“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith “
I am the first one to get on a plane to go anywhere I have never been. But sometimes you can travel without ever leaving your hometown. Every big city has its ethnic neighborhoods with interesting restaurants, markets, specialty shops, massages, acupuncture, threading, henna ,fortune tellers , museums, theatres, music and dance programs, herbalists, houses of worship etc. There is always an opportunity to learn something new.
That was the experience I had with the New Grounds Muslim Jewish Fellowship put together by Temple Emanuel and King Fahad Mosque. In our first meeting a group of women walked in wearing hijabs (head coverings) and traditional blouses in beautiful colors. The men came in with somber faces . ( I probably had one as well) We stopped to have a break for them to pray . It felt strange to stop a meeting to pray. Prayer isn’t so easy for me anyway.
We got to know each other through special exercises. We had to really break down our own barriers to talk about issues. Slowly, we became friends. Our last meeting was in the mosque. All the women wore the hijabs and everyone had to leave our shoes at the door. I was inspired to put together a beautifully colored outfit with matching head covering as well. (not my usual black) .
I had seen the blue dome of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City many times. As I pulled into the parking lot, a man approached me. He was wearing a black skull cap and a long-sleeved white cotton shirt that came below his knees. He said,” Are you one of our guests today?” He directed me to the women’s entrance. I watched the men greet each other as they prepared to pray. It didn’t look strange at all . It wasn’t a scary place filled with terrorists. It was beautiful and welcoming and peaceful. The blue and white tiles reminded me of the Alhambra in Spain. I remember learning that blue is a protective color and I look forward to seeing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul . I understand more about praying now. Praying five times a day doesn’t seem weird to me anymore. . It is about taking time during your day to think about something bigger than yourself – to step back and remember what is important. I am trying to find the time to meditate everyday – also to step back.
I know that we are all Americans. If we had met in a mall, a museum or at a UCLA class, we would have been brought together by similar interests. This time, we were brought together by our differences. This is what happens when you travel. The differences are obvious. The similarities are later revealed.
I have learned that a complete stranger in a country so different from yours can become your friend. If you spend five minutes getting to know someone from another culture, chances are you will find much more in common than you thought.
Leaving the mosque felt exactly like leaving a foreign country. It feels strange when I arrive and it feels comfortable when I leave. I ‘m always leaving new friends, and I always want to return.