Friday, June 11, 2010

Wrong Way On The Subway

By Mimi Hecht 

I boarded the subway with my husband, child and a deepening well of anger. It had been four long days since Israel’s raid on the flotilla of so-called “peace-activists” heading to break the Gaza blockade. Four days of international criticism. Four days of media falsehood. Four days of serious wake-up calls as to the nature of our enemies. Having just heard about a spontaneous pro-Israel rally in Times Square, my husband and I saw it as a responsibility hidden in the helplessness. We headed out, baby in tow.

I sat on the cold subway seats with my heart boiling. Headed towards a chance of uniting with my brethren and representing my Homeland, all I could think about was Israel. Past. Present. A bleak future. The Palestinians had won again, completely succeeding in humiliating Israel and turning the world against us. Everyone was showing their true colors. No one was our friend. My mind pondered every single hate-speech, every suicide attack, the voices of Muslims calling for Holocaust. Generations of anti-Semitism - from Hitler to mere university students - echoed in my mind like a hypnotizing slide-show.

And there was my son, happily cooing in his stroller, so comfortable in his simple and safe world. On his blank slate of babyhood, everything and everyone is good. He cries only to be fed, then eats and returns to euphoria. He loves the world and the world love him back. He knows not of his mothers worry for his future as a Jew. He cannot smell my fear.

We are twenty minutes from Times Square when a dark, muscular and heavy-haired young man enters our subway car and sits across from my loaded thoughts. He looks Jewish. But then the Arabic script tattooed on his sculpted arms tells me otherwise. He is Muslim. I look at my husband, pointing out the young man’s presence with my eyes. I look back at our new rider. Just his comfortable posture across from me makes me feel like a victim. Suddenly, I am filled with hate.

With my modest attire and headscarf and my husbands beard and Tzitizis, we are so obviously Jewish. With his Semitic looks and Arabic tattoo, he isn’t either incognito. The world knows us as enemies and yet, here we are, sharing subway space and averting each others eyes. Current headlines are practically scripted on our foreheads for everyone to see. We could both be on our way to Times Square, and I imagined how even more poignant the moment would be when we both exited the subway to find our ways on opposite sides of the rally. I sat with a feeling contrary to that which I would normally feel; afraid to share a personal moment with a passerby. For he wasn’t exactly a stranger, rather an enemy I felt I knew all too well. While I had never met him personally, I projected unto him the voices of Arafat, Ahmadinejad and every other extremist voice trying to wipe my People from the earth.

While he intensely reads his magazine - no doubt some pro-Palestinian propaganda - I enter a mental conversation with my unknowing fellow New Yorker. I mentally spit on him. I blame him. I quietly, but vehemently, despise him. His force. His ignorance. His nation.

My bitter thoughts are interrupted by my child’s playful noises. He is flirting with the Muslim. Of all the interesting people on the train, he had to choose him! I pretend to ignore it, afraid to interact. But then I see the young man returning my son’s playful initiations. His serious face has revealed a warm and sincere smile and his voice softly and happily repeats a baby-toned “hello” to my son. Admittedly, I melt. Just like I do when anyone shares a happy moment with my child. My fellow rider all of a sudden transformed from a vengeful Arab into a peaceful, child-loving, upright citizen. Through my child, we are unavoidably connected, even for just this moment. My disgust disappears. I am surprised and relieved.

With my son’s smile opening a channel of warmth and humanity, I was awakened to the ugliness of my naked instincts. As a Jewess fearful for my sons future in an anti-Semitic world, how can I myself be so ignorant as to project hatred onto every Muslim passerby? Much of the world is educated with anti-Israel propaganda. They are fed lies intended on creating anti-Semitic warriors. But if I too senselessly hate, how am I different? I can’t walk around – and certainly not in the melting pot that is New York – holding hatred in my heart ready to unleash at every seemingly guilty Muslim. While my emotions may sprout indiscriminate hatred, I must educate myself – go beyond the stereotypes. Who exactly is my enemy? Where is the enemy?
The world hates us. We won’t win by simply hating them back. And yet, had it not been for my lighthearted and innocent child, the rage that I was directing at this Muslim would have known no end. When he got off a few stops before us, I caught a glimpse of the “propaganda” reading material he had been so intently focused on – a New York Times crossword puzzle.

7 LadyMama voices:

Just me said... [Reply to comment]

My Dear, Although most Jews (or liberals) don't want to admit this in their hearts or rather don't know but all Muslims from Yishmael hate Jews. It is in their genetic DNA. They can't even escape from it. There are 2 types of Arabs in this world. Those who express their hatred and those who are too afraid to do so.
I'm not saying hate them back..but definitely do not trust them.
And if you do not agree with me. Think to yourself, if they were for Israel and against the radical Muslims how come they don't go out and protest against them??? There are over 1 million Muslims in the US, where are they when there are rallies????? So my point it they all hate us unless they speak up about it. And you can't argue with me about it, argue with Torah!
Love you hun!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Mimi, this is a beautiful piece. Both thoughtful and emotive- thank you...

Devorah said... [Reply to comment]

nice piece~ we always see and hear the extremists and don't always stop to think that there are "normal" arabs out there. Ones that do crossword puzzles :) very well written.

Islam Chaaram! said... [Reply to comment]

You can do better than this love your enemy claptrap.

That Muslim would KILL your baby upon instructions from his rat of an imam. KILL. With his bare paws.

Islam is a poisonous creed like Naziism. His dress was that of an SS officer.

In any properly run country, he would be tailed by police as a potential terrorist. In the politically correct US, which I see has infected your soul as well, he walks free on the graves of the 9/11 victims

Leah said... [Reply to comment]

Very will written! There is so much pure truth to this article! Love it!

Islam Chaaram! said... [Reply to comment]

Just remember that at least some of the 9-11 bombers were educated and wealthy and probably could do the nYt crossword puzzle better than you could even in English.

same with the nazis.

Kristin Tetuán said... [Reply to comment]

It makes me very sad that things like this even have to be written. I am a very moderate person. I sympathize with the Jews (afterall, I'm kind of a Jew-ntile, right?). It saddens me that Islamic fundamentalists exist and act upon their hate in such heinous ways and in turn, cause so much hate to befall them. I appreciate your honesty when it comes to your admission of hate toward a New York Muslim you had never even met. And then the resolution of that hate through the interactions of your child and the Muslim in question. Parenthood, beyond all other facets of life, can be rehabilitative of our intense criticisms and hate of types, groups, races, religions, creeds. If only this concept could catch on on a greater scale, true peace might be possible. In the meantime, it is writings like these that at least get it on the table. Thank you for your candor!