An Open Letter to My Mentor


Dear Hasan, While reflecting on some incredible experiences from my recent trip to the Middle East, I started to think back on the many wonderful conversations we shared when I was your intern. Those talks, and the lessons I learned, continue to resonate with me, especially in my career with an Israel advocacy organization. Some people may find it ironic that extremely inspiring Muslim individuals make me want to be a better Israel advocate. The warmth and courage you and Amna exhibited are traits that we should all emulate; traits that can truly shape relationships.

This winter on Israel Uncovered, The David Project's mission for a diverse group of student leaders, I was given the privilege of translating the words from Hebrew to English for a speaker named Amna. Amna is many things: a woman, a grassroots activist, a wife and mother, a teacher, a practicing Muslim, and a Palestinian living in a beautiful home in Kfar Qara, West Bank/Israel/Palestine.

When I met you, Hasan, in 2010, I was surprised that someone who seemed my opposite on paper was actually the person I best relate to in my life. I think you prepared me for Amna long before we could have known I'd be in her kitchen/classroom.

Remember when we discussed Palestinian identity and narrative and how closed off to their experiences and legitimacy I was? My earlier understanding of advocacy suggested that I deny the other in order to validate myself. You helped me see as a true activist how wrong that was - that two strange and complex narratives can live side by side - even if it's uncomfortable.

Amna told us that land isn't important; you can't take it with you when you go to Allah. What does matter to Amna is education, family, women's autonomy, and peace. She has no room in her heart for hatred, as it doesn't legitimize her family to her detractors. She is the truest social worker I have ever met, and I sat in awe as I translated her words.

Thank you for preparing me for that day.

Salam Alheim.

Your favorite intern,