Nancy Cahners

Two Mothers Meet

My friend Laura, raised in California and an Israeli citizen for 47 years, needed an X-ray.

The X-ray technician was an Arab woman, and somehow Laura and she hit it off and started talking about their lives. That can happen between women – when closeness and sharing just spring up.

The Arab woman said she had wanted to be a doctor. She had attended Al Kuds University in Jordan and earned a 94 average, but a 95 was required for medical school since she needed a scholarship. “Why not go back to school and do it now?” Laura asked, guessing that the other woman was in her 40s – still young enough.

No, the technician said wistfully. She has four kids, and one of her kids wants to be a judge and another wants to be an engineer. She needs to keep at her current job to provide for them.

“I hope your kids achieve their dreams,” Laura said. “Our kids deserve better than they’ve gotten.”

Laura, by the way, is coping with the news that her son and his wife, both in their 30s, both accomplished in hi-tech, plan to leave Israel because they don’t see much of a future here.

And then the two women hugged and began to cry.

And even though there’s no ceasefire in Gaza, even though the border with Lebanon is ablaze, and even though the hostages aren’t home, these two mothers could reach each other across the angers and disappointments of generations and current events.

Hope and optimism have been in short supply for me since October 7, but stories like Laura’s recharge me. The scale of these episodes may be small, but their authenticity feels powerful.

There are so many reasons for Palestinians and Israelis not to trust each other, and so many wounds and betrayals we think must heal before we can plan a future. But sometimes, like now, with Laura’s story, I feel a crack in the doom and a flash of possibility.

I’m pretty sure some readers will consider my reaction lefty and naive baloney that will get us all killed. I get it! But day after day, I look around and I see my family living safely among bus drivers and salespeople and dentists – so many helpful, normal people who are speaking Arabic. Many more decent people than terrorists. There must be a way for us to find each other and let our shared humanity guide our decisions and shape our futures. If it can happen once – as it did with Laura – I want to believe it can happen again and again.

About the Author
Nancy Cahners was the Design Director of MIT Technology Review, until one day, the entire staff was fired. Poof! Gone. After a stint at Harvard Divinity School and Medical School, she became a Healthcare Chaplain and Medical Ethicist. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, The Jewish Advocate and has been broadcast on NPR’s Morning Stories and Morning Edition and TLV1’s WhyWhyWhy. She lives in Neve Tzedek where she takes the same Ulpan course over and over again, and steals posters. She also helps her daughter’s family keep up with their laundry.
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