I spent the best six months of my life studying at the Masa Israel-accredited Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The things I did, the things I learned, the people I met – I will never forget any of it. But one of the things I will cherish most is the friendship I developed with a guy named Ghassan.
Ghassan is a year and a half younger than me but you would never know it. He has Mediterranean skin, shaggy dark brown hair, and inviting dark brown eyes. His smile is genuine and his laughter contagious.
He lived in the building next to mine in the student dorm village, and he was also friends with some other guys I knew. I met him one night when we all hung out downtown.
He wasted no time. Right off the bat, he made me very comfortable and had me cracking up. I immediately felt like I had known him for a while, like we were long-time buddies or long-lost siblings--except for the fact that we weren’t.
No… we definitely were not.Ghassan Jamil Mohammed is one of the fortunate Palestinians who study at Hebrew University. Ghassan knew he was not like the rest.
Like a green apple in a bag full of red, he wasn’t completely different from all the students around him but he also wasn’t quite the same. But he wasn’t angry about it.
I never heard him even raise his voice, unless he was getting really enthusiastic about telling a funny joke.We became buds.
We did our laundry together, got coffee together, had lunch together at the nearby Arab-owned falafel place that so many of the students preferred.
We hung out in each other’s apartments, we got beer together, and we relaxed on towels in the sun together in the quad.
We were great friends who did normal friend-like things together. We also learned a lot from each other in a way that not many friends can say they have.
To call it a unique dynamic would not do it justice. He was a Palestinian who felt slighted by the country he lived in and I was a Jew who had come to that same country to connect with her religion and the overwhelming national spirit.
We couldn’t have been more opposite – at least in that respect.
In many other ways, Ghassan and I were similar. We both wanted a good education, we were both calm and collected, and we were both open and more than happy to hear each other’s opinions on anything and everything.
We had our differences, but we also shared a camaraderie that can’t quite be explained, and many people wouldn’t believe – or perhaps, support – it anyway.
But it was a magical thing and conceivably the single most enlightening element of my time abroad.
Regardless of the fact that Ghassan might post anti-Israel links on his Facebook wall while I proudly share links of Netanyahu’s speeches, we were, indeed, the best of friends.