Every time I walk through the aisle of an airplane I feel nervous, not sure exactly why, but as soon as I find my seat I smile and exhale, as though I've found my little home, a safe place to call my own.
Last week was not any different on my flight to New York. I walked slowly through the seemingly never ending aisle. When I approached my seat I couldn't help notice that it was between the window and a male, a Jewish male. Not that it really matters but for personal comfort which stems from religious beliefs I prefer not to be crammed between a man and a window.
I tucked my carry-on in the overhead and got into my seat. Noticing that he stood for me to get in, I was instantly comforted by the fact that he's a practicing Jew. I buckled my seat belt and sipped the rest of my coffee.
Two minutes later, he exchanged seats with his wife who was sitting in the next row.
That's how our conversation got started.
"My husband does not sit next to women, it's against our religion." She said.
"I'm glad you switched," I replied "I'd rather be sitting next to a female anyways for personal and religious reasons, also my husband would have done the same thing."
As the plane left the ground at full speed, up into the clouds, we both took a few minutes to read our prayers for traveling (me in Arabic and her in Hebrew) ending with "Ameen and Amen!"
We talked, joked, and laughed for and hour and a half, and learnt quickly that we had many things in common:
-We both are mothers and would do anything for our children.
-We both believe in the importance of teaching our religion to our kids, because it gives them a solid base and foundation to build on.
-We both feel television and internet are toxic and should be limited.
-We both cover our hair, me with hijab and her with a wig, both for religious reasons.
-We both pray.
-We both look forward to the same joyous moments; weddings, traditions, family feasts, religious gatherings, and celebrations.
-We both knew the story of Abraham and use it as a basis of our belief.
-We both worship One God, the creator of the heavens and earth.
As our plane prepared itself for descend, she asked what seemed to be the last question, "this may be a sensitive topic, but what do you say about Muslims that do horrific things in the name of Islam?"
I paused, not going to lie, I was really annoyed. Took a deep breath and replied,"anytime tragedy strikes, it hurts my heart and shakes my soul, and those responsible need to be punished. They do not represent me or my religion, just like the KKK don't represent Christians or Christianity, and those Extreme Jewish groups including some of the IDF that kill innocent Palestinians do not represent Jews or Judaism.
In a defensive voice she stated, "the Israeli army is the most humane army, Palestinians use their children as human shields, and if they would just agree to a cease fire they would live a luxurious life."
I was fuming, she basically repeated the exact short paragraph that's been used by all pro-Israel/anti Palestinian protesters. It blew my mind that we got along so well and now we hit a cement wall, how ironic.
I stayed quiet for a minute. Then calmly said, "we get live videos right from Palestine, and the torture those people go through on a daily basis will psychologically destroy anyone. They would give their own lives to see that their kids are safe. If you don't have Internet or any social media, you would have no way of seeing it, because mainstream media doesn't show it."
"What do you think of the man that snuck into Israel and killed a teenage girl?" She asked.
"It's horrible" I replied, "just like, but not worse than, the Jewish settler that burnt a home down with the family sleeping inside of it. One of them being a baby!"
She defended it by saying, "it was in retaliation to another attack!"
I looked at her and said "See, the difference between you and I, is that I will never justify a killing of an innocent person, no matter what previously happened! I am against war, fighting, hatred, and injustice, and yes I believe there can be peace on earth, we just have to want it"
She replied, "maybe that's what's wrong with the world, people taking the simple approach!"
With a disappointed exhale I commented, "no, maybe it's what the world needs!"
Seat belt sign turned off, we gathered our belongings, and wished one another a safe trip.
We as Muslims, Christians, and Jews have a responsibility to find ways to unite as oppose to divide. We are all brothers and sisters in humanity, if only governments, media, and political figures can tone it down a little so we can focus and behave like family.