An Israeli Soldier, a Jordanian and a Syrian walk into a Halloween Party...
As a 24 years old Israeli, Halloween seems like a pretty weird pagan holiday. A bit different from the Israeli - Jewish version of it - Purim. Maybe it’s the creepy decorated houses, maybe it’s the undead ghosts roaming the streets and maybe it’s the sugar rush from candy that makes it feel like real magic is in the air.
This year, as a shaliach here in Houston, I got to witness Halloween for the second time. This time was unforgettable. Celebrating Halloween was, as expected, a cultural shock. Not a shock of American culture, but a shock to my own Israeli culture and life.
On Halloween night I found myself at the University of Houston Halloween party with a bunch of people I didn’t know and had never met before. The room was full of unfamiliar faces in costumes, and although none of them knew it, I was special and different, and no one quite knew why. I was the only person that didn’t wear a costume that night. I wore my Israeli army uniform. The only “costume” that I had. For them, I was dressed up as a soldier, some even thought I was dressed up as a boy scout, but for me, I just wore clothes that I wore every day from the ages of 19 to 22, like every other Israeli.
Time passed and I started to get to know some of the people around me. One group of people that I met in particular I will never forget. It sounds like a start of a joke, “An Israeli, a Jordanian, a Lebanese and a Syrian met up in a Halloween party in America…” but this wasn’t a joke. This time it was very real, and it was my Halloween reality.
As an Israeli, I never met a person from Lebanon, Syria or even Jordan, let alone to have sat down and talked with them. I patrolled the borders of their countries and have seen those lands, some of which are only an hour and a half away from where I live, in Haifa. But in the reality of life in the middle east, our lives are closely connected by the events of the region and the circumstances of daily lives. As if the pure encounter was not surreal enough, I was wearing my Israeli soldier uniform. That didn’t need any explaining. They were certain that I was not dressed as boy scout, that’s for sure.
With all the people I had met that night, this group of people I found I had the most in common with. With the Jordanian girl we talked about how her brother got baptized in the Jordan river where I raft all the time in the summer. With the Lebanese girl we talked about food and middle eastern cuisine, and how much we miss it and the fact that it’s better at home. As for the Syrian, “What could I have in common with him,” I thought. The Syrian and I talked abo
ut the conflict in Syria and his family in Damascus. While we see the conflict from different perspectives, we both know how it feels to be affected by war in our country.
“What is happening right now?” “Is this real?” Those were some of the things that were going through my head as we talked about life and about home. “Hope and optimism.” “Can this only happen only in America?” These were some of the things that were going through my head as I was walking back to my apartment reflecting on this once in a lifetime experience.
Those that I met that night are now my Facebook friends. Who knows what the future has in store, but there is one thing that I am sure of. It’s that on Halloween there is actual magic in the air. Maybe it’s the creepy decorated houses, maybe it’s the undead ghosts roaming the streets, maybe it’s the sugar rush from candy, and maybe, just maybe, it’s the people around us that make it so special.
With the experience of Halloween now behind me, I can’t wait for Thanksgivenukah, Thanksgiving and Chanukah.