Fatima and me.

June 12, 2007

When my head is in the right place at the right time, I like to explore.

In 2003, I was in England for 6 months, and my head was in the right place at the right time. I did a lot of exploring in dialogue, especially Muslim-Jewish. I was studying at Lancaster University, a tiny school in the Northwest, known for its deep interest in interfaith dialogue. I was also opening my eyes to a lot of new experiences for the first time.

Which is how I ended up meeting Fatima for lunches at the burger place on campus. She was an observant Muslim student and I was an observant Jewish student – who wanted to learn about Islam from an observant Muslim.

The first time we met, I awkwardly got in line next to her to place my order, which I knew in advance: veggie burger with a side of this-is-totally-not-justifiably-kosher-even-if-it-is-veggie.

And what do you know? She ordered the same thing. Realizing we both had the ‘kosher’ thing down, we began to discuss other avenues:

Modesty? Check.
Spirituality? Check.
Modernity is important? Check.
Feel awkward around Christians and non-religious? Check.
Feel strongly about Jerusalem? Check… mate.

And that’s where Fatima and I parted ways. We had a lovely conversation and a good attempt at dialogue. We realized things about the Other we hadn’t thought of before, and we had more in common than ever imagined.

But when it comes to the Israel/Palestine debate, so many people shut down. So many people don’t want to ruin a nice thing. And it should be hard. It should be sad that suddenly there’s more at stake than a nice conversation. So instead of ruining a good thing, so many people shut down.

Yet, there are even more people who don’t.

And so here we are.