Justin and I were plotting as usual. We have so much fun when we play...we plot and scheme. He’s not actually my friend. He belongs to Taz, an old Varsity mate of hers.
I met Justin, Shamima, Nicky and Yasmina three years ago when we went for coffee at Melrose Arch. I wasn’t actually invited, it was Taz’s Do but I gate-crashed anyway. So we got chatting and it was surprisingly easy and natural. We quickly found that we had a lot in common, considering that he is a White Jewish Male that is 2 years younger than I am.
For one, we both have the same WHACKED sense of humour. We would sit and talk about all the things we could do to shock the HELL out of people. One of the scenarios involved me and him in Sandton Square on a Saturday night just before Ramadaan (or when it was guaranteed to be packed with Muslims or Jews). The scene would play out like this:
We wanted to start a fight. We would begin by hurling insults at each other in public, a massive brawl would ensue. He would call me a Muslim terrorist and I would tell him he’s an arrogant Jewish Pig and that Israel deserved to be wiped off the map. Then we decided, for added effect, we would begin hurling chairs (and whatever else we could get our hands on) at each other…and then sit back and see who’d get involved and what events would transpire after that. Evil I know. But we laughed for hours over the stupid antics we plotted and never carried out.
My friendship with Justin got me thinking about our perception and reception of Jews in society. I remember when I was in Madressa (Islamic Classes) we were always taught to “hate” the Jews. I kid you Not. We were told by the leaders of our society and the people around us that they are evil and that they are responsible for killing the Muslims world-wide etc etc.
With this in mind, my initial reception of Justin was one of curiosity. My intrinsic reaction was like that of a kid examining a foreign object for the first time. I wanted to poke him to see if he felt any pain, to tickle him and see if he laughed…I was in awe. I also treaded with caution to make sure he wasn’t some Zobot coming to kill me and my family. But I quickly realized that for all my wisdom, I was an old fool. For one, the more I learned about Judaism, the more I found that I really knew nothing about the religion, customs and traditions of its people. I found this rather odd and ironic, considering that we’ve had Christianity shoved down our throats since infancy, without us even being fully aware of it. In some cases I know more about Christianity then some of the Christians do. I know about the various sects, how they differ from each other and I even know some of the freaking hymns that used to be sung at school.
But Judaism and the Jews? I knew nothing, nada, zip, zilch. We were never encouraged to learn about the religion, about their practices and beliefs, EVER. Ironic, since Justin knew a whole lot about Islam. He even wished us Eid Mubarak. So I had to go and Google Judaism to wish him a happy and blessed Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). (I find it amusing that they are the considered the “enemy”…should we not know our enemies? How else are we to defeat them?).
And the more I got to know about Judaism, the more I realised that it was very very similar to Islam. Their religious holidays almost always coincide with ours and they believe in the same things we do. We are more the same then we are different. People in South Africa say that the Jews are misers. Most Muslim Indians aren’t any better. They say the Jews are shrewd businessmen, show me an Indian who isn’t. In fact, the similarities are so many that they even seep down into the customs and traditions that both parties conform to ie. The male is the head of the house and the female is the neck that turns the head of the house.
So if we are so similar, why the negative sentiment world-wide? Two words…Israel and Palestine. This is the bone of contention for most people across all faiths. When I had the privilege of actually visiting Palestine in 2005, we were explicitly informed that the “Zionists” are the ones responsible for enforcing the Jewish state of Israel. However, NOT ALL JEWS ARE ZIONISTS. There are many Jews that are opposed to the atrocities that occur in Palestine/Israel and are vocal about it.
If you look at history, on all accounts, Islam and Judaism essentially began with two brothers, Ismail AS and Ishaaq AS (Ishmael and Isaac) who were the sons of Ebrahim AS (Abraham). So technically, the Arabs and Jews are cousins. Just like the French and the British. It’s somewhat disturbing and very sad to see family members take their gripes with each other to such great lengths and over centuries...building whole nations to fight with each other over arbitrary and ambiguous issues. If only we could exert that much effort into building our relationships with people and our Creator SWT.
In retrospect, our hatred has been misplaced, unwarranted and unjustified. And as a consequence, we have denied and ostracized ourselves. There is not a single scripture or command in Islam that states “Hate Thy Jew”. Our Prophet SWA himself had Jewish acquaintances and said that we could eat with them, but not sleep in their homes i.e. trust them. He never said that we shouldn’t talk to them. I must admit, I found Justin to be a wonderful person…his beliefs, traditions and customs are intriguing and I love sharing stupid stories with him. But for some reason, there’s always that twinge of caution, an intuition that doesn’t allow me to trust him.
On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that if we could only accept each other for who we are, without expectations, without judgments and prejudices, we would be a much happier world.
That said, I have one more prank up my sleeve. I spoke to Justin about it and we thought it would be cool to bring him home and introduce him to my Dad as my fiancé. But then again, Daddy has been under pressure lately and I don’t want to give him a heart attack :D