Saturday, May 16, 2009

Crossing Over

Our interfaith group had been meeting for over a year already and had only met at my home in Maaleh Adumim. It has been a royal hassle for the Moslems to get over to our side with getting permits and some times not being able to get them on time. Last month we felt secure enough to make the next meeting at our Moslem coordinator's home in Abu Dis. Many local hecklers had teased me with emails like "why don't you meet at their home in Abu Dis?" - and at the beginning it seemed impossible. After all, aren't Jews too frightened to venture into Arab neighborhoods? Well, last month we made that decision to finally have our next meeting there.

Four Jews set out from the entrance to Maaleh Adumim on Thursday night. Our Moslem coordinator picked us up outside the checkpoint in his car. He immediately apologized for the state of his car.

"This is my father's car. It's a very old car, but because he works for the Palestinian government, this is what they gave him."

Huh? I told him too bad his dad doesn't work for the Israeli government because he'd be driving a shiny new Volvo right now. And we drove through the dusty bumpy roads of Azariah through the valley of Abu Dis dotted by ancient terraces.

"I like driving this car better than a Mercedes?" he told us.

I looked at him in disbelief. What kind of Arab was he anyway? Didn't they all love luxury cars - BMWs, Audis, Mercedes?

"I feel like I'm really driving when I drive this car!!" he told us, as he struggled with his stick shift.

"Yeah, when you go in a Mercedes - it drives YOU, doesn't it!" I said sympathetically.

He must be the black sheep of the family, I thought.

As we drove into Abu Dis, everyone seemed to know him. They waved and smiled, probably not having any idea he's driving a bunch of Jews into his home.

He gave us a tour of his place; out in the garden there was an ancient fig tree, its roots against what looked like a centuries-old wall. There was a row of old domed homes owned by his family in another part of the family compound.

"This is where I met my wife, when she was a student at the university and rented an apartment there. I would see her from this terrace."

"Oh like David spying on Bathsheba, huh?" I asked - while everyone laughed at the thought of him checking her out in her apartment, unknowing to her.

The house was immaculate, and I could use that word freely since the Pope was still in town on Thursday. Abed poured us coffee from a lovely copper urn he picked up in Jordan.

We talked about mosques and synagogues at this meeting and the Moslems seemed surprised to find out that one of the oldest synagogues in the Holy Land was deep in Jericho. I had taken photos of it when I was there like 10 years ago. And the Jews learned that the three holist mosques are in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. There were 7 parts to a mosque; one of which is called a Minbar. So when I looked at a photo in his home of the Minbar inside Al Aksa, at first I thought it read "minibar at Al Aksa" and everyone laughed at the thought of a secret minibar inside the holy mosque.

The discussion expanded somewhat as some of us secular Jews talked about feeling closer to God even though they were secular than when they were religious. Because sometimes formal prayer doesn't always get you there. I tell the group that I also feel close to God during interfaith meetings and prayer groups because I feel like this is what God wants. He enjoys seeing the Children of Abraham getting on in His land and not bickering over every fucking thing.

The meeting lasted for three hours instead of the usual 1 1/2 hours. The Jews didn't have expiry dates on our permits - heck we didn't even need permits to get there, although one person noticed a sign going into the Arab neighborhood forbidding Israelis to enter this neighborhood, even though it's Area B and legally allowed.

As we were let out at the entrance back to Maaleh Adumim, the guards asked us if everything is ok, as we walked through the checkpoint.

"Yes, everything is ok." we answered and smiled. If they only knew where we just were...

Walking to where people parked their cars, we wondered why donors weren't pouring money into interfaith groups/non-political dialogue groups. I think everyone felt so high from this meeting.

And that feeling unfortunately soon ended as I entered my home and faced the grumpy, eternally-complaining members of my family....


deepdowne said...

Admire this blog! Thank you so much!
And yeah, loved the minibar of Al aksa thingy.. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm one of your fans, too, and I second the motion! Looking forward to your next posting.....

Your sense of humor is great!

Anonymous said...

I'm another fan, and I second the motion!

Looking forward to your next posting - your sense of humor is great!