Lauren Gelfond ( -- in the heat of the Intifadah -- was invited to a Palestinian wedding in East Jerusalem.
     "It took him about two months to convince me it was safe...," Laruen says. 
     "We are the real peace makers," Abdallah and his father explained. "It is people like us that make peace, not Arafat and your prime minister."
     Lauren describes moving beyond fear.  She describes the face-to-face human experiences for which there are no substitutes.
     Short of being together with the "other," no one else can "explain" to us our shared humanity and help us surrender at least some of our fear. 
     Lauren, a transcender, reminds us of these words:

"People dont get along because they fear each other.

People fear each other because they dont know each other.

They dont know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other."

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


An American Friend

by Lauren Gelfond

     "Most people think we are Ninjas."
     That's what Abdallah said, but I couldn't make sense of it, in his broken Hebrew. I kept thinking Ninja was a Hebrew word that he'd mispronounced.
     "What?" I asked him, squishing up my eyes, as I do when I am totally confused. "Ninja, Ninja," he repeated.
     It was only when he sliced an imaginary sword through the air that I understood. "Ah, Ninja," I said. But I still didn't get it.
     "Look around the room," he said. "What do YOU see?"
     It was a wedding and there were about 200 guests sitting at tables and dancing to a DJ's music. It looked like any other wedding I had ever been to, except that many of the female guests were wearing traditional Muslim headdresses.
     It took him about two months to convince me it was safe to attend his brother's wedding in East Jerusalem, where I would be the only Jew in a room of some 200 Muslim Arabs, his relatives from Hebron, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Jordan. When I finally agreed, I did so in secret. I didn't want my own family to worry.
     Before the intifadah, Abdallah's family had hosted me once for dinner in their home on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. They made a special meal without meat to respect my kashrut observance, and sang to me as they served a birthday cake. It wasn't my birthday, but they didn't care. They were just happy to make me feel welcome.
     "We are the real peace makers," Abdallah and his father explained. "It is people like us that make peace, not Arafat and your prime minister."
     Abdallah's little sisters smiled up at me all night like I was a movie star.
     At the wedding, Abdallah's aunt and mother took turns introducing me to the relatives. I was introduced as Abdallah's American friend, even though I am an Israeli citizen and live in West Jerusalem.
     One cousin asked me in English how I knew Abdallah and I told him we had studied advanced Hebrew together. His eyebrows went way up.
     One table over, an elderly uncle gestured me to sit down. "Are you Christian?" he asked. I explained that I am Jewish.
     "Aha," he said, "Well then, I have something to tell you," and I braced myself.
     "Be careful, there are so many foreigners now in Israel, and if you haven't lived your whole life in Israel, then you need to learn when you can trust people. Don't trust too quickly," he said. "Keep your eyes open with all people-Jewish, Christian, Muslim. Stay safe. And if you are ever in Jordan, please look me up."
     Before long, everyone in the room knew that I was Abdallah's Jewish friend who lived in Jerusalem, and not just an American.
"Is it okay?" I asked. "Are people angry?"
     As it happened, the wedding was only hours after Israel had retaliated for a Palestinian shooting by shelling a police station in Ramallah.
     "People are curious about you," Abdallah said. "And glad you came. Do you see any Ninjas? Do you feel unsafe?"
I had been dancing all night with his brothers and sisters, and I felt very safe and welcome, I answered, though I admitted I also had been very scared to come.
     "So go home and tell the world we're not all Ninjas," he said.
     "Maybe you should become a politician," I suggested to Abdallah.
     "Nah," he said. "I just want to live my life. I'd rather have fun than fight with anyone."