A Dream of Torn Bread and El Al T-Shirts

I need to talk about this dream I had last night.

It started in Israel. A reverie-devised Palestinian acquaintance of mine invited me to visit Gaza. I did, and we enjoyed a delicious meal together. Then I found myself in the middle of a great plaza that was filled with people praying. Many were prostate, on their knees, silent. Some were reading from small black books. I noticed a couple with glossy, vibrant tattoos in Arabic on their arms. One had what appeared to be a Star of David in a vaguely derogatory context.

So here I was, sitting with everyone in Gaza, the sounds of prayer all about me. Then an overwhelming sense of fear attacked my person. I looked down at my chest.

I was wearing an El Al t-shirt.

But not just any El Al t-shirt. It was one with a prominent blue Star of David on it. One that said specifically: “I am a Jew.”

In the dream, I waited for someone to condemn me. In horror, I waited to be killed. Yet no one did anything. People continued to pray. Nothing happened. All this, despite the evidence revealing that I was the “enemy.” Eventually I was able to voice my concerns to my Palestinian acquaintance. He tried to delay my exit, asking me to wait a bit. I informed him I was uncomfortable with staying.

Now comes the curious part. A large round slab of bread appeared in my hand as I made my departure; it was studded with seeds, oily, a portion torn off as if someone had broken into it already. I was in a hallway that I recognized as belonging to the apartment I grew up in, and my Palestinian acquaintance was there, too. We were both holding onto the bread. I thanked him for his hospitality and for sharing his wonderful food and culture with me. I told him that if more people ate meals together and conversed over eats, there would be more happiness in the world today.

And more peace.

I think we embraced. I can’t be sure. The dream ended on a happy note, though. I know that.

What should I make of this? I know: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And a dream is just a dream. Still, this one was extremely powerful to me and resonated in a forceful way. It reminded me of my concern about anti-Semitism and how it’s like walking on eggshells in this day and age, when I feel that so much could be construed as being offensive, and how I, as a Jew, am still a target for hatred. Yet it also suggests that sometimes we’re looking for enemies where we may also have friends … where there are people we can work with to find a solution who won’t judge us because of our religion, as we won’t judge them. And it might help if we make a deal over dinner.

Simple or simplistic? Perhaps both. I refuse to believe, however, that it’s impossible. Maybe my dream is telling me something. Maybe my dream is talking about … talking.

We can think about it. We do have time, though not much. Other perceived “enemies” have, over the years, put aside differences to get along. I think we can do the same.

And if it’s over a piece of torn bread, I’d say that’s all the better. Sometimes, that might just be the impetus we need.

Let’s make this dream—at least the last part—a reality.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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