© Arthur Hagopian 2017
    I pass by Bab el Tahouneh, gateway of the flour mill, which marks the intersection of roads leading to the Jewish Quarter, the Syriac Convent of St Mark, and Jaffa Gate. Here, within the sprawling interiors of a khan, another diminutive protagonist, the ironsmith and engineer, Bedros, spent long hours designing and machining the Tommygun clones that the leaders of the Kaghakatsi community would need for self-defense during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.     A little further down, I come across what is left of an old Jewish china and crockery shop that had been looted of every single item on its shelves at the outbreak of the war. There is nothing left of its delicate colorful contents. Even the shelves are gone.     As aimless urchins, we loved running wild in the alleys of the Armenian Quarter, picking up handfuls of spent bullet shell casings. They seemed to be all over the streets.  We literally amassed bags of them and used them to load our wooden guns with, and wage internecine warfare.     As we roamed about on a fateful day, we came to the ransacked shop. It could still be ripe for some pickings, you never knew.   We stepped about carefully for the floor was covered with broken glass and china. But there was nothing left for us boys to salvage.     Then one of us spied a strange -looking ball in a corner, and pounced on it.     It was one of the most intriguing finds we had come across. An orange-shaped, dark metal ball, with a round ring at one end,  the rind cut up into squares, like in the pictures of pineapples I had once seen.     We picked it up and carried it out like conquering discoverers and paraded with it in the nearly empty streets.     As we rounded a corner near  St Mark, we bumped into one of the residents of the Armenian Quarter, Sahag Bedevian.     The moment he saw what we were carrying, he went white.     "Where did you find that thing?" he said in a quavering voice.     "Somewhere," one of us replied. "It's ours."     "Do you know what that is? It's a hand grenade. Be careful with it. Here, give it to me."     We did not know a hand grenade from an eggplant.     "What is it?"    He reached out his hand and gingerly pried the missive from the hands of the boy carrying it, with a stern warning: "it's a bomb. I have to take it away and defuse it before it explodes and kills you all."     Cradling it in his palms, he walked away.     We were devastated at the loss of our fantastic treasure, but relieved we had not been harmed.     But, we found solace in another passtime: collecting empty rifle cartridges the Jordanian troops left behind. Sometimes, if one of us was particularly lucky, he would stumble upon an unfired bolt- action rifle bullet dropped by an unwary trooper, a gleaming copper cylinder, with its threat of immediate extermination.     I had my share of these dubious lucky charms, easing out the tapered bullet, and emptying the casing contents, then setting fire to the black powder inside. On one occasion, I had the foolhardy idea of trying to hammer the rim inside the case head containing the primer to see what would happen: I was deafened for hours by the sound of the resulting explosion.     With our hoard of empty cartridges, we set about devising challenging games. We hunted around for discarded bits of wood (chair legs were the best) and shaped them into makeshift rifles. An elastic band was wound around the stub and stretched with a clothes peg to hold back a “bullet.” When an “enemy” was sighted, the elastic band would be released and would send the bullet flying towards its target. We were fortunate in that despite our “war injuries,” none of us was in any serious condition to cause concern.
every tile has a tale to tell
Cobblestoned Old City street, circa 1900