These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

What if life was like this all the time, everywhere?

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Andrea Wiese

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Andrea WieseI was recently in Istanbul with the group of students from Pardes and I stayed after to see my friends who are living there. (Six years ago I lived and studied in Istanbul.) I stayed in my friend’s apartment and I stayed through another Shabbat. At first I was nervous because I didn’t want anyone to go out of their way to accommodate my shomer Shabbat needs.  But when I told my best friend, Sinan, about my worries, he quickly hushed them. He said not to worry, we’ll have Shabbat dinner, I will invite my friends, on Shabbat we’ll walk around the area of the city I live in, etc. Like all Turks, Sinan, is more than hospitable, but I felt like this way really going above and beyond.

We went to the shuk Friday morning and bought food for Shabbat, he had already bought wine for me to make kiddush. He also bought two loaves of bread. Obviously, Sinan isn’t your normal Muslim Turk. He was born in Holland and grew up there. We met six years ago while studying at Bogazici University and a couple of years ago he came to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University to study in a Masters degree program. While in Jerusalem he came to my house for Shabbat and frequent visits. He knows about Shabbat and that I don’t use the lights, or cook once Shabbat starts. He knows more about Judaism than a lot of Jews.

Shabbat dinner at Sinan's in Istanbul, Turkey.

Shabbat dinner at Sinan’s in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although the situation isn’t ideal. It’s hard to be the only one “keeping Shabbat.” I felt like they would have done many other things if I wasn’t there. But everyone liked learning about each other’s religion. I did all the rituals that I would have done in my own home and explained them to whoever was curious. I even gave a dvar Torah. We socialized, relaxed, and enjoyed being together.

I suppose my issue is why can’t the world be more like this? Why can’t we (people of different religions) be interacting all the time, learning from each other, respecting each other, going out of our way to make sure the other can keep their religion and practice what is important to them? How do we create more of this?

I understand that not all people are like this or willing to be like this, or they are scared of the “other.” I also understand that my friend is an exceptional person and obviously willing to do incredible things for his friends. When I unplugged the motion sensor light in the hallway before Shabbat, he didn’t question me.  He even left the bathroom light on just for me all night.

Thank you, Sinan, for helping me do something that is very important to me and for showing me what the world could be like if we all had a little more understanding, patience, acceptance, and love.  I can’t wait to come back to Istanbul for another Shabbat.