Issue 05/24

Love Waits Patiently at the Doors of Our Hearts

Noor Khatib-Thorn

I was born in Syria and brought up to regard Jews as enemies. My mother is Syrian and my father was Palestinian. His family had to leave their home in Jerusalem in 1948. They moved with their eight children to Egypt and then to Syria. I remember holding the key to their house in Jerusalem in my hand, it lay sadly yet patiently hopeful in the drawer of my grandfather's desk in his new house in Damascus. I also remember being very angry when my grandmother used to tell me about her home in Jerusalem, a heavenly place, surrounded by playful children all around the house, surrounded by bright orange trees, hand-embroidered clothes and a smell of cookies baked with oregano, the smell of my grandmother's kitchen, a smell of home. I also remember well that my father always had a hurt voice when he talked about his home, how he would sit on the steps of the Al-Aqsa Mosque waiting for his father to finish his sermon, and I could always see him with tears in his eyes when he encouraged me to record tapes like a reporter reporting the news of free Palestine to the whole world. Yet I sometimes dared to ask him: «If I had been on the other side, would I have hated all the Palestinians?» He always got angry when he said we hadn't taken their homeland. Although an inner, quiet voice was not happy with the idea of two sides, I could understand his pain. As a teenager, I wanted to fight for my country and applied to the army in Lebanon because I thought I wanted to die for Palestine. The man in charge knew my father and my application was rejected. Although my mother is Syrian, my friends at school called me the Palestinian, and when I came to Germany 27 years ago, the immigration officer wrote «homeless» on my documents because I had a Syrian travel document for Palestinian refugees.

I have always wondered what home is. As a half-Syrian, half-Palestinian English teacher at the Intercultural Waldorf School in Mannheim, I talk to my students, who come from different parts of the world, about home. We haven't found a clear answer yet, but we know that home can also exist outside our physical world. Some said that sometimes their house does not feel like a home, and if they have fled from war, their country does not feel like a home. One student defined home as follows: «Home is the place inside me where I come to rest at the end of a busy day.» When the tenth graders read the biography of Nelson Mandela, they all pay tribute to the soul of a man who emerged after 25 years in prison with a call for reconciliation and forgiveness. When the eleventh graders read The Freedom Writers Diary, we talk about breaking the cycle of hate. I start by telling them how I broke the cycle. I do not harbor hatred against Jews, I do not harbor hatred against Israelis. I strongly disapprove of injustice and the quiet voice of that little girl I once was then becomes loud and confident: There are not two sides, there is only one side, and that is the truth. You cannot force the truth, the truth is love and love waits patiently at the doors of our hearts. I am convinced that the fight against injustice begins by listening carefully to the voice in our hearts. As Gandhi wisely said: «In a gentle way you can shake the world.»

It is a privilege for us Waldorf teachers to convey knowledge that goes beyond the intellectual realm and reaches the core of our students' hearts. At the same time, we gain profound insights from the purity of their hearts. In our contemporary era, my students do not advocate the idea of war as a viable solution. I often think that my students are so wise that if they ruled the world, peace would prevail.


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