We have a young language instructor at Shalem College in Jerusalem, where I work. She’s a religious Muslim who wears a hijab, lives in one of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and is a graduate student at Hebrew University. She’s fun and warm, and a great teacher — the students like her a lot.
Late last spring, when things here were quiet, some of the students mentioned to the department chair that as much as they’d spoken with her over the past couple of years, they’d never discussed politics. They were curious what someone like her thought about the conflict in this region, especially now that she was teaching at an unabashedly Zionist college, had come to know so many Jewish students and had developed such warm relationships with them. How does someone like her see things here? How did she think we would one day be able to settle this conflict?
“So ask her,” the department chair said. “As long as you speak to her in Arabic (she’s on staff to help our students master the language), you can talk about anything you want.”
They did. They told her that since they’d never discussed the “situation” (as we metaphorically call it here in Israel), they were curious how she thought we might someday resolve it.