The Heart of Dixie in Jerusalem

What does college football have to do with the Holy Land? The University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide, the third-ranked Southeastern Conference team that just beat Duke 62 to 13, has an Arab Israeli fan in Jerusalem, I discovered on a walk between the Jewish and Christian quarters this summer. An Old City alley called Muristan tees off into Alabama, in red feverish font, the Heart of Dixie, over a storefront strung with ram’s horns and AL license plates. Hani Imam named his souvenir shop after Alabama, the state he called home in 1992, when, he reminded me, the Tide won the national championship.

Imam’s shop specializes in shofar and semi-precious stones from the Red Sea. What’s a Palestinian Muslim doing selling Biblical kitsche in a shop called Alabama, Heart of Dixie?  “Christians from the States,” the store manager told me, “believe in the Old Testament.” Read more in my recent Birmingham News piece, “There’s a Heart of Dixie and a Roll Tide in Jerusalem.”

Ashley Makar works with refugees in Connecticut. She does community outreach for IRIS--Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, in New Haven. She has an e-book of essays, You Were Strangers: Dispatches from Exile. Ashley has published essays in Tablet, The Birmingham News, The Struggle Continues (the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weblog), Religion Dispatches, and The New Haven Register.