In 2011 gold soared to record prices and a steady flow of customers entered our diamond exchange on West 47th Street to sell their precious jewelry and family heirlooms. They were of all ages, nationalities, and races. Most of them were honest, but buying stolen merchandise or swag was a crime. Richie Boy, his father Manny, and I didn’t care who they are as long as they possess a valid ID for our police records. None of us were young men and we had too little to gain from doing the wrong thing, when we could churn out a 5% profit.

Our first question to these sellers was, “How much do you want?”

Most of them said that they don’t know, but we were in the middle of the block and they had already spoken to thirty dealers.

“Let me check it out.” I ignored their feigned ignorance and tested the gold for karat and weight.

We calculated everything in pennyweights or 1/20th of an ounce. The Middle Age measurement confused the buyer, but we always handed them a slip of paper from a adding machine. Everyone still understood numbers written in black and white.

I told them a simple truth.

“The final price is determined by the market value of an ounce of gold, which fluctuated day to day.”

In 2011 the price soared toward $2000/oz.

Weight and carat determined the scrap worth of gold.

We paid nothing for sentimental value.

Our firm had a good reputation for paying the most on the street.

We had a pitch.

“We only make 5% on this.”

It was almost the truth, but some pieces could be flipped for more, especially diamond rings.

Late in the summer a young man of Semitic descent approached my counter. He had a diamond ring in a bag. It was the relic of a ruined romance.

After settling on a price of $1500, I advised the young man to buy something for himself.

“Paying off bills does not soothe a broken heart, but for $1500 you can buy a good used motorcycle. Let me see your ID.”
I took his driver’s license.

His name was Arab and I entered it in the police book.

“Are you from Iraq?”

“No, Palestine,” Mohammed spoke flawless English. His father had grocery stores in Queens. He was running three of them.

“Palestine is a forbidden name on this street.” 47th Street was predominantly Jewish.

“People on this street back Israel right or wrong.”

“I know that Israel could do no wrong in their eyes. I come from Palestine. Not Judah.”

As a goy I had my own beliefs.

“I’m half-Irish. My people lived under the British for four hundred years. I can only say one thing.”

“Which is?” He was used to America’s prejudice against Palestine.

The movie EXODUS had cast blue-eyed Paul Newman as a member of the Zionist terrorist gang and a young blonde Jill Haworth as a kibbutz farmer. There were no Hassidim in the film.

Only tough white-skinned fighters.

“Free Palestine.” I had a tee-shirt in my closet stating the same slogan.

I raised my fist, the accepted sign of world revolution.

“Good, but it is better to free the world.” Mohammed smiled and accepted his money. “I’ll think about that bike and you think about the world.”

“I’ll do that.” I leaned away from the counter slightly stunned by his desire for world peace..

I had been taught an important lesson by this young man.

A simple lesson.

All politics that are local are also global.

They effect everyone.


Free Palestine.

Free the World.

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