6:24 PM


Wrote: American Muslima Writer |

Sometimes if you've spent a lot of time in the Middle East you start feeling very anti-Jewish. Boycotting Israeli everything, trying to support Palestinian people's hopes. Especially in Lebanon to praise anything Jewish made you seem like a spy. With good reason, years and years of warfare, massacres, and bombings have made Lebanon and the Lebanese wary of anything Jewish. Although there is a VERY small population of Jews in Lebanon they keep, obviously, a low profile. I was shocked to hear relative family members teaching their kids to chant "Down, down Israel! Those Israelis are bad! They are going to the Hellfires!" To my American ears this smacked of brainwashing. But was it? Over in "good ol' USA" how many times do we hear about "Muslim Arab Terrorists"? Brainwashing? I don't know if you can call it that but it is unfair. I spent many a day teaching my Lebanese Relatives that there are good Jewish people out there in the world. Just as there are good and bad Muslim people. Of course many debates led into the realm of Muslim vs non-Muslim but that's another story.
I have known a few Jewish people personally. I didn't know them too closely but they did leave an impact on my life in some small way.
The first Jews I knew were my father's co-worker's family. Some weekends we'd go to their house and I'd spend time with their daughters. The younger one and I really had fun and she seemed an all around pleasant girl, not corrupted by society. There were trademark Jewish symbolism in their house that I looked at carefully and with a touch of respect for their openly religious beliefs. Later a few years went by and our families drifted apart just by lack of communication and the last I heard about them was the father disowned his older daughter for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. This did shock me, I had heard of such things but had never KNOWN anyone who would do something like that, after all they were what I would call decent people. Although I couldn't comprehend why a man who took the time and patience to raise a beautiful lady would suddenly cast her out because she defied her religious beliefs, I DID have respect for the fact that some people have deeply held religious beliefs and it went deeper than blood.
The next time I ran into a Jewish person I was then Muslim, wore hijab, and knew a bit more about the differences between our faiths. I was riding the local Tucson bus at sunset to a Hotel where the Muslim community had gathered to raise money to build a new Masjid in town. I got on and sat down in the middle of the bus and sitting opposite from me was a young black man around my age of 18. He was dressed in a classy suit mostly white, and on top of his head wore the traditional Jewish cap. Our eyes met and then glanced off quickly. We both sat there not quite staring at each other because we were the only traditionally religious people apparent on the bus. I'm sure if a nun had been present there would have been a three way stare. I felt I wanted to start up a religious conversation with this guy and from his furtive glances he did too. Yet we both held back afraid of the same thing... causing a religious public. I saw many of the other passengers looking between us both waiting for something to happen and a silent tension practically hummed through the bus. I saw my stop and pressed the cord button, it chimed and we both stood. We were standing face to face and the temptation to talk grew....
"Salaam," he said smiling.
"Shalom," I replied quickly smiling too. He let me off first and as we stepped off in different directions we were both still smiling. Two simple words conveyed a hope for the future where people could indeed understand the other's beliefs and live in Shalom, in Salaam, in Peace.

The next and last time I ran into anyone Jewish was after I left Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the Israelis had attacked Lebanon and war hit hard. I got to USA really with the fear of Israel in the hearts of my daughter and I. Rockets had hit really close to our summer home and had literally shaken me to my core. Every time jets overflew we flinched waiting for the Boom. Here I was in Tucson, Arizona, USA flinching in my own home. I hated Israel, I even hated Jews right then.
My mom is a crafter and almost every weekend she had shows at various locations around Tucson with the Tucson Arts and Crafts Association. Sometimes they were held at parks or churches or nursing homes, but this weekend I was there they held it at the Jewish Community Center. I had always gone and helped my mom sell and help her put her things on display and help her take the displays down and chat with all her fellow crafting friends. I hadn't seen them for years since I had been in Lebanon and she told me they were all eager to meet me and my daughter. So we went to the car and drove there. As we made a U-turn at the light in front of the JCC I saw the large Menorah decoration and a small shudder went down my back. We parked and I forlornly walked pushing my daughter in her stroller up the black pavement to the main entrance.

It seemed every step made me more uneasy. My beloved husband and in-laws were cowering in fear at that moment across the world in Lebanon and I was stepping on Jewish Territory. I felt like a traitor. We walked in and everywhere was displayed beautiful Jewish made art and decor. Proudly listed names were boldly written telling all their accomplishments but all I wanted to do was scream "My brothers and sisters in Islam are DYING at this moment because of People YOU support!"

