Recently, we had a women’s Open house in collaboration with the women’s caucus at the Jewish Theological Seminary. I met Katie who is a Rabbinical student married to an Israeli guy. I told her how I would be so scared to meet a guy from Israel because of my superbly conditioned brain that thinks of the ‘other’ in a very specific, stereotyped way (just for the record, I want to mention that I don’t say this very proudly).
So, I told Katie the image I have of an Israeli man is that of someone who serves in the army, who is very chauvinistic, is ruthless and very, very mean to Muslims. And she smiled. She said when she was in Egypt and she saw men wearing Arab Shemaaghs she had the same reaction of fear, of being ‘scared’. We spoke about other things, had a great conversation and that was that.
A couple of weeks later, Lauren came and told me that Katie had asked for my number and she and her husband were going to be in the neighbourhood over the weekend and they wanted to come over so I could meet her husband. I was so touched. And then I was really excited.
Matan turned out to be a kindergarten teacher at a Jewish school. Among other things, we spoke about the laws of marriage in our 2 religions. I showed Matan my Pakistani passport which says in Urdu, Arabic, French and English, ‘This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel’
I made (my now almost-famous) Pakistani potatoes and Katie and Matan brought their home-cooked Halah. And lo and behold ! The Halah went really well with the Potatoes ! The sweetness in the bread complemented the spiciness of the Potatoes in a beautiful, very natural and unforced way. Just like how the two ‘others’ mixed so well and so beautifully.
I feel the buds of a friendship with the ‘other’ were planted that night and not only did it feel so good, it also felt so right.