I wish I could tell you that I know Nadia because our children are in the same class at school, or in the same dance class, or something like that, but I cannot. I know Nadia because marriage counseling for one hour and having your house cleaned for 4 hours cost the same and the results are much more immediate with the latter. Nadia is an Arab Israeli woman who comes from nearby Qalansuwa to make a living cleaning homes. Widowed less than a year ago, she is raising four children alone. My daughters and I were invited to her oldest daughter’s wedding last month but because of a scheduling conflict, we could not attend. I’m still wondering if Nadia thinks I made an excuse to resist saying I was scared to come to her town and I am still wondering this as well.
When Nadia came this morning I knew that we’d talk about the current unrest. She told me what I imagined she’d say- that she was uncomfortable walking from the bus to our house, that no one will look at her and that they even move away. She also said what I thought myself last week but was told that my thought was naive- that given the close proximity and public interaction between Jews and Arabs in the area- at the hospital a block from my house, at the two malls, in the streets, in the supermarkets, that nothing would happen around here because this was not Jerusalem, the center of the conflict, it was a place where things seemed better and more hopeful. Nadia and I were both wrong- this week two stabbing attacks happened on the busy main street of the next town over, down the street from my daughter’s school. The day after this Nadia’s daughter was supposed to attend an orientation session for her first year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but Nadia would not let her go, fearing that she would be a target. My own daughter went to Tel Aviv University for her first day yesterday and I cannot tell you that I didn’t worry about her for the same reason.
When Nadia got ready to leave she said that the friend who usually picks her up could not come and that she would take a bus from the special bus stop near the hospital with vans going to the neighboring Arab villages. I offered to drive her and she said, “are you crazy? You cannot come to my town now- they might do something to you.” She invited me and my daughters to come to her house for coffee after things calm down. Whenever and if ever that will be.
Nadia and I used the terms “us” and “you”- in the same way, taking turns being each. She admitted that she is afraid of “us” and I admitted that I am afraid of “you” and we both felt bad doing so but we were honest because we could be. Nadia had uncovered her head while she worked in the house and it was the first time I saw her beautiful hair, then she showed me how she ties her headscarf without even looking in the mirror. We hugged and she left but only after asking me “how are things out there?” Out there she went and walked carefully to the bus stop looking straight ahead.