Naturally I kept my mouth firmly shut. Few, if any, would understand or sympathise with me. I greeted the crafters with a falsely cheery smile that as time went on relaxed into the real thing. But it was oh so hard. To keep walking. Keep smiling. But I did enjoy the crafts and spending time with my mom.

Now living in UAE where Israel is much further away. I feel more relaxed about it all. I don't like or support the State of Israel existing on Muslim lands but I do know there are good Jews in this world that are trying to reach out and say Salaam instead of Shalom.

27 intelligent thoughts:

Anonymous said...

as salamu alaykum

yes sis,I agree with you,no matter the religion: there are bad and good people everywhere!But this is a bit difficult sometimes to put in the head of some brothers and sisters mash'Allah. Nice to read your blog mash'Allah!

Adventurous Ammena said...

masha'allah I love your story on the bus... so nice, simple yet soo effective. I wonder how things would be if you met a guy like that now :D

Cecilia said...

I think it is a pity that there is so much antagonism between people. I wish we could all live in peace and harmony with each other. I wish and hope that one day it will be so. I do not support that the Jews are occupying Palestine, but this conflict has gone on too long, Palestine and the world needs peace.

Cecilia said...

I wonder if it is so that you have converted to Islam. I thought it suggested a little, or maybe I was wrong?

Yasmin said...

Salaamu Alaikum, lovely post. I always love reading ur blog. I have come across some nice jews a few times. One was very recently. I was at work and I believe they were shopping for their holiday Yom Kippur or something Im not sure, but the woman's daughter, who was probably no older than 3, was running around playing hide and go seek with me, and was just a bundle of laughs and smiles. She even came up to me and gave me hug which I found very sweet. I was surprised the mother didn't say anything but she seemed comfortable with the whole situation. So they aren't all bad.

Anonymous said...

Assalaamu alaikum sis,

I really enjoyed reading this post and found it very enlightening; had a tear in my eye when I reached the bus story subhan Allah!

The Jews and the Christians are the people of the book who share many prophets with us and revelation from Allah swt but it is Zionism that had destroyed everything. :(

Susanne said...

Enjoyed the post! :-) By the way, not all Jews in America support the current Zionist Israel. Not sure about the ones in AZ at the craft show, but just thought I'd throw that in about American Jews.

Thanks for sharing!

Habayeb said...

Lovely post! and yeah, loved the incident at the bus! and yep although i haven't personally met or known any Jew, i am totally sure there are good people in every religion.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sis:

Well, as you know, I am Jewish by ethnicity.

Some of your commenters are correct in that Judaism and Zionism are not the same thing. And American Jews are not the only anti-Zionist Jews. Most Orthodox Jews are not Zionists.

Personally, I believe that many from the Middle East are anti-semitic. A shame - especially since Jews and Arabs are ethnic cousins.

Likewise, there are many people in Israel who do not practice the Jewish religion. There are even Arab/Muslim Israelis.

I find MANY people in the Middle East and of Middle Eastern origin to be very clanish, tribal, racist, anti-semitic, etc.

They forget the Prophet's (saw) Last Sermon.

American Muslima Writer said...

Um almujahid: thanks mashallah you have a nice blog too. Yes it's so hard to overcome ingrained prejudices.

Ammena, if the guy was my age and as eager to converse with me I'd still be happy to do so with him. I was hurt badly by the Isreali/Lebanon war but still I know people vs extremists. :)

American Muslima Writer said...

Cecilia: Insha'Allah yes we all pray for peace in Palestine. And insha'Allah a way to live multi-culturally with others easier.
I love your blog too and welcome to Islam! I have a few friends in Sweeden if you'd like to e-mail me I can give them you're e-mail address and they can contact you and maybe you can meet with them, they are converts like you. :)
I didn't understand your second comment so much can you clarify?

American Muslima Writer said...

Yasmin indeed "they" aren't all bad lol. Thanks for your story that was cool of the mom to be so open.

Stranger in this Dunya: Awww I'm glad you liked it so much. SubhanAllah the People of the Book have so much potential yet such small things in this world hold them back from being greater.

American Muslima Writer said...

Suzanne, let me make this clear to you and anyone else who thinks I did not know this fact:

I DO know that many Good Jewish Poeple all over the world hate Isreal or dissagree with them and I fully support these good people in speaking out against injustice. I saw many times Jews speaking out on the news against Isreal and I thought YAY!!! SEE! This proves more that wacky things are happening in Isreal because even some Jews wont back them! Just like Many Muslims don't support Ossama bin Ladin and AL-Qaida.

Glad you enjoyed the post :D

American Muslima Writer said...

