Posted on January 13, 2016 by Andrew Ash
Today was the first day of our 2016 Pardes trip to Turkey. It was not an uneventful day. With sadness and anger did I receive the news that a suicide bomber attacked the heart of Istanbul’s historic center, a square adjoining the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. These monuments have stood for generations and will continue to stand long after those who planned and encouraged today’s attack have faded to dust. Sometimes I imagine God sees the world through the long lens of history, and it comforts me when I find the actions of an individual on any given day must otherwise have been so disappointing to a God who wants the best for us as a species. “Slowly, slowly. Some day.”, I imagine God saying, “I can wait as long as it takes for humanity to get it right.”
Thankfully we were nowhere near today’s attack when it happened, and are all safe.
Later today we visited a mosque during prayer time. I felt anxious when we arrived, wondering if we’d be seen as a foreign, unwelcome presence. Sometimes those fears proved valid, such as when a woman in our group broke a rule of etiquette akin to entering a synagogue on Shabbat holding a cellphone, and was yelled at unkindly. However the Imam responsible for the community made many accommodations: he intervened to calm people down, he invited us inside, allowed both men & women to sit together in the men’s section, and welcomed us to take photos. If we were a foreign presence, it was his presence beside us that calmed his congregants down when some were upset. It strikes me that across religious communities that’s an important role for a spiritual leader. People can get upset so easily.
Lastly, here are some observations about the differences between Jewish and Muslim prayer. These observations are my own, as frankly as I can express them, and do not reflect the views of my teachers or Pardes: