord has brought us into, I am glad that I did go with Loai that first year.
In 2017 I wrote about my Arab friend when I included a
chapter in my book,
“Jerusalem & Friends”. Here is an excerpt.
“The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael.” (1 Chronicles 1:28, NASU)
A short walk inside Jerusalem’s Old City Jaffa Gate takes you down the narrow street, lined on each side with Judaica, olive wood, clothing and spice shops. That’s where I first met Louie, or rather Louie met me. He was on the lookout for tourists whom he could draw into his brother’s gift shop. As was my custom, I was open to shopping.
Steve & Louie, May 2017 Old City, Jerusalem
Louie said he first got acquainted with me in 1994 and gave the exact date. Knowing he has a sharp mind, I figured he was right, but I sure didn’t remember. I do recall he offered me orange juice or Arab coffee, my choice, which was a customary way of getting one into their shops. Of course, always liking to receive that which is free, I obliged and followed him down the cobbled, slick stone walk a quick distance. His brother had an elaborate shop, filled with Jewish and Arab items of all sorts. Some were made in Israel. A good many were Chinese imports.
Louie in his Old City Jerusalem shop
Now after these many years, Louie has his own shop. He explained that the tourism numbers are very good, but those coming now are less apt to buy, making it tough for him to earn enough to pay the high rent. With his small shop along this busy section of the Old City’s Quarters, one of four (Christians, Jews, Muslims and Armenians, each having a quarter within the outside walls) many walk by, but few are purchasing as they used to do. He continued explaining that when the Americans came in huge numbers, sales were good. Now more and more are coming from China, Southeast Asia, and South America, but they tend to purchase less goods. Hence Louie said he has to spend longer hours to attempt making the sales in order to meet his expenses.
Wanting to support him too, as I have regularly done with the Jewish shop owners on Ben Yehuda Street, less than an hour’s walk west out of Jaffa Gate, he picked out items on my list I had in my mind. Olive wood camels, menorahs and possibly a piece of jewelry for my good wife Laurie. He pulled several nice pieces from behind the glass doors covering the display cases. One beautiful menorah (7 branch candle piece) was one of the few left he had on hand, actually made in Israel. With the cheaper imports from China, competition is high, forcing even the locals to get out of the manufacturing business. I bought the silver-plated menorah because it had the “Made in Israel” label adhered to the base. Support blue and white!
Adding to my menorah purchase was a three-piece camel set of course made from olive wood, hand-carved in Israel. There is something about camels that amaze me. Beasts of burden to carry goods for the people.
Then he pulled out of a special wooden drawer several pieces of fine shaped silver and Eilat Stone necklaces (green and blue color stone from south Israel). Among them was my final choice, having already almost exceeded my budget – a very beautiful necklace for Laurie. Though she isn’t much on jewelry, occasionally she does appreciate this type of gift, and so the Tree of Life piece was chosen.
It is always a joy for me to spend time with Louie, hearing of his daily life as an Arab in Jerusalem. Life can be hard at times he shares, but he appreciates what he has. Here he can have his own business and livelihood, knowing freedom is not found everywhere in the Middle East.
On my next trip back to Israel, I will be taking several copies of the two books that now have chapters sharing him with readers. This is another way that I can encourage my friends and others to be supportive of all the people in the Land, knowing that the Lord God of Israel loves them all, and seeks to be known by them.
As I have done each time previously, again I had in mind what gifts I wanted to buy for Laurie, family, and friends back home. Of course, Louie always has his recommendations, and I was able to bless him also with my purchases.
Next time you are in the Jaffa Gate area, look around for my friend Louie. He will be looking out for you I am sure and will be happy to share his choice goods with you. And at a good price!
And what a fitting way to have another “Louis” in this book!