Author: Leah (Israel) - July 2, 2008
I met my friend from Tulkarem last month at the beautiful
new Legacy boutique hotel in East Jerusalem, next to the American consulate. We
hadn’t seen each other since October, when we met at the Peacemaker’s Camp in
San Francisco. She brought three of her children with her, whom I met for the
We spent hours catching up on each other’s lives, and as we
chatted, I realized why I like her so much. She is probably the only Moslem
woman (she’s an foreign woman who married a Palestinian and eventually
converted to Islam) who does not cover her hair, despite all the peer pressure
to do so. She was telling me how ridiculous it seems that many of the local
girls put on all this makeup, wear tight jeans and then put on the hijab.
“What would you think if you saw a nun wearing a habit, and
tons of makeup, wearing tight clothing underneath?” was her question to me. Her
girls also do not cover their hair. She wants them to make the choice, and not
to feel pressured by others.”I hope you’re not embarrassed that your mother is
different from all the mothers in Tulkarem.” I told the well-behaved kids, who
just shrugged their shoulders at the question. As if to perhaps tell me “why
should they be embarrassed” or, they dare not tell me otherwise…. I felt a
strong bond towards my friend at being “different” from other mothers.”You have
to be strong to survive here, with a sense of humor of course.” My friend
reminded me, but I didn’t need reminding about that.
I took them to the stately American Colony Hotel, which
they had never seen or even known of its existence. The heat was stifling, and
the kids wanted to put their feet into the pool. I said that they could, but
the mother insisted that they not do so because they weren’t hotel guests. Her
firm look to me told me not to push it further.
She wondered why I didn’t move back to Canada when Hubby
had been working there and found it easier financially.
I don’t know whether she understood, but I told her there’s
nothing for me over there. My soul is here. And Friday the 13th turned out to
be a long and wonderful day.
I woke up at 6:00 am Friday, June 13 to get to the
Jerusalem cemetery, as it was the Yartzheit (anniversary) of my dad’s
death. I used to go in the heat of the day and the sun would burn down on my
head, making me wonder how I just didn’t burst from the heat. But this morning
I beat the heat as I said the appropriate Psalms which spelled out his name in
Hebrew letters. Before I left I imagined giving his soul a big bear hug. I
really felt him hugging me back.
In the evening, new friends from the ‘hood drove me to the
Jewish Renewal service in Jerusalem which meets every month. It used to be at
Rabbi Kagan’s home, but because there are now so many more people coming to the
services, it was moved to the Reform congregation’s premises nearby. I warned
my friends, who seem to be straight-laced people in their sixties, that it
would be like nothing they’ve ever experienced. I was right.
The musicians were in their place. Two people were playing
acoustic guitar, one was alternating between a darbouka and an oud (I would
love to know who plays the oud in a synagogue - even a Reform one!),another
drummer, while a monk from the Emmaus Monastery in Latrun played violin, and a
few nuns, dressed in white, sat in back of him. The newbies thought the rabbi
was “interesting.” She certainly was, bringing in Psalm chanting/singing and
chassidic stories in-between the verses. Some people danced in the middle of
the floor. Some people closed their eyes. Some people prayed with their palms
up. However you wanted to let your soul fly, you were free to do so there! The
music was beautiful and moving and really brought me to a spiritual high.
And as the day came to a close and I came back home to have
the Sabbath meal with my family, I realized why I can never ever leave this
country, even if it means having an easier life somewhere else.
Please report any
broken links to
Copyright © 1988-2012 irfi.org. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer