People are… human: Dinner in the Sukkah

Here is it was. The moment we all had been waiting for. Dinner in the Sukkah.

Frankly, I had been dreading it. We were invited to have dinner in the Sukkah of our neighbors, built on our balcony.

The kids loved the whole ceremony. Building it, looking at it, playing in it. They Could Not Wait to have dinner there.

But I didn’t like the idea one little bit. Maybe I am too shy at heart for a gathering like this. Maybe I felt bad that I couldn’t help cooking because my kitchen isn’t kosher. Maybe the perfectionist in me didn’t like not knowing what would happen and how I would fit in.

My 4 year old son had embraced the neighbor’s teenage girls as his best friends, being the few people in the area that speak sufficient English to play with. But my most intense encounter with our neighbor hadn’t been my finest moment in Israel so far.

I prepared the best way I could. I took two tylenols to kill my upcoming headache that tells me I stress out too much over little things. We bought flowers and kosher fruit juice in factory closed bottles. Like observant Jews on Shabbat, we bathed and put on our nicest clothes to prepare for dinner.

And then we waited. Waited for the knock on the door that would invite us to our own balcony. To have dinner with the couple and their daughters that were so obviously very observant. The man with his side curls and his beard. The woman with the head scarf and the daughters with their pretty smiles and long skirts.

The knock came, we settled on the plastic chairs and the beautifully set table. We watched, observed and learned. Our neighbors told us to ask them anything we wanted to know and so we did.

Time passed and a miracle happened. It was not just that it started raining and we had to move inside. The rain in itself was a miracle, it hadn’t rained for months. Their house was a blessing because it was just as messy as ours. But the real miracle was something else.

Our neighbors, that I had thought older than myself, are much younger than I thought. The way they observed their religion, much less stringent than I had expected because of their attire. The way the kids played, much nicer than I could have ever hoped for.

The neighbor guy explained the secret of Sukkot to us: that it was more than anything else a matter of faith. That by living in a hut for a week, one proves that one believes one’s life is in God’s hands. That he will take care of you, no matter what. But that it is up to you to believe that.

That sounded like the very observant Christian friends we once had. This sounded all too familiar. Nicely familiar.

But it was our common background. Our being human, that proved our common ancestry.

Their faces appeared behind his beard, her scarf. Their fears and hopes, their dreams their experiences, it was all so similar to ours. I could feel the pain of her, see his worries and I knew their emotions as if they were my own.

And it was then that I knew: no matter who your enemy is, no matter what your faith is, we are all the same.

We are all so…

human.

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