A letter to a friend I met somewhere near the Holy land by Moulham, Syria

You asked for news. Well, I’ve got news. My flight got delayed for 30 minutes because of the storm in Jordan, I arrived in Vienna 15 minutes before the 2nd flight to Paris, I used my headphones to listen to the music of Mission Impossible in order to feel that if Tom Cruise can do it I can do it. I was lucky that the transit was in Vienna, the airport is well organized and the passengers use the automated immigration gates and kiosks, they stamped my passport in 10 seconds, I had a small bag, I knew I would probably face such a situation, I arrived to the gate few seconds before closing the door.
I already felt home listening to French in the airplane.

When I arrived to Paris to find there’s no train from the airport after 10pm because of renovation works, I took the bus to get home… I finally arrived on March 1st, 1AM.
I opened my mailbox, usually I find nothing, and I say, “no news is good news”, this time I found a big brown envelope with a lot of stamps waiting for me. I put my bag on the ground and opened the letter, what a surprise! Did you know that I was waiting for a letter for the interview I need to do in order to obtain the French nationality? Ok, the good news is, this was the letter! The bad news, the interview should’ve taken place on Thursday February 28th; yesterday! I was swimming in the streets of Amman.

I can tell you, it was the longest series of the F word I’ve said in a minute.

They wrote in this letter, in case you won’t be able to attend the interview you need to call a phone number before the date. No problem I’ll play stupid and call after. I searched for my phone to save the number, I couldn’t find my phone… it was gone!

My Syrian analytic mind told me there’s should be a conspiracy behind all that. My brain shouted at me: “Go to sleep before you’ll find another disaster!”

I was planning to write this letter to you yesterday… when I posted on Facebook that it’s time to wake up, I didn’t really mean it, I always wanted to remember you, but the «Douce France» took all my attention last night.

I slept like a dead person, I woke up around 11am, I had work, but it was too late to go, too late to apologize… I made coffee and ordered a new phone, it’ll arrive in 5 working days, that means 2 weeks in France.

I smiled, because I felt like I’m losing, sometimes we need to lose to understand who we are, to appreciate the gains we were proud of.

Music is great, especially when you don’t understand the lyrics, so you’ll just enjoy the music and your brain will focus on another thing than following the deep meanings of a commercial love song… I set to read the yellow post-its… I turned on my laptop to read what our friends were posting about Jordan… I found a huge amount of love… but how? those people have been fighting each other for the past 70 years!!!

I went to buy a temporary SIM card to make the emergency calls I needed to do, but the idea of YaLa walked with me during the day. My mind works in a simple way, I used to work as bartender, but I didn’t see cocktails, I saw ingredients, for YaLa the first ingredient is simply, Israel. Please tell me you didn’t know.
For me it’s not a problem, it’s an advantage, personally, unlike most Middle Easterners, the basic history my grandfather taught me that at the beginning there were 2 states in the Levant, the great Syria, and Israel, or the Jewish state, which we learnt about its war against the Babylonians 500 BC… so for me the conflict is in another place rather than the land belongs to who, the question people should focus on is how – in the 21st century- Middle Eastern will learn to live together in peace and respect.
The 2nd important ingredient, for sure was the Palestinians, the real Palestinians, those who we don’t see in News, those who don’t have a problem of letting the Israelis live their life, but they have a problem not being able to live their lives, going to schools in safety, work, building houses and maybe traveling without the need to ask for a temporary Jordanian travel document.

For me, I used to see the first 2 ingredients come together, I can’t see a Palestinian without thinking about Israel and vice versa, but what YaLa did during the last 3 days allowed me to see things from a different angle.

Sometimes in order to get a better taste you need to add more and different ingredients, here’s where the Tunisians and the Moroccans come in, people who are far geographically… even in their beautiful Arabic accent, I can’t imagine the same conference with only Israelis and Palestinians alone, can you? Who will eat all the food? The Maghreb played the gentle guest that we needed to behave well in his presence, if you noticed, we didn’t see a Palestinian flag nor an Israeli, but we were dancing under the flags of Tunisia and Morocco, those countries who fear no misunderstanding.

