Finding myself in the Middle East

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


His teeth were big and white, with spaces in between each one. His hair and beard were trimmed short. His skin was dark and his eyes had smile-lines that extended from behind the sunglasses.

Arab, I thought.

I loaded up the carriage and kids anyway and told him where we needed to go. My husband waved goodbye. "Call me the second you get there," he said.

The driver looked at me in the mirror. "Call him, he is a little afraid maybe of me."

I laughed a little, but clutched the phone.

"What is your name?" He asked Princess.

"Princess," she whispered.

"A beautiful name!" He said. He smiled. It was a very nice smile. "What a lucky girl to have such a beautiful name."

He waved at a police officer and shouted out a greeting in Arabic. The police officer answered in monotone Hebrew. "You see," he said. "He is a Bedouin. They pretend not to speak Arabic." He smiled again.

I shifted the baby, who had fallen asleep, to my other side and nudged Coco-pop, who was falling asleep.

He turned back to Princess. "Do you love Chanuka?" He said.

She nodded.

He smiled.

"Do you have a holiday like that, with lights in the winter?" I asked.

"No," he said. "But we light a fire when it is cold."

"These kind of lights are for the cold you feel inside. In your soul. You know, because of the winter and the dark. The lights make you feel like everything is going to be okay. That in the heart of winter, of sadness, it's already halfway over."

He looked thoughtful. "We light lights on Ramadan. Shaped like a moon, you know, like a banana. It is very pretty."

"It sounds pretty."

"But expensive."


A few minutes of silence. I adjusted Coco-pop's head, which had flopped forward, and put the phone into my pocket.

"Do you dress like that?" He pointed.

I looked, but saw nothing. "Like what?"

"There was a woman, wearing clothes from top to bottom, but so tight it was like she was wearing nothing. It is not right. It is not for a woman's honor, to dress like that."

"I agree. It is not tzniut."

"What is tzniut?" He asked.

"Like...well, like what you said. A woman's honor."

"Ah. Yes."

We arrived. He took the stroller out and gave me change. He smiled at Princess. "Chamuda," he said. He chucked a sleepy Coco-pop under her chin.

I took the stroller from him. "Toda," I said.

"Call your husband!" He said. "He shouldn't worry."

"Toda," I said again.Do you hate me? I didn't say. How can you hate me?

I didn't say it. And then he was gone.


Chanalesings said...

Love the way you write. Are you working on a book?

Mystery Woman said...

I always wonder about that. They're supposed to hate us...right? It's how they were raised. But then, every once in a while, you meet one who doesn't seem to. But does he - really?

Princess Lea said...

Is he Bedouin? Then he doesn't hate you; Bedouin even serve in the Israeli army. They don't hate us; I believe they prefer us to the alternative.

CantStopBaking said...

Wow. Complete flashback to Israel- thank you for that!

Malka said...

What a great definition of tzniut! I like to [very] loosely translate it as dignity, but a woman's honor has a ring to it; it reaches further back through history.
I'm a fan.

JerusalemStoned said...

Chanala--Thanks! I actually am working on a book...I'll keep you posted!

Mystery--They have bechira,don't they? But then I think about my grandmother's neighbors...she obviously felt safe enough there to run to them, but they turned her in...

Princess Lea--He said that he was an Arab,not a Bedouin. I've met some lovely Bedouins. :)

Can'tStop--Pleasure! That's what I'm here for!

Malka--Thanks! It makes it so much stranger, though, that HE was the one to use that phrase...we are taught how they hate women, and we also see how they do, but then they use a phrase like that.

Cymbaline said...

JS - First off - I LOVE your blog. I just recently discovered it and I have to spend time on it, but it's a great read.

Food for thought - We talk about how the arabs are taught to hate women - can you really argue the so called "ultra orthodox" are any different? You can couch it in any terms you want - tznious, modesty, etc - but it doesn't really change the fact does it?

JerusalemStoned said...

Cymbaline--Thank you!

About your food for thought--While I do not like generalizing, sometimes it does help a picture snap into focus. You can always find individuals who have their own opinions on subjects such as this, and usually they are the vocal ones, the frighteningly photogenic ones. I do think the answer can be found by observing the mainstream. Mainstream Jewish religious thought does not negate women--it truly is about woman's honor and dignity--while mainstream Muslim thought seems to do so. To cover one's face is to erase one's individuality. To cover one's body seems to do the opposite...

Cymbaline said...

Why do you not have an email address?

JerusalemStoned said...

Fixed it!

Cymbaline said...

Fixed WHAT?? You still dont have one. Or email me at cymbaline91@gmail

Malka said...

Mainstream Jewish religious thought does not negate women--it truly is about woman's honor and dignity--while mainstream Muslim thought seems to do so. To cover one's face is to erase one's individuality. To cover one's body seems to do the opposite...

"Seems to" is probably the key to this statement. Everyone (men and women) dressing in black and white, with 8 children all in matching outfits might also seem to erase individuality. I know and love people who dress like that, and they sure don't view it as negating their individuality. (Shoutout to siblings and husband!) I'd bet good money that if we sat down with mainstream Muslims, they'd explain how covering the face in now way negates individuality. Um, on second thought, is covering the face mainstream Islamic practice? I've seen plenty of (apparently) frum Muslim women in Atlanta who cover their hair and necks, but not faces. OK, this is more research than I care to do at this point. Interesting discussion, though!

JerusalemStoned said...

I used the phrase "seems to" on purpose, as while I have spoken to several Muslims about this, I have never spoken to one who covers her face. (there are more muslim countries who require this of their women then one might think)Which might speak for itself, since women who do so are not involved in activities in which I could meet them...

I do not dress my girls matching except occassionally, since yes, I do think it is negating of the individuality that each of my daughters posses. I do not want to see them as "my two daughters" I want to see them always as "Princess" and "Coco-pop."

I also think of the dressing in black and white as a necessary evil for the same reason.

And there is an objective erasing that happens when ones face is covered--I think we can all agree on that!

Any Muslims on here? I would love to hear all about your thoughts on this!

Malka said...



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