Israel? God wanted us to serve him there?
“OK, Lord,” I prayed, “you’ll have to do a miracle, and give me a love for those people.”
Transformed into a Christian Zionist, I overlooked the fact that Abraham had another son – Ishmael.
God didn’t want me to love the Jews and hate the Arabs, but that took some time for me to sink in.
It was wonderful to be secretary for Walter and Debbie, the Dutch couple in charge of the Social Assistance Department.
Based in Jerusalem, they tried to offer aid throughout the country.
I saw first-hand how Jewish, Christian Arabs and Muslims lived.
And how dire their needs could be.
Prior to marrying Walter, Debbie already lived in Israel, and through her job as Social worker, she had met Abu Mussa (father of Mussa).
Abu Mussa Faroun lived in Alhazariah (Bethany), on the other side of the Mount of Olives. He was a Christian Zionist Arab - a rare and endangered species, even in pre-Intifada days.
One day, Abu Mussa announced to Debbie that God had told him to “adopt” her as his daughter. A woman without family (her biological family lived in Holland) wasn’t right. He was going to take care of her.
Abu Mussa’s extended dinner invitation to Debbie-and-friends, was to become my baptism of Arab hospitality.
Oom Mussa (mother of Mussa) had been slaving in the kitchen, while her husband and sons rested on the living room couch.
Steaming dishes filled the table, and while Abu Mussa began to heap the guest’s plates with rice and chicken, Oom Mussa withdrew to the kitchen.
The food was delicious, and like a well behaved Dutch girl, I emptied my plate.
“Have some more!” Abu Mussa said.
“No, thanks, I’ve had more than enough!” I patted my bulging stomach.
In the Arab culture, refusing is part of the politeness ritual.
But I didn’t know the “rules of the game”.
So, despite my objections, Abu Mussa put more chicken on my plate.
With rising panic I wondered how I was going to eat it, feeling like a stuffed chicken myself.
“You don’t have to eat it. Leave it, then they’ll get the message,” Debbie whispered.
So much for my Arabic culture inauguration.
Debbie and Walter invited Bill and myself to form a community, and at first our colleagues thought we were nuts. Working together (except for Bill, who was in a different department), going on holiday together, and now also sharing a house together?
But we went ahead and loved it.
A difficult pregnancy forced Debbie to rest.
Then Walter had a scooter accident and was laid up too.
The “frowners” had to admit this community living was “from the Lord”, for now I was able to look after both patients, and keep them informed about the department.
On a weekly basis, a very concerned Abu Mussa conscripted either his son, or son-in-law to drive him to his “daughter”, and provide her with enough fruit and vegetables to feed an orphanage.
One such Friday morning, Debbie announced,
“Abu Mussa’s bringing cauliflower, potatoes and meat for dinner. No need to cook.”
A treat we all were looking forward to.
The doorbell rang.
Behind Abu Mussa, son-in-law Adnan carried a huge, still warm dish.
Knowing there was more to come, I followed Adnan to the car, and wanting to pay him a compliment, I said,
“Isn’t it wonderful to be a donkey for the LORD?”
He looked at me strangely, then without a word, he entered the house.
I wondered if I had said something wrong, but didn’t dare to ask him.
When I told Walter what happened, his answer made me cringe.
“O boy, you couldn’t have said a worse thing to an Arab.
It’s an insult, like you called him stupid.”
I wanted to sink through the floor. This was awful!
Thankfully, a week later Abu Mussa came to check on Debbie again, chauffeured by Adnan.
“You know, your remark really hurt me,” he began before I could open my mouth.
“I realize now, Adnan. And I’m truly sorry. Can you forgive me?”
Thankfully he did.
Sometimes, when called to be a “donkey for the LORD”, we make a donkey of ourselves.
So take Sam Levenson’s advice,
“Learn from the mistakes of others.
You won’t live long enough to make them all yourselves.”
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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