Two Faces to One Name
This spring, the youth group at Nazareth's Baqa Center took part in a short-story competition organized by Weltfriedensdienst of Berlin. The topic was "Life in a Situation of Conflict". The competition included youth from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Israel and the Netherlands. Three 16-year-olds from the Baqa Center won the top prizes in Israel. This summer they will attend a camp with other winners in Germany. The three are: Layali Al-Sheih Sliman with "Lost Dream" (first place), Maruan Siman with "Innocence Never Dies" (second) and Rim Emil Mashur with "Two Faces to One Name" (third). We print Rim Mashur's story here, translated from the Arabic by Michal Schwartz.
I CLOSED my computer and hurried to my mother's room to tell her something that I had kept secret for a long time.
"Mother, I must tell you…"
"What's on your mind, girl, did anything happen?"
"Everything's fine, I just wanted to tell you that I have a relationship with a guy I met months ago on the computer, and since then we talk every day in the chat program. He's very nice, mother. His words are wonderful, so fine. He even shares some of my hobbies… he loves photography, and he likes to write and correspond. I adore him."
"Oh, that's very nice, but does he feel the same for you?"
"Yes, mother, he fancies me very much. He even wants to meet me. We've already made a date… today, at five, at the main bus station near the coffee shop. We also decided to meet at the photography festival tomorrow night. He gave me his cell phone number. Mother, was I wrong to accept?"
"You cannot understand, girl, the joy of a mother, and her happiness when her children grow, each one of them looking for their way in life and for a companion. Nothing can stand in the way of love and admiration, especially when one is at the age of marriage. Go and meet him, but be careful not to let him take advantage of you."
My mother's words kept repeating in my head while I prepared before the mirror to meet my sweetheart, waiting for the sweet evening to come.
On my way I began to think… is he nice looking or mediocre? Can he be tall, or is he short? No doubt, he will be smart and serious enough.
I could not stop thinking and designing till I reached the place. There was no one to wait for there. I only saw a group of Jewish boys standing nearby, joking and laughing. I paid no attention, I was expecting something more important than them. But I waited a long time, and the long arm of my watch completed a circle, so I took out my cell phone to press some buttons, which I'd been pressing all along in my thoughts, to see if anything had happened to him.
"Hallo, how are you?"
"Hallo shalom." I thought I must have pressed the wrong number. I stopped the conversation and tried again. Yet the second time the same person answered, and he said "shalom" again… and it seemed that his voice was near. I turned around and saw a Jewish youth standing behind me, speaking into a cell phone and talking to me!! I thought, God, what is going on? Only then did I understand that the man of my dreams was that Jewish boy. I can't say he was less surprised than me, because he was speechless.
I waited for something to come from the phone, but we were both overwhelmed by silence. Then I said, to save the situation: "I see you're with your friends, I don't want to interfere… see you later." He said good bye in Hebrew, and his disappointment was clear in his expression. I returned home in tears … how could such a thing have happened? It doesn't make sense! What shall I tell my mother and everyone? Before I could think of a convincing answer, my family asked me what was wrong with me, and I told them the whole story. Instead of giving me their support, they started rebuking and threatening me. And all this because I love a Jewish boy. But do I really love him? I wasn't able to answer.
How stupid I had been in the internet chats! We'd chatted in English, and I'd never asked what his mother tongue was! He'd told me his name was Joseph, and I'd imagined it to be Yusuf!
That night, my thoughts kept my eyes open, and I could not sleep.
I started debating with my self. There were moments my heart joined the session and expressed its opinion, then my conscience would interrupt and disagree, saying: "Is this Jewish boy the one you liked? No way, it is impossible that you link your destiny with a Jew… There is a whole gulf of hatred separating you from each other."
Then my heart would leap, disagreeing: "But he is wonderful, moral, educated, and a human being! Should I remind you how you enjoyed your chats with him? Don't you have things in common? What's wrong with him being a Jew? We are all the children of God, and we share the same land."
"Don't weary yourself," a part of me answered. "Anyway, even if you believe that he's an angel, he himself is not interested in you. You, and your family, and your society are considered to be his deadly enemy."
There was a knock at the door. It was my sister, who came to wake me from a sleep I hadn't had, asking why I looked so tired. I told her about my struggle and said I wouldn't be going to the photography festival that evening.
She strongly disagreed: "If he doesn't like it, let him be the one who doesn't go. Whether you go or not has nothing to do with him." I was persuaded, and I went to that festival… I looked a long time for him, sure that he would not be there… suddenly my phone rang. I had just begun to smile and turn, when I was surprised by a flash of light, coming from the camera of my sweetheart.