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Being in Love

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 first time.

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.

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