Alan Mills – Weights and Measurements

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

Alan Mills in Palestine Police uniform

Our instructions whilst in Palestine were not just to keep the peace but to ensure rules, regulations and laws were obeyed, sometimes this seemed petty and a little harsh on some of the locals who were struggling to eek out a living. One such time was on a summer morning which found me patrolling on No1 circle in the Centre of the Suq (the principally Arab market place.)

I spotted a youth serving a customer at his vegetable stall. As I looked closer I realised he was using pebbles instead of the official stamped weights. I told him this was ‘hadra manoo’a’ – Arabic for forbidden. There was no response, so I moved in closer and repeated myself. I don’t know if he was struggling to understand my basic Arabic or he just chose not to understand but I became a bit frustrated voices were raised and we began to attract a small crowd. I  was beginning to feel a little uneasy when a young man stepped out of the crowd, speaking good English with a slight American accent. He turned out to be a student at the well respected American College in Beirut, Lebanon. So with this young student translating, the story began to unfold.

The young stall holders father had inherited a plot of land which enabled him to grow his own vegetables and then establish a stall on the market. His venture was just beginning to show a meagre profit when he was taken seriously ill. At this point the lad broke down in tears, he’d had to take on the land and stall and provide for the family. I was due to finish my shift and offered to take the lad to the weights and Measurements office, where hopefully we could sort something out for him. I was hoping they might just have an old set lying around which he could have but they didn’t and unfortunately the price of a new set were way out of the young lads reach.

As we came out of the W&M office, Allah may have worked in a mysterious way as coming down the steps was an Arab constable I’d walked the circles with a few times. We exchanged greetings and he introduced me to his father who later I found out was an Iman (An Islamic Religious Leader). We talked about what I was doing there and I explained the young lads predicament. The Iman nodded his head sagely and told me not to worry, he would take care of the young lad. I remember breathing a sigh of relief as I went for a late lunch.

It was about a week before I was on the same circle and I was doing my rounds when I heard someone shouting, ‘Isma anfar isma’ come with me, ‘Bit Shufack’ I want you to come and see. He proudly showed me his stall which was against a wall. On the wall he had screwed some wood to make a shelf and sat proudly on the shelf were a set of gleaming new brass weights all with the official stamp on them. I asked him how he came about them but he didn’t want to say, he just kept saying Allah, Allah. I went off, happy the lad had somehow found a solution. A few days later the Arab constable who had introduced me to his father told me he thought the local mosque had provided the funds which in effect, did mean they came from Allah.

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  1. Barry O'Hare says:

    No-one said live was easy but this poor kid deserved a break and got one.

  2. Another good article. Wonder where the lad is now?

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