Friday, December 14, 2007

Interfaith Chanukah Party

My friend at work was making fun of my "To Do" lists which have like 30 items for me to do in one day.

"You ought to see a psychiatrist. You're mad!!"

My kids though, think I'm crazy for entirely different reasons. My Complainer Daughter was bothered a little that I was having an interfaith chanukah party with Arabs and Jews. Why can't I be like other mothers and just have Jews at the party? Why must we be an embarrassment to the neighborhood?

"Don't talk about Arabs to Natty (her boyfriend). He doesn't like Arabs."

Well, that was the perfect opportunity to go over to him and talk some sense into the young man of Moroccan ancestry.

"I hear you don't like Arabs. We're having a party tonight and you are invited. I used to think just like you. You know why you don't like them, don't you? It's because it is what you were taught. You've never had Arab friends and all your friends say they hate Arabs so you hate them too, aren't I right?"

He nodded.

I also dared to invite some locals from my neighborhood. These were old friends who I know never had contact with Palestinians. There was a Palestinian from Abu Dis whom I never met who is on my email list and got the invite. Surprisingly he said he'd like to come and bring a friend or two. Great. At least we'll have some diversity.

By the time the party was supposed to begin,the apartment shone and I lit candles all over the place to make that warm and fuzzy mood. The Abu Dis guys called. I thought they'd have problems at the entrance check point but didn't. They were lost so I had to guide them through. In fact, everyone got lost. No one's been to my new pad before plus it's a new neighborhood so it was quite a challenge for me to explain directions to people, since I'm no good at them myself. Turns out the Abu Dis guy brought in a friend from Jenin who told me he had never been invited to a Jewish home before and he seemed so delighted to be in my house. Even in Maaleh Adumim. Settlement, shmettlement. There. He was intrigued by the uncovered mezuzot I had on my door frames and I explained the Moses and Egypt story to him, so he could understand the origin of this. "the prayer inside is the same prayer as you have...Lah Il'ha Il Allah - there is no God but Allah" - "Shma Israel - the Lord is One." He smiled.

One of the Jewish guys came over to me and said "I'd been to Jenin."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, in a jeep. With a gun." he whispered to me.

Yikes. Better not say that too loud. And I was pleased that he was here because next time, he may not want to go into Jenin in an army uniform with a gun, if he gets to know some of the locals.

My daughter and her boyfriend were going out on the town and walked towards the door. I intercepted and introduced them to the guests. The happy Jenin guy looked at Natty, thinking perhaps he was an Arab because well, many Moroccans just do.

"Kif Halak!!" He grabbed Natty's hand shaking it hard and smiling widely.

I see Natty's face getting all red. He can't get out of this one.

The Jenin guy continued to talk to him in Arabic. I thought I would pee in my pants - I found it hilarious.

I explained that Natty doesn't know Arabic, his name is Hebrew - short for Netanel.

"Have a great evening kids!" I said as I closed the door behind them.

It was time to light the Chanukah menorah and we said the blessings and sang Maoz Tzur while my friend played guitar. I was frying sweet potato latkes (pancakes) and the Jenin guy pointed and said "levivot!" the Hebrew word for what they are. He googled Chanukah, wanting to come prepared. I thought that was really sweet.

Meanwhile, I introduced everyone to each other. Haj Ibrahim came in traditional Arab dress. Some of my right-wing Jewish Orthodox friends were there and shook hands with my Palestinian buddies and they were wrapped up in conversation on my couch and standing in the kitchen. It was good. I told my Jewish friends that we don't talk politics so we don't get angry, we will just celebrate together. And I think we were all relieved we didn't have to point fingers and yell and scream at each other. But then again, my house isn't the Israeli Knesset.

I then asked the guy from Jenin if he would like to speak about the upcoming Moslem holiday Eid Al Adha so my Jewish friends could learn something about it.

I actually made Makhlouba to celebrate and people actually liked it. Of course, the Jewish folks had no idea what it was but everyone seemed to enjoy it, except for the vegetarians.

I thought the party would end at a reasonably early hour, but guests left at 11:30 pm instead. People were making connections and exchanging numbers and emails. And I wasn't tired. It's funny how happiness could give you that wonderful burst of energy.


Myrna said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people were like you!kjufa

Hannah said...

I really admire you for what you did (bringing Jews and Arabs together)! I wish there were more people like you in Israel! The key to peace is to get to know each other.

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