June 30, 2010
Day 4: Los Angeles Religious Leaders Mission - Small Change
From the Los Angeles Interfaith Leadership Mission sponsored by the Interreligious Action Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
by Dr. Saba Soomekh, Adjunct Professor of Theological Studies. Loyola Marymount University
A few evenings ago, a young Arab Muslim man on the housekeeping staff at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, came to the door to deliver the evening chocolate for the pillow. I asked him to wait while my roommate put on her hejab, a scarf Muslim women use to cover their hair.
When I let the young man in, he was clearly shocked when he saw that I, a Jewish woman, was sharing a room with a Muslim woman. He asked me, in Hebrew, “Is she a Muslim?” He must have asked me three times, even though I answered “Yes” each time.
Finally, after the fourth time of asking me, he said: “I can’t believe a Muslim and a Jew share a room!”
At that moment, I laughed and said “Of course we can share a room.” He said nothing.
Later, after I thought about it some more, the sadder I became. It is unfortunate that his life experiences and the political climate of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, makes it so difficult for him to believe, even when he sees it with his own eyes, that a Jew and a Muslim can share a room. I don’t fool myself that my presence, our presence, here will change anything on a large scale. But after this interaction, there is one Arab Muslim who at least now knows, just maybe, that the impossible is possible.