I was having a Friday siesta when my phone rung. A voice speaking to me in English saying he was in Jerusalem in honor of Ramadan. Could we meet the voice asked? Of course, who would drop the opportunity of seeing an Arab friend coming from the other side of the wall who managed to get a permit to be in Jerusalem to celebrate Ramadan. "We are having friends who will come over for Shabbat at 7pm please join us" I said and gave my friend our address.
I had been to Ramadan dinners in the past in El Azaryah and remembered that the fast was broken with dates, which I offered to our two fasting guests from the other part of the wall. We spoke in English and we were all trying to communicate and interact in English feeling how limited we were in not speaking each other's language, Hebrew or Arabic. Our Jewish friends who had come in especially from Rehovot to be with us, a family of ex Jerusalemites, played along gracefully and we all together weaved a Shabbat-Ramadan dinner including the Kiddush as well as a prayer in Arabic shared at the end of the fast.
This may sound other-wordly but in the Jerusalem I cohabit this is possible. And once again you see how the other is a different you, not so other wordly. People who want to live life peacefully, people who want to make a contribution through their profession, who want to raise families and give their children an education just like us.
My now Rehovot living friends hit it off nicely with our two male friends from beyond the wall. My Rehovot friend, when our guests from the beyond the wall left, recounted how her father Abraham, used to take her as a kid to Bethlehem where he would have coffee and meet his Arab friends. Abraham who came from the Eastern part of Turkey, spoke Arabic fluently and being a man of commerce and the world that he was he had close bonds with Arab friends in Jerusalem and beyond. My friend's father Abraham is no longer with us, he passed away some 10 years ago.
Sarah his wife came along with my friend last night. And she remembered fondly their house in Abu Tor, which was a contemporary tent of gathering, a contemporary Abrahamic tent of hospitality, of inclusion, and of intercultural friendship that came not on the basis of any political ideology but rather on the basis of a heart connection, on the basis of friendship, on liking the other for who he is. Sarah remembered how her Abraham, would love to cook for his guests, preparing his favorite Turkish dishes, while she his partner would enable these get togethers by helping him out in the kitchen and being his co-host by his side.
Abraham and Sarah named my friend Shlomit. Shlomit is turning 50 this year and the yearning for peace that Abraham and Sarah had for Israel 50 years ago, is still somehow so far away so close.
Fifty years have passed since Jerusalem was reunited but the Shlomits of our city are leaving for Rehovot and Berlin, and along with them the peace that Abraham and Sarah yearned for is becoming a foreign agenda item that I feel we need to get back home and reconnect with here in Jerusalem.