It's the last Monday of the year, and I'm trying to explain to my teacher why I'll be cutting her class today.
"It's a peace event," I say. "Jews, Muslims and Christians get together and hang out. It's really cool."
My teacher is not amused.
"You've missed the past three weeks of class to go to this thing -- " she starts.
"It's every Monday night!"
"--and besides, do you really believe in Peace?"
Peace, in Israel, means a solution to the political issues here that involves both sides cooperating, as opposed to just splitting into two states and never talking to each other again.
The question startles me. "I don't know."
And I don't. I started going to Jerusalem Art activities because my friend Argaman convinced me to come with her. Like I said, it's cool. But the ability of a few liberals from every side to get together every now and then doesn't prove anything. They are a minority.
I am, however, willing to give it a chance.
Jerusalem Art is an organization whose goal is to come up with fun events and then get people from different religions and nationalities to go to them.
This is harder than it seems. Palestinian Muslims are not allowed to attend events with Israelis according to PLO law, leaving the majority of the participants Jewish, with a few Christians sprinkled in. Ahmed, the guy in charge of the project, risks his life every day to make it happen. At the first meeting I attended, he was the only Muslim there. But now, tonight, Jerusalem Art is planning an event on a larger scale: a Iftar, the traditional meal that Muslims eat every night of Ramadan after breaking the fast, and everyone is invited. Ahmed tells Argaman that he hopes thirty people will come. Argaman and I work all day to prepare Kosher food at our seminary for the religious Jews who will be attending.
We pile onto the bus loaded with rice, stewed vegetables and cookies, and set out. Before we know it we're climbing the steps onto The Roof, a space almost exactly in the center of the Old City, from which all four quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Armenian) are visible. The sun is setting over the Dome of the Rock, turning it a deep gold hue, and laughter sounds from up ahead. We turn a corner and there they are — more than fifty people, miling about near the wall we painted together a few weeks ago. There are Muslims, women with hijabs and men speaking English in Arabic accents, Christians, mostly German students who are training for clerical positions at a church nearby and Jews, even one Charedi, black hat and all.
We quickly set down the food on the table marked "Kosher." I ask Oren, who is in charge of the technical planning, if there's anything else I can do to help.
"Go talk," he says simply. "That's what we're here for."
It's a little intimidating. But I take a deep breath, turn to the Muslim woman with the nice smile standing near me, and say, "Hi, what's your name?"
The next few hours pass in a blur of introductions and laughter. A German Christian invites me to an interfaith poetry slam she's hosting next week. An American Muslim tells me that his name is Amed, not Ahmed, his parents never did that funny "h" sound, and compliments me on my cookies. A Jewish woman who lives right near me in the West Bank admits that she came to this event without telling anyone, terrified of what her husband and community might think. Everyone's English is horrible, sprinkled with different accents, but we make do. We talk. And it is wonderful.
So I did it. I went to the peace event and had a great time. Can I say now that I am now absolutely, certainly in favor of Peace? I'm not sure. But with all of us standing there together under the Jerusalem sky, the possibility is so real that I can almost taste it.