Monday, July 06, 2009

Buskers and Beggars

  • On the ben Yehuda St. Pedestrian mall you’ll often hear violinists, accordionists, vocalists, and Andean pipers playing, many of them making quite lovely music. These are buskers I’m happy to drop money in open violin cases or other receptacles in return for their concerts, and I hope the musicians earn something approaching the pleasure they give.
  • But there are also beggars.
  • A woman in her thirties approached me at the top of Agron St ( ) at the end of the latitude’s brief dusk. She told me her story in English. A lost wallet. A need to get to Haifa. The story sounded highly unlikely but I gave her money. She asked for my address, “So I can return your money.” I laughed. “Give it to someone else who needs it, or to a charity.” In the faint light I could not read her expression. “Charity?” she said. “Magen David Adom,” I suggested and walked away with the tiniest of not-quite-hopes that she might think about helping someone else with her deceitfully-gotten gains.
  • I was sure such beggars approached only tourists with their tales until an Israeli friend said the same woman, or another with the same idea, had told her a similar story on ben Yehuda St. “Did you give her money?” I asked. “Yes, and the next day I saw her buying shoes at” and she named a shoe store not known for bargains. “I went in and yelled at her and she just laughed.”
  • My friend’s mother, also born in Jerusalem, then told me that such beggars now also infest the Malha Mall. “I was having coffee with a friend,” she said, “when an elderly man came to the table with a talk about a grandchild who was dying in England and he needed money to go to her. It was a beautiful tale, told in the shaky voice of the very old. I gave him 100 shekels and my friend gave him more and we wished him and his granddaughter well and promised to pray for them. A few weeks later the same man approached me at the mall. His memory for faces was not as good as his acting ability and creativity.”
  • I’m not happy to give such people money. And yet I think of the tiny chance that the story might be true. As the beggars well know.

    Copyright 2009 Jane S. Fox