Café La Vie, Ramallah. Chat, chink of glasses and beer bottles. Sweet apple smoke narghila and the tang of lemon and almond trees shading the café garden and the periphery of the adjacent refugee camp. Real Madrid v Barcelona on an outdoor screen. The match is projected from the laptop of café proprietor Saleh Totah. He moves genially amongst the tables of his varied clientele of all ages and classes; many locals, a few foreigners. Spirited groups of students, builders, musicians, white-collar professionals, poets, activists, NGO workers, academics, cracking nuts, munching cucumber slices, sipping wine, beer, hot chocolate, or fresh mint lemonade. Elsewhere, individual punters in the lonely company of a glass of arak or whiskey. They look either deeply contemplative or vacant, bewildered—lost. Each has a story: ejected from their ancestral village; injured; family members killed or dead from broken hearts; home destroyed; jobless; refused entry into Jerusalem; separated from wife and children in Jordanian camps; or—further afield—the US, by whom they’ve been refused re-entry to rejoin their families after 9/11.

Broken and whole, all life is at Café La Vie.

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