And I prayed with the Jews

I am forcing myself to blog. I’ve been trying to do it for two weeks now, and every time I quit. But this time I will post, whatever gets out of this heart I will let it be.

I returned from the United States on Tuesday. This is the first time I return from America to Beirut, not to Qatar – for residence. I still cannot call Beirut home. I detest it with all the love I have in my heart, I detest it. I have issues? Heck yeah.

I attended a Shabbat Service in the States. For those who are not sure, or who may be surprised; YES, this is what the Jews do to welcome the Shabbat. I had been in California for a week, praying alone at home, not hearing the call to prayer except from an iPhone. And then the Shabbat service happened. As much as I was excited to go, I ended up with a slap on the face. For I have been forgetful of what it means to attend a religious service. I went with pride, because I wanted to come home and BRAG. I attended a Shabbat service, didn’t I? I have the right to show off! I stepped on pre-conceptions and stereotypes and negative portrayal of the Jews in most media and social outlets in the Arab and Muslim world, and I voluntarily walked into a temple, in my hijab and full muslim attire and heartily repeated “Shabbat Shalom” over and over again.

But I ended with a slap on the face. Because I had unconsciously forgotten that -first and foremost- I was walking into a prayer. The prayer restored my senses and made me feel ashamed. For a short period of time, before the ceremony started, I felt like I am preparing for a performance to begin. And I was enthusiastic and I was looking around. And then, instead of a performance I found myself in the midst of a Du’aa. I suddenly became aware that I had missed this for a week, the collective prayers and the Adhan. And I prayed with the Jews. To the one God we believe in. For peace and love and prosperity. For health and well being and safety of all humankind. For this and that, which are everything everybody prays for. And I reached a spiritual high. The kind that I feel when I pray on a film set, or in the theater, or in a place where there is more beauty and sensitive souls than the average living room prayer. At Temple Sinai during Shabbat, I was at peace with myself, with those around me, and with the universe. I had been missing the whole point all over. It was a prayer.

The United States is a beautiful country. I feel better when I throw garbage there. Because the recycle bag is bigger than the trash bag, always. And it will all be used again – either to fertile some land or to make new items to be used. Here in Beirut you have to feel bad when you throw the garbage because even if you sort out your recycle bags, you can never tell if the next hand cares, or if it will be recycled at all. I don’t trust what people say here. I am optimistic and hope for the best and wish they always do say the truth but I simply don’t trust their word.

This time, I yet return to Beirut. I will always be returning here. Because I will always leave. No matter who lives here, I cannot belong. And I don’t want to. But depending on who lives here, I will always be returning inshallah. To see my mother’s face. To eat sahlab on the morning of Eid. To visit Ghazzeh and my childhood every now and then. And to thank Allah over and over for the blessings of peace, security, and prosperity (elsewhere!). And, oh, to tell the stories and make some films 🙂


Yesterday I rose up for the Lebanese National…

Yesterday I rose up for the Lebanese National Anthem.
It was the first time I had done it for years. I don’t remember for sure, but one thing that I am certain of is that for more than five years while I lived outside the country, the only National Anthem I had to rise for -ironically- was the National Anthem of the United States of America.
The emotions were conflicting yesterday for the Lebanese episode just as they were conflicting during the American one. Sure thing is, both countries have given me one thing I value so much: great university education and times, and great friends.
For that, I would rise for their national anthems forever.