Syrians and Iraqis were like the parents in a wedding, we can’t have a party without them, and when the music gets loud, they go to sleep early.
To tell you the truth my friend, I felt jealous from the other 4 countries, we were those with the worst English accent, the shadows of war were heavy and clear on our faces, simply our instant priority is seeing our families, walking in the streets of Damascus, Daraa or AS-Swaida.

You saw the photos I post about my stay in Jordan? For me it wasn’t Jordan who I want to see, it was Syria, I stayed to eat the Syrian food, the Syrian ice-cream from Bekdash, the Syrian Knafeh from Naffiseh… crossing the streets without a traffic light for the first time in 5 years made my heart explode from nostalgia.

I miss you my friend, not the automatic missing, generated after a smoker finishes his packet of cigarettes, I really miss talking to you, knowing you, maybe that’s the conspiracy of YaLa, to make us experience how it feels to live in peace altogether… they’re smart people!

You know who I miss the most, I miss Moriya, the 1st person I met when I arrived to the resort, the 5 seconds before hugging was too long, I didn’t prepare what to say when I meet the «Others»… and she was the last one to hug when I left, she said she didn’t want to cry.. but she made me do so… next day.

Ohoud called me before the conference, and took the bus with me after, she was my coordinator during the online sessions… her calm voice, the confidence she shows, makes you feel that you belong here… I can’t forget the culture night, how she looked at the Palestinians who were a bit weary… and gave them that look with a rhetorical question in Arabic “Do you need an invitation ?!” … a true leader and a friend.

Ofri, a different story, I think we all agree that she was the prettiest one in this conference, she was moving like a star with her shiny hair… talking to us holding the mic, I was hearing music in the background… was I the only one who heard that? I don’t think so.

Daniel and Hamzeh are the best example of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, one has the money and one’s spending it… the funniest guys, good hearts and big brothers.

If I need to trust one person in this conference, I trust Khloé, I don’t know why, maybe it’s because she’s French so I feel she’s my co-citizen, or cause her honest laugh, her sense of humor, the first day she was sitting in the back of the conference room, so I was stealing looks at her from the first seats of YaLa Balagan to feel that I’m not alone here, I’m not lost.

Sarah is whole different level, the way she tells stories, made me afraid that she will stop at some point to say, in order to know what will happen next you need to subscribe.
Who needs Netflix, I felt cold when she was telling the story of her father, and I felt stressed when she talked about the conversation she had with her uncle…
I can tell, for me the conference was divided into 2 parts, one of them was Sarah.

Are you following? almost finished a hundred more people to go 😁

You know most of them, amazing stories, I can write movies on each person, I just need to finance this project… I’ll ask Daniel maybe.

Look, I know that we may not see each other again, and I know that we might, but in both cases, I want to tell you how lucky I am to meet you, talk to you and listen to you.

The word I used to describe my expectation at the first day was a ‘film’, something I’ll do one day for sure, but the word I used to describe how I feel on the last day was ‘luck’, because I came with no expectations, I was sure I would figure a way to integrate… I was selfish, I came to hear what those behind YaLa wanted to say, they said nothing, they let us hear each other, oh my god they are smart, they were open for a conversation but they never ask for it, they checked on you to see if everything is ok like a gentle host, they know that all the past years people are lecturing us how to live together, and others who are lecturing us not to.

They know that we (all of us) developed an immunity against lectures… they simply secured a space with no bodyguards or guns, but with love and listening.

Have you watched a film called ‘Pay it Forward’ ? Ah you did, re-watch it now please..
YaLa in a small part of it, is a Pay it Forward 2.0 initiative, because they didn’t give the good deeds to normal people, they are forming those people to be change makers in their societies so the beneficiaries will be multiplied by the number of people who read your articles, see your photos or watch your movies.

I told you I’m waiting for you in Paris, if you want to see me. I wish you all the happiness, safety and peace.

Thank you for being my Jordan.



Leave a Comment

Want to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply