Thursday, December 3, 2009

Journey of a Muslim Jew

From, the journey of Mark Halawa, who was raised Muslim but discovered as an adult that he was legally Jewish. Now he is trying to help bridge his two estranged worlds.
Knowing about my grandmother’s Jewish background always made me curious about Jews. Whenever we were on vacation in Amman, Jordan, I used to constantly watch the Israeli channel -- when my parents weren't around. My favorite was the Israeli national anthem, and I would stay up late waiting to hear them play it at the end of the TV transmission.
Standing there in the university library, this religious Jew, Dr. Block, looked at me and said, “In Muslim law, you’re considered Muslim, since the religion goes by the father. But according to Jewish law, you’re Jewish, since Jewish identity is transmitted by the mother.”
My head started to spin and memories of my childhood in Kuwait began to surface. I recalled how my grandmother had a funny name on her documents, Mizrachi, which I never heard before. She also had a small prayer book with Hebrew letters, and she prayed in the dark crying. (I thought the Wailing Wall was so named because crying was a part of prayer.)
Aside from a vague family legend, my grandmother never mentioned anything about being Jewish -- but now the pieces were fitting into place. I thanked Dr. Block for the conversation, and ran home to tell my roommate what I heard. He smiled and said, “So you're a Mus-Jew!” I was not amused.
I went to my room and called my mother. She rebuffed the story, saying, "Don't listen to people like that. We are Muslims and that's that."

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