|Photo by Bart Everson|
I recalled the first time I met a Jew. His name was Lee Weissman (Twitter: @JihadiJew).
Before that meeting, I heard a lot about Jews so much so that it would seem like I had known them for years. For a large portion of my life, I have been hearing stories about the Jews, but the stories that I usually hear about the Jews were not positive. The mental image that was painted in my head about the whole group of people was ugly, as if every single one of them is evil.
But the funny part is, I have never even met one in my life, until last year.
Despite all the things that I heard about Jews, I was grateful to be able to open my mind to other possibilities. I gave him a chance.
Thankfully, that’s all it takes.
He flew over to my university because he was invited to give a talk, and I was one of the organizers of the talk. My intention was simple: He was my guest and I will treat him like one. I want to get to know him as if I didn’t know anything about him.
It didn’t take a lot of effort for me to realize how much we have in common.
Like me, he prayed at certain times throughout the day – in the morning, during the day, and at night. Of course, he didn’t pray the way that I do. His one session of prayer can last up to 45 minutes!
Like me, he only eats food that is prepared in a certain way. He only eats kosher food. I only eat halal food. If you examine the preparation process, you’ll see similarities in them too. He also makes supplications before and after he eats.
Like me, he doesn’t shake hands (touch) with women whom aren’t related to him. One woman came to him before the talk and she extended her hand. But he politely refused to shake her hand, putting his hand on his chest and a smile on his face.
Like me, he obeys certain laws/recommendations regarding how to dress. Not forgetting that he has a nice beard too.
Like me, he regularly reads his holy book. He reads his Torah and I read my Quran. He actually reads the Quran too from time to time, and points out the similarities we share.
It’s not surprising that we share these similarities. We originated from the same Abrahamic roots, aren’t we?
Breaking Bread and Building Bridges
After the talk has ended, a few of my Muslim friends and I went to have dinner with him. We sat down, ate together, and we had a very fruitful conversation which lasted for hours. We asked a lot of questions about Jews and Judaism, and a lot of misconceptions were straightened out.
One of my friends eloquently said, “We’re breaking bread and building bridges.”
As a Muslim, I don’t want people to paint all Muslims with the same colour.
“All Muslims are terrorists!”
Then, I realized something. Yes, I am upset that people are doing that to me. But at the same time, am I not doing the same thing to somebody else?
“All Jews are out there to get us!”
Let me be clear. Every group of people has a bunch of bad apples in them; history can testify to that fact. So yes, there are bad people out there. But is it fair to sentence the entire group because of a messed up few?
I don’t want people to blame all the Muslims because of the actions of a few misguided people. So if I don’t want people to do that to me, then I don’t want people to do that to anyone else.
Don’t do onto others what you don’t want to be done unto you.
If only we could sit down and have a conversation in the spirit of understanding one another (with our differences and disagreements), then we will shatter the barriers that we put up there ourselves.
Consequently, we will end up with something beautiful – a friendship.
|After dinner, with Lee Weissman (2012)|