We went to Spain and Morocco over the spring break. I am obsessed with Moorish architecture, with its beautiful tiles and jewelry and paint hues. And I am set on showing my children that the others are not the enemy.
Travel is crucial to this, It upends all the stereotypes we mislearn, and lets us see the beauty of other cultures.
Looking at the castles and medinas that span centuries is humbling, because our country is so new and modern because it was created in modern times, not fixed and patched over hundreds of years.
And we can learn a lot by listening to what the others say.
The tales of times of peace and tolerance are the ones that rouse me the most. The last time I was in Spain, I visited the town of Toledo after being inspired by an El Greco painting I had seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Standing on a hilltop gazing over the ancient city, our guide explained how the Muslims, Jews, and Visigoths lived in harmony for hundreds of years. My heart soared. Peace. For hundreds of years.
There are still signs for the Jewish Quarter in Cordoba, where the processions for Easter filled the streets; and stars of David are found in Chefchaouen, where the prayers from the Mosque can be heard in the square throughout the day.
My children identify as Jews, maybe because I sent them to Hebrew school for a few years and have tried to keep some traditions from my youth alive. But the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ divisions of religion scare me. I want them to get to know people by how they are treated by them, not by what religion they follow. I want them to dismiss the idea that all the others would want to do them harm, because the others they have met have proven otherwise.
Of course, there are plenty of others right here in Brooklyn — and out there in America. I was born in the desert basin of Tucson, Arizona, where we bought fresh green corn tamales from Native American women in front of the grocery store, and fresh flour tortillas from a place on the South side of town, where many Mexican immigrants lived. We drove 45 minutes to Mexico sometimes, sans passports, parking in the lot at the Safeway supermarket on the U.S. side. We passed through the turnstile at customs to get yummy turtle soup for lunch, and to shop for silver bracelets and colorful marionettes, for wooden boxes and leather sandals.
The Catholics reigned in my town, and I went with them to church sometimes. I liked their songs and the way they ended Mass with, “Peace be with you. And also with you.”
My favorite class at the weekly Hebrew school I went to on Thursday evenings at a local synagogue was “Jews and Other Views.” It was the only class where I paid attention, to the Hari Krishna and the Buddhist, the Muslim and the Baptist.
I am so intrigued by other religions, and what different people believe. I have loved raising my children in Brooklyn, letting them learn firsthand about the similarities and differences of people from other cultures through friendships with Australians and Spaniards, Italians and Polish. They go to school with Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists, and Buddhists.
Our travel is a blessing. We find like minds in all places. I hope to pass this legacy on to my children.
Progress happens when we cross borders and hear the things others have to say. And tell them what is on our minds
There is so much for us to learn once we hear the stories.