WESTSHORE PALMS — Modern Bethlehem may be a mostly Muslim city in the West Bank, but it is also home to a stalwart Christian community and one of the most important Jewish holy sites.
The city's inclusiveness is what inspired the name of Abeer Abdulhade's new grocery store, which caters to the special dietary needs of both the local Muslim and Jewish communities.
Bethlehem Market, which opened July 6 at 4323 W Kennedy Blvd., sells both kosher and halal foods as well as Turkish coffee, specialty Arabic desserts like baklava and kanafa, and carved olive wood Christian figurines imported from Bethlehem.
Abdulhade said she was tired of spending too much time and gas money to drive to North Tampa for halal foods, which are prepared according to Islamic law. Some of her Jewish friends, she said, have been known to drive to Miami for kosher goods they couldn't find locally.
"I want everyone in the community to know they can walk into a store that would serve all of them," Abdulhade said.
It is a subject close to her heart. Abdulhade is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves and works full-time as a civilian media analyst for U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
She spent a year in Iraq as a soldier and another two years working in Iraq as a civilian. Her great wish is that those with different beliefs would "stop fighting."
"We're all here together on one planet," Abdulhade said.
The store is also helping bring her family together. Abdulhade's brother-in-law, Omar Maghrabi, is moving to Tampa from Memphis to manage the market.
Hours at Bethlehem Market are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. During Ramadan, the Islamic month of daylight fasting that this year begins Aug. 21, the market will be open until 10 p.m. Call (813) 287-5758 for more information.
Scooter store doesn't find enough riders
If you're looking for signs of an economic recovery, you won't find any at 401 S Howard Ave., where the scooter store that opened in April already has closed its doors.
Tom Anderson said his SoHo Scooters generated a lot of interest during three months in business, and he won raves for his retro-style renovation of an old gas station.
But the scooters just didn't sell.
"Everybody was very positive," he said. "But the people who really needed them couldn't afford them and the ones that could afford them weren't spending any money."
Anderson's gas-sipping scooters were generally priced between $1,200 and $1,500 and "people were amazed at how cheap they were," he said. "All the research I did in hindsight may have been tainted by gas reaching $4 a gallon."
Once gas prices dropped significantly, according to a report by the Motorcycle Industry Council, the market for scooters plunged.
An estimated 222,000 scooters sold in the United States last year — a record — but sales were down 37 percent in the first quarter, according to figures released in June by the trade group.
Anderson said he saw the numbers and decided to move on.
He still has a few scooters to unload, though, and can be reached at (813) 230-9085.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "I'm off in pursuit of my next gig."
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