I was walking alone in the courtyard of the Temple Mount, lagging behind my tour group, making my way to the Al Aqsa Mosque, when these three Arab boys came up beside me.
They were smiling and talking loudly to me, “Ma’Shem, Ma’Shem”. I didn’t know what they were saying, let alone if it was Hebrew or Arabic. So, I waved politely, smiled and said, “Shalom”. That wasn’t what they wanted to hear, so they repeated “Ma’Shem, Ma’Shem!”, with more volume and urgency. I was afraid they were telling me to “get out of Dodge”, but the tone was friendly rather than challenging. I shrugged my shoulders and gave them that “Sorry, I have no idea what you’re saying” look.
The one in the light blue shirt, the one carrying a digital camera (must be the smart one) spoke calmly, “Name?” Oh, they want my name (wallet, passport, camera, and what else?). “Larry”, I answered. They all repeated it, “Lairdy”. I used their word, “ma’shem” to ask their name; their smiles got wider and made sounds that I could never duplicate, so, I nodded politely and in my mind I named them Hewie, Dewie and Lewie.
I smiled and asked them if I could take their picture. They beamed and gladly posed for me (geez, what a lousy background, Dewie has a minaret coming out of his head). I thanked them, and then they all held up their picture-taking devices; Hewie had the digital camera, Dewie had a cell phone, and Lewie an I-pad. They each wanted a picture with me on their own device. No problem … then they wanted two of them with me on each device, and every possible combination.
When there were two of them in the picture with me, I was in the middle with my arms around each of their shoulders, just like they posed for me. I did this instinctively, without thinking. Then it hit me: Is this okay? Is this permitted on this holy site? (Earlier, a couple in our group were told “NO TOUCHING” when she took her husband’s arm.) Is this permitted period, is the decency police going to swoop down and stone this infidel? While these thoughts flooded my mind, I found myself backing up against the wall to feel my wallet pressed against by left butt cheek. (Think positive.)
The photo shoot was over. We were all giggles and smiles; I wished I had more time to talk with them. I think all four of us learned something that day.
Thought for the Day: The highest result of education is tolerance. Helen Keller