Two men named after the same prophet, Moses. One is a stateless Palestinian Muslim and the other is an Israeli Jewish settler. Both live on the West Bank of the Jordan river, contested land for both.
Musa labors in his olive groves. Moshe labors in his grape vines. Sometimes, in passing, they will nod heads, sometimes wave a hand, but they never really speak, except on special personal occasions.
Once Musa invited Moshe to his daughter’s wedding and once Moshe invited Musa to his son’s Bar Mitzvah.
More than that the two remain cool strangers to one another. Without an exchange of words each hopes that the other would disappear.
One likes Bibi. The other likes Tibi.
When Musa’s wife died and a mourning tent had been set up, Moshe went to visit and to offer condolences. He brought a large basket of his grapes.
And a year later when Moshe’s sister died of cancer, Musa came to pay shiva condolences. He brought a large basket of his olives.
One is a Muslim. One is a Jew. Both are touched by what fate has brought upon them. Both are victims.
They cannot smile. They both feel violated. They both dream that the land upon which they settle will belong only to one of them. Their children do not play together. Each tosses a ball into a basket tied to a tree near their sleeping place.
Sometimes when the tossed ball misses its mark, Moshe’s son Eli or Musa’s son Ali scramble to retrieve it from the other side. Only one word is ever spoken: the Hebrew “todah” or the Arabic “shukran”.
Musa walks to his mosque for Friday prayers. Moshe walks to his synagogue on Saturday for Shabbat prayers. Both pray to the same God in different languages.
Upon their return home, both men feast on cooked delicacies. Moshe drinks his wine. Musa drinks his roasted black Turkish coffee.
Two men. Two neighbors. Two strangers. Living in two worlds.
If Moshe were to befriend Musa he would be disenfranchised by his neighbors
If Musa were to befriend Moshe he might feel the blade of a knife at his throat. A neighborly warning.
A tragedy of our sad times. Olives and grapes were not intended to be mixed.
We need their namesake, Prophet Moses, to give them the blessing of peace. Shalom and Salaam.