“Us” by Eliana Abdo


I have always been a curious person, even when I was only 4 years old and trying to sneak into every room available to listen to the “adults” talk. It was probably my curiosity that brought me to the MJC. When my best friend came back from the conference, in 2014, she addressed herself as a changed person. It then seemed only right to go and see for myself what was it all about, what a week in a European capital could do to shape me and my personality.
I have been back in Israel for three days now and I still am not able to wrap up my row thoughts, but my friend was right, I changed as well.
It took a lot of energy to understand and admit that even a free thinker like me, was hiding a dose of prejudice and fear that I did not even know I had.
I opened up. Me, a person who hates to be vulnerable or weak, let it go.
The MJC created a space where your feelings and thoughts were exposed to shining lights for everyone to see, challenge and empathize. It was pure energy.
I closed my eyes to the bitter memories of 2014, when because of the war in Israel I lost more than I wanted to admit.
I listened to stories of marginalization, of conflict, of frustration and oppression and I breathed them with those who were there.
I talked to a Syrian refugee, who left her home with a soundtrack of bombs and explosions, to reach a continent that often can’t understand.
I was caressed by her words of hope, by the prayer in her heart that she described as the only object she took from what once was home.
I mourned with a friend, who because of a bombing in a synagogue never said goodbye to someone he held so dear. I looked at his tattoo of the date that changed his life, and had nothing to say, because pain needs to be felt.
I listened, because often a debate was not necessary.
I challenged my narrative, allowing myself to remember that there is more than white and black in every story, yet giving all the inputs I had to offer.
I made new friends, and surprisingly enough, the people I connected the most were so different than me.
I, an agnostic Jew with more confusion than clarity, found myself to totally trust this gorgeous Pakistani\European religious girl, a pure soul who chose to believe in something higher and to have faith in a better world. She challenged my cynicism like few people had before, and yet we had so much to share, so many common values and expectations, even when coming from the most diverse backgrounds. What’s more comforting than that?
I spoke to an Orthodox Rabbi on a personal level, after years of distance from a religious institution that I never felt like mine, and I did not feel judged, but rather respected.

I was carried away by the beauty of the Jumu’ah prayer and the happiness of the Kabbalat Shabbat, and they both assumed a much deeper meaning when shared by people of different faiths who were there to learn from each other.
I prayed.
I smiled when I saw the enthusiasm of people who developed the most incredible projects to make their communities a better place, to help those who have been rejected or simply to create an alternative.
I saw so much beauty, like only Beirut can be beautiful. I heard exhaustion, like Damascus is exhausted, and I shared shyness, like Islamabad or Jerusalem often are shy. I touched destruction, as Yemen is destroyed, and hope of healing, like Paris and Baghdad try to heal their injuries.
There was discordance, disagreement and even resentment, but never hate. No one forgot each other, because the base of respect is acknowledgment.
I laughed at jokes that were really not politically correct, and it was amazing.
I learned that in certain parts of the world everything is a “ Yehudi sazesh”.
I felt refreshed seeing that even successful, strong men were not scared to cry, and I found out that to save life there are people who try the impossible.
I embraced that sometimes the impossible does work, and because of that, I prayed again.

The Muslim Jewish Conference revealed to be one of the most incredible experiences I had in years, and not because I found myself to win most of my stereotypes, since I really did not have many, but because it allowed us to be honest with each other, to speak our mind even when what we had to say was not incredibly popular, to share our hopes and to create.
“Us” became a group of people that shares similar values and expectations, no matter what their background, faith or nationality is.
The MJC brought this “Us” together.
The future will allow us to work with “Them”.

Thank you for the amazing experience,