The first time I met Abdullah face to face was at his wedding.
I was standing outside the Jerusalem Grand Hall in Abu Dis, watching Abdullah and his wife-to-be sitting in the back of a car adorned with beautiful flowers. After he got out, shook hands and kissed a million people he approached me -- not sure exactly who I was -- and when I told him my name, his face broke into a smile.
“Ami! How are you? I knew I was supposed to get lucky tonight, but it looks like I already did! So good to see you!”
Indeed, the feeling was mutual. Abdullah and I used to work at RAM FM, which was a station run by Palestinians and Israelis. There was an office in Ramallah and one in Jerusalem. I’ve written here before about the station and its unfortunate demise. But let’s stick to the happy events, shall we?
At RAM FM I spoke with Abdullah on the phone, who was a news anchor and reporter, almost on a daily basis a few times a day.
We seemed to click right away. In retrospect, I think what made it easy was that he was in some ways a Palestinian Half & Half, since he spent quite a few years in the States, spoke with an American accent and understood the culture.
But in the short time I was there, I never ventured into Ramallah and Abdullah could never make it to Jerusalem.
After the station closed down, we kept in touch every now and again, through Facebook.
In fact, I even got the invitation for his wedding via Facebook, which was a first for me.
On wedding day, just over a week ago, I picked up Allison, who was a disc jockey at the station, and we headed up towards Jerusalem.
Due to the Separation Fence, getting to Abu Dis isn’t as easy as one would think. After passing the red roofs of Ma’aleh Adumim on our left, we took a right and snaked up through the town of al-Azariya. Allison and I thought Hank Azaria would make for a great mayor.
Then we heeded the Facebook invitation’s advice: “Take a left at the Separation Fence”. Now there’s a line I never thought I’d see on a wedding invitation…
Then we finally entered Abu Dis.
When we got to the hall, we met up with another former colleague, Ashira Ramadan. Shortly afterwards, Abdullah pulled up -- we met, finally -- and the girls were rushed in to the women’s section.
I was left outside with, I think, about another 100-150 men. By myself.
For about a minute I was actually kind of scared. I suddenly began to think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
But that was only a minute. As I looked around and saw the smiling faces I started to feel better.
And when people came up and warmly shook my hand, I felt just fine.
One man who sat next to me turned out to be a Palestinian Authority official. We had the greatest conversation about politics over a gorgeous cup of dark, sweet coffee with cardamom.
He: “I actually like Bibi.”
Me: “You like Bibi? How can that be?”
He: “He’s not like our leaders. He tells it like it is. Straight up. ‘You can either take it, or leave it’. I don’t agree with his views, of course - but I like his style”.
Shortly after, we were joined by some more RAM FM colleagues. Hannah Brown, the film critic for the Jerusalem Post and Tyson Herbeger, who came with his wife Rebekka. I replaced Tyson at the station as the correspondent for Israeli affairs. He’s now finishing his rabbinical studies and about to go on an adventure as a Rabbi in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Hannah and Rebekka joined Allison and Ashira, Tyson stayed outside with me. We didn’t have much time to catch up though, since we were shortly after whisked in to dance with Abdullah and the other men.
Fortunately, I do not have any documentation of my attempts to keep up with the tempo. It was quite fun though, especially seeing how happy Abdullah was as he pranced around.
Tyson, on the other hand, had a real knack for it. It seems that with only minor adjustments a good, solid Hassidic routine can quickly turn Muslim. Here’s proof (Tyson is the tall redhead -- you can’t miss him):
(This was shot with a cellphone, and for some reason it’s not really in sync…)
And how good is this kid?
After the dancing we continued with the three C’s: Coffee, Coke and Cake.
A wonderful time was had by all.
As I drove back with Allison, I told her about that minute of fear I had. I explained to her that those 60 seconds of fear really symbolized a lot for me. It’s that exact same fear that leaders on both sides have promoted for decades.
It’s that exact same fear they spread to keep themselves in power.
It’s that exact same fear that makes both sides use violence against each other.
But it’s the three hours that surrounded those 60 seconds, those three hours of smiles, kisses and dancing that are the real story.
Those were three happy hours, with happy people who just wanted to have a nice time at a great wedding.
May the beautiful couple Abdullah and Nourah know many more happy hours together.
And may those happy hours ALWAYS prevail over those dark seconds of fear.