One of the stated goals of Paidia's involvement in Bethlehem is to help increases understanding and tolerance for "the Other" (Muslim & Christian, Fatah & Hamas, Poor & Rich). I am starting to realize how much work I have before I can see the other as like myself.
As I was driving home last night, I saw a young (mid-thirties) Muslim couple walking arm-in-arm, whispering in each other's ears. As I think of my first weeks in Palestine, I remember the idea that Muslims (the ultimate Other for many Americans) live, think, and act in most of the same ways that I do was almost impossible to conceive. As I started hanging out here more, and I began to talk, eat, work, argue, drive, walk, shop, play sports, and live with Palestinian Muslims, I realized the total absurdity of this attitude. However, for just a moment last night, my old prejudices returned as I was surprised by the fact that a married Muslim couple was in love. I am embarrassed to remember my surprise.
As usual, I am not reaching for any specific conclusion here. But I do want to challenge anyone reading this (as if there was someone) to think about the Other who is present in your life sphere. Once you have a specific individual in mind, think about what you have done over the last 48 hours (perhaps you have shopped, eaten, prayed, exercised, or driven). Imagine that person doing some of those things. What is your gut reaction to those images? Just think of your initial impulse, not what you are supposed to feel. I think I am figuring out that I am more prejudiced than I thought.