I know what you’re thinking. It’s not what you think. It could have been much different.
Seasonally, groups of Muslims come to Eilat. Ironically the more religious Jews come at the same time. Like anyone, people come to visit, go to shows, lectures, attractions and to relax. On this one day a number of Arabs who live in the center of Israel were vacationing in Eilat.
I was assigned to do massage therapy to this one woman I’ll call Miss M. Miss M and I were obviously very different. She was born, raised and still lived in East Jerusalem. I was from the West, the U.S., a half a globe away. I was honestly dreading this treatment, hot stones. My skin is sensitive to temperature and hot stones were my least favorite.
Usually I don’t say much of anything during a treatment. This was different. At first, she just told me what was bothering her, pain in shoulders, lower back, etc. We exchanged original locations. Then we some how got on to talking about life and the current problems in the center of the country where she lives. It was odd, she at first reacted ignorant about any stabbings. Then she said, “maybe they do it because they’re angry because their brother or father or friend was killed by Jews.”
I took a pause to let what she said sink in. I then said, “maybe.”
Inside I didn’t want to believe but I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t know that Jews weren’t perfect either and I have heard plenty of people say they would kill anyone who hurt their family. So couldn’t that maxim be the same for anyone? Jew or Arab?
We knew we couldn’t fix the world in 45 minutes. I was focused on just making her feel better and finishing one of my least favorite treatments to do. But I also know that we had made a connection. There I was, with an Arab laying on a table and hot stones in my hands. She was stronger, younger, bigger than me. Had she offended me in the least? Not for a second. I hoped she felt better from the treatment. She said she did.
I usually finish with a head and face massage that culminates in two fingers coming slowly together at the third eye point. In my head, silently, I say the Kohanim blessing, ‘May G-d Bless You,…’ And as I felt stronger than usual that this was a distant cousin of mine in spite of a zillion ideologies and appearances, we were related through Abraham. So I silently said the blessing as usual. And then I asked her what it was in Islam. She said something in Arabic which I couldn’t understand but it was supposed to be the Islamic version of G-d Bless You. I left the room with a smile on my face. This was a moment I would remember.
She came out of the room. Saw me and gave me a hug and said, “I hope I meet you again some day.” It was powerful, everyone in the hall saw us, a religious Muslim and a religious Jew hugging. I knew she meant good will for me as I did for her. We were our own beginning of a peace summit. We didn’t need government officials to make peace. We did it all by ourselves because we wanted peace for ourselves and each other. It was a genesis I will never forget.
So, Miss M, wherever you are, Salam Shalom. Thank you.