You might remember my post last week from Palestine, in which I described how Aziz Abu Sarah, our Palestinian tour guide, put on my kippah in order to enter the Jewish-only section of Hevron.
Now Aziz himself has just written a moving piece in +972 about his experience:
As we approached Shuhada Street I was thinking of a way to stay with the group. I wanted to show them Abu Seneineh neighborhood, where my ancestors came from before moving to Jerusalem 80 years ago. I wanted them to see my aunt’s house and share with them my childhood memories about Hebron. So, I found myself devising a plan that would allow me to pass through without raising the soldiers’ suspicions.
Before arriving to the street, I asked Brant, the congregations’ rabbi, for his “kippah” (skullcap). I put it on my head and walked straight up to the Israeli soldier at the entrance of the street. I told him (in Hebrew) that I have a Jewish group touring from Chicago that wants to walk through. He only had one question: “do you have any Arabs with you?” I answered confidently, “No, they are all Jews,” and that was all we needed to get inside the “Jewish area.”
I was amazed by what a kippah could do. Suddenly, I was not suspicious and was transformed for the soldiers from an enemy to a friend. The kippah became my entry visa, my access papers. I felt like it was my “shibboleth” into an elite club and the kippah was like the card I swipe to get in.
Perhaps a new paradigm for understanding? Instead of “walking a mile in each other’s shoes” we should all “spend a day in each other’s head coverings.” Thank you Aziz.
It reminds me, Aziz, of my embarrassment coming through the checkpoint from Bethlehem back into Jerusalem. As my Palestinian colleagues began taking off belts and emptying their pockets, they signaled to me that I need not bother. As a westerner, I would be waved through by the guards. Not even my titanium hips interested them.
Really a kippah is like shibboleth, incredible!!
What an amazing and instructive story! We are all one human family and dress up in our various uniforms and judge one another deeming those in particular uniform either enemy or friend or in between. I love Aziz’s courage, ingenuity and honesty. He didn’t lie at any time and his bold action teaches us so much how we privilege or discriminate others based on their ethnicity.
As a rabbi, one place I refuse to wear a kippah is on the West Bank because of what it means there to Palestinians and to Jews.
Thanks to Aziz and Brant for sharing the amazing experiences on your trip.
Your statement moved me to tears. Your decision to represent yourself solely as a man who wants to connect and understand ‘the other’, leaving behind the symbols of orthodoxy and separateness that religion often represents gives me great hope. Thank you.
I do not see how this is different from my wife wearing head-coverings when we travel to muslim countries. Or wearing a nice suit to go out to a restaurant. Our clothing is a message to the outside world of who we are and where we stand socially and politically. Remember that 2 Palestinians dressed up as orthodox jews, walked into a yeshiva and shot 8 Jewish students.
If you don’t see how this is different from “wearing a nice suit to a restaurant,” I’m not sure I could even to begin to explain to you how inappropriate this comparison is.
The suit analogy irritated you, but he is correct when he says “Our clothing is a message to the outside world of who we are and where we stand socially and politically.”
It’s correct, Harry, but that’s not what Aziz’s article was about.
What a ridiculously inept attempt at a comparison.
Oh, and I don’t normally wear a head covering in Muslim countries and never have, unless I am inside a mosque. The one exception is when I visit dear friends in a very conservative city in Pakistan, and then it is only because my friends feel uncomfortable on my behalf if I attract stares. They are sure it makes me uncomfortable. Of course, I do not go Saudi Arabia, and have not managed to get to Iran for a very long time.
I have been to the Kotel before and put on a Kippah to walk in and that’s not a problem for me because it was meant as a respect and non Jews were not banned from the place. It is somewhat similar to non Muslims wearing head cover going into the mosque.
HOWEVER this is different, I wear the Kippah to conceal my identity and not just out of respect to the place. I trust you understand the difference.
What an inspiring story! It’s good to hear that kippah helped you became not suspicious and were allowed to enter the street.