Hab insha'Allah one day you will meet and chat with some of these lovely people because like traditional Christians, Jews have a lot in common with us and it's sometimes refreshing to talk with those who understand how deep religion can run in one's life.

American Muslima Writer said...

Salam my dear sis Saf:
I have been waiting especially for you to comment.
Thank you for clarifying this about different Jewish sects/Isreal.
Again as I said to Susanne I Did find out that not all Jews support them and subhan'Allah I did learn something new that there are Muslim Arabs on the Isreali side.
I too have thought for such a long history and the fact that Arabs are cousins to Jews (and in fact Jews and original Christians are from Middle East) that there would be more civility between them but alas something always goes wrong....
Your right racism is running ramped on both sides... Oh Allah bring us the cure!
Thanks Saf.

Umm Salihah said...

Assalam-alaikam Sister,
Lovely post. It reminded me of a colleague at work I was friendly with. She was Orthodox Jewish and the two of us had more in common with each other than anyone else that worked there. It was funny htough, that though we got on so well, we both held back a tiny bit because of our faith and we agreed that neither one's community would look with sympathy on our friendship. But as others have said here, there are good and bad in every community.

I was curious, if you got the chance to speak to the gentleman on the bus, what would you have said?

Anonymous said...

I don't think hate has any place in this world. If we could all stop using the word, maybe we could stop having the feeling. Education leads to understanding, and Understanding can lead to peace.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Everyone:

Also, there were Jews living all over the Middle East in the time of our Prophet (saw).

The Prophet (saw) had two Jewish wives: Safiyyah and Juwariyyah.

3rd... said...

The story of the guy in the bus was beautiful. It should be published more widely. It's perfect..

Susie of Arabia said...

I really enjoyed this post. I have always disliked lumping people together in groups as if everyone being lumped together is identical. I have had many Jewish friends and acquaintances. We lived in South Florida for 15 years and my husband was friendly with many of his Jewish colleagues. They treated him well, and he is a Saudi Muslim.

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Parents who politicize their children, regardless of where they're from, should be ashamed of themselves. Giving your child strong values and a sense of morality will allow them to establish their own opinions about politics, people, etc. How will we ever mend this great Middle Eastern divide if parents keep telling their children to hate (insert nationality/religion here)?

Power Up Love said...

"Salaam" I too, enjoyed the story.

Srini said...

The problem is that there is too much of politics and religion mixed up to make a dangerous cocktail. Once mankind realises this, most current political problems would be resolved. be it Israel-palestine, India-pakistan, Russia-Chechnya, China-Ughuyrs(demending a separate islamic state). We ordinary people should not let ourselves be used as unpaid soldiers for somebody else's egos and politics.

Religion is spitituality and not politics. All of us need to primarily teach our kids about this difference.

American Muslima Writer said...

Umm Salihah, Masha'Allah that's so nice you could be close to your co-worker! SubhanAllah that question made me think for sure! Umm I have no idea because at the time I was so idealistic (much more so than I am today) that God only knows what would have come out of my mouth. He too seemed idealistic and wanting to bond in that same way that we both fell unique and pulled together by our faiths so who knows what might have happened.

Anon: Hate is a powerful word. There IS a place for it but many peolpe misuse it. I Hate rapists, I hate those who Harm Islam the Prophet or worse of all try to pathetically attempt to Harm Allah (who cannot be harmed)...there is a place for hate but you have to know where and when to use it. And to use it responsably

American Muslima Writer said...

Saf: Good point, and I'm confused did these two wives convert later to Islam or did they remain Jewish? Let us know.

Thanks 3rd I'm glad you liked it and thanks for linking it on your site as well :)

Suzie: :) I'm glad you and your husband were so well treated it goes to show that with enough good will on both sides we CAN come together easily.

American Muslima Writer said...

Photo: Very interesting view about how best to raise childrena nd I think it something many of us need to keep in mind especially when we live side by side in multi-ethnic places such as here in UAE

Power Up Love Thanks I'm glad it touched you in some way :)

Srini: I agree with you in one way that we should try to solve our religious differences in better ways and try to come to terms politically but on the other hand Islam encompasses all areas of life and that includes government and politics. So In Islam politics and religion are not seperated ther is no seperation of "church and state". I prefer knowing what law that govern my lands come from and especially if that origional source is God. But there are many stses that should have long ago come to terms yet haven't managed to find that level of compromise.

Mrs. Anna T said...

"I believe they were shopping for their holiday Yom Kippur or something..."

This one cracked me up... bwahaha... Yom Kippur is a FAST. No one shops for it!

~ Israeli Jew ~

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