Two teens, a Jewish Israeli and a Muslim Palestinian, play a game of coin toss with marbles where the rules keep changing. Join a group discussion about fairness and trust in Jerusalem.
If only it were normal.
If it only it were normal for my religiously observant Jewish Israeli 13-year-old son, Eitan, to hang out with Mohi, of Beit Safafa and other Muslim and Christian Palestinian peers from across Jerusalem, play icebreaker games and talk sports. If only it were normal for them to chill, chat about life, school, friends. If only it were normal for them to see how they’re different, but also all the ways that they’re the same.
If only it were normal for my husband Yonatan to text the Parents WhatsApp group of Kids4Peace Jerusalem, an interfaith youth movement, in search of a carpool to the first Kids4Peace activity held after Operation Guardian the Walls ended six weeks ago and have Salah, Mohi’s father, offer to pick up Eitan. And afterwards for Yonatan to pick up Eitan as well Mohi, his brother Baha, and their cousin, Nuran, and drop the triumvirate off in Beit Safa, a Palestinian neighborhood just a bit more than 2.5 miles from ours in Baka.
If only it were normal to attend a program staffed jointly by Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.
If only it were normal for the education director to carefully curate activities around building trust, where the snacks are kosher, halal and sensitive to allergies, of course, where tremendous thought goes into how to safely and comfortably bring together Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth from across Jerusalem.
If only it were normal.
But it’s not normal.
Yet it is some kind of normal for Eitan. He doesn’t totally get how not normal this is. He’s been a part of Kids4Peace Jerusalem since 6th grade, but started attending communal events in fourth grade, including the annual holiday party and communal iftar. We have very close Palestinian friends. He’s lunched at their home, played with their children. In his life, that’s also normal. But this is different. It’s all teens his age, and it belongs to him.
So how was the activity today, carpool, I ask Eitan, my eyes fastened on his.
He returns my gaze with a blank expression.
Mom, why is this interesting, exactly? His tone dismissive, bored. Then he shifts his eyes back to the flat-screen television to catch an instant replay of the NBA.
Because for him, that’s part of his normal.