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Thread: Co-existence: People: four ways.......

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    Co-existence: People: four ways.......

    “Do you believe in God?” he asks at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. Lurching through a turbulent void of space and time ensconced in blackness, the wacky question to a ‘baby boomer’ (that’s me) is akin to a brat born this century (Generation Z) bugging his granny. As though he’s read my thought he continues, “I am an atheist”. Belief comes up when I mention my trip to the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine. “Ask yourself why your God, for centuries, presides over bloody battles between Jews, Christians and Muslims killing to grab each other’s ‘holy’ places.” My fellow traveller, who counts himself among the 3.1 per cent godless Americans, is dauntingly intelligent. For one, the dude is disarmingly suave, his youthful exuberance as infectious as his laugh. Second, he’s a successful biophysicist and claims to have a patent-pending in his area of specialisation. Third, he’s ‘Gen Y, the Millennial Generation’. Born in the 80s, the 35-something is certain he’ll live to see the next century. “Look Lady, it’s the miracle of medicine. Period.” Awesome, I say and go back to sleep.
    “Anti-Islamic bigotry!” shouted many when the Nobel Laureate wrote Among The Believers, An Islamic Journey. Others showered V.S. Naipaul with overarching praise, placing a halo around the curmudgeon’s head. He wrote the controversial book way back in 1982 but life in the 21st century has produced its own brand of ‘believers,’ not the ‘fundos’ that Naipaul met and scorned, but everyday men and women of varying generations, colours, cultures, context and beliefs.
    Materialism, hedonism, spiritualism, pietism, egotism, health, beauty and wellness form the groundswell of people’s beliefs I meet during my travels in the Middle East. Every single man or woman is the story, a parliamentarian from Iceland once lectured me. “To find it, is to listen,” he continued. At Dubai airport I meet a group of nuns. The group is wonderstruck by a monstrous wall of cascading water. Posing for selfies, they are like spirited schoolgirls, I think to myself. Pray! Why are they not rolling their rosary beads? Instead they roll their cell phones. Hello! Welcome to the Catholic nuns of ‘Generation X’ (born between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s). Totally opposite to the starched-habit nuns of our convent days, stiff as their headwear, striking terror with looks that could kill. These ‘Brides of Christ’ at Dubai airport’s marble, steel and glass mausoleum to materialism showcase the new face of pilgrims on their way to praise Jesus in Jerusalem. Father Matthews, a man of the past century, is so off tune when he says, “It is always inspiring to see a nun out in public because she is out there living her life for Jesus. Having nuns wear habits brings God to others … . And those that live today in doubt or fear can be comforted by the sight of a nun, who is prayerfully serving the Lord.” Yeah! Sure.

    America brands people with tags like ‘Baby Boomers’ (read passé) while the remaining three labels ‘Generation X,Y, Z’ (read passable) are designated as youth, vigour and promise

    Waiting to catch a flight back to Karachi, a slimy-suited man, with shoes so pointed, dangling a diamond and gold Omega that screams out ‘Worship money. I am the nouveau riche!’ continues to make a sales pitch. Opening up his equally ugly briefcase, he waves documents that testify to the real estate deals the fellow has brokered for his clients back in Pakistan. “Properties in Dubai are on fire!” he announces smugly. “So you are the dalal I would need to contact if I want a luxury apartment,” I ask. “Show me the money and your wish will be my command.” Small wonder then, Pakistan has lost an estimated $379 million in the first three months of this year to real estate in Dubai, thanks to my ‘friend’ the slimy-suited man. “You know there’s a lot of black money that Pakistanis want converted to white by investing their millions here,” he says with a wink. Do I think he’s hinting at me? His flight is called and off he waddles away.
    Lady with the selfie stick; Jewish tourists at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
    En route to Amman from Dubai, the British mom sitting in front with her eight-year-old son in the middle and his young Filipino nanny at the aisle is self-absorbed. It’s the nanny who feeds, cuddles, talks to the child. He tries to engage his mother; instead she turns her face to stare out of the window. At the baggage carousel, we make small talk. “I am in pain,” she says as if to explain why she’s getting the nanny to retrieve their bags. The woman is a neurologist; but swears by holistic medicine as the ultimate cure to her chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The pill-popping doctor is on Oxycodone. “I want to get off this narcotic.” Therefore, she’s headed for a luxury spa overlooking the Dead Sea hoping that the rich minerals and salts will calm the inflammation in her body.
    Nirvana, an Arab-Israeli who runs the hotel like clockwork, that too in her high heels! Ensuring that her guests go back happy
    “I can’t eat the chocolates you brought from New York,” Tariq, my driver says. “They have alcohol in them.” That’s incorrect I tell him, all the while thinking what this guy is talking about. Tariq is a ‘Gen Y.’ Born in Israeli-held Hebron, his family moved to Amman when he was a kid. He can never return to his place of birth, less than 50 miles away. “Why would I want to be insulted by the Israeli border police? My allegiance is to Jordan,” he declares as he drives me to the Israeli border. On the way we pass a continuous sweep of majestic flatland encircled with tall snow-white mountains. “These are the plains where the dead will rise from their graves to assemble on the day of Judgement.”
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    assemble on the day of Judgement.”
    Tariq, the Jordanian driver stops for his Friday prayers at the Mosque & Tomb of Prophet Shoaib who is mentioned 11 times in the Holy Quran. He is known as Jethro in the Old Testament. According to Biblical text, he is the father-in-law of Prophet Moses
    Atop Israeli-held Jerusalem’s highest peak called ‘The Mount of Olives,’ I stand looking at the stunning view of the city and its environs, all the while eyeing the tumbling tombstones, in hundreds, on the hill slopes. “This is the oldest Jewish cemetery,” a tubby teen of ‘Generation Z’ arrives to become my unsolicited guide. “On your right is the oldest Muslim cemetery,” I am duly informed. The New Testament tells us that Jesus came here to pray and rest. It was from here that he descended on his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, ‘on the way weeping over the city’s future destruction’. It was here that he gave a sermon to his disciples foretelling his ‘Second Coming’. But the Jews claim that their ‘Messiah’ will descend the Mount of Olives on Judgement Day and enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate in the Old City. “That is why Jews of past generations lie buried on these slopes.”
    “Jerusalem belongs to us; not the Israelis” — Arab-Israeli owners of a falafel place
    The call for zohar prayers floats by as we enter the famous Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It is the oldest university and the best among all universities in Israel having produced eight Nobel Laureates, including Albert Einstein, who is one of the founders of the university. The campus is deserted and students have gone away for summer vacations. I meet a young Israeli research student who is a participant in the ‘New Spirit’ internship project. “We are given practical skills that can help us land jobs in areas like high-tech, mass communication, policy and biomed.” He has already made business contacts through networking. “Next year you’ll find me sitting in a corner office with a window working for a big corporation!” That’s real chutzpah, I say to myself.

    The call for zohar prayers floats by as we enter the famous Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It is the oldest university and the best among all universities in Israel having produced eight Nobel Laureates, including Albert Einstein, who is one of the founders of the university.

    At a Jerusalem hotel check-in, Nirvana, the young Arab-Israeli is definitely a Generation Y. “I’ll make your trip to Israel and Palestine memorable,” she promises. Indeed, she does! The difference between the young and us floaters is the fire in the bellies of the young. They strive for excellence. At a Dead Sea resