Postcard From Amman: “You’re Jewish, Aren’t You?”

Jehad is about 45 years old, with slicked-back hair almost down to his shoulders, a dark olive complexion, and a sturdy frame.

His rugged face and baritone voice are familiar–I feel like I’ve met seen him before on TV, or heard him on the radio.

Jehad is Palestinian. He is from Jenin, in the West Bank.

It is nighttime in Amman and the air is cool; everyone is covered up against the cold. I left my hotel in search of a glass of tea, which you can buy from a vendor for a small handful of change.

The glass is soothingly warm against my perpetually chilly hands, and I press the sugary liquid to my lips, drinking gratefully.

Jehad and I have been talking for the past twenty minutes or so. His English is impeccable. He tells me that before the Second Intifada, he sang in jazz clubs in Tel Aviv and Haifa, almost always with Jewish musicians. He hasn’t seen them in years, but every once in a while he hears from one, asking how he and his family are doing.

Since the war and suicide bombings wracked Israel with fear, the Israeli government restricted access to the country to many Palestinians, including Jehad. He comes to Amman for work, to sell plumbing products.

“My job keeps my children fed, but jazz is what I love most,” he says.

I get up to leave and Jehad insists on paying for my tea. “What’s your name,” he asks?

I tell him, and he smiles knowingly.

“You’re Jewish, aren’t you?”

I wink in reply and we shake hands firmly, looking into each others’ eyes–I see no animosity, only warmth–and I bid him Salaam. He smiles, utters it in return, and we part ways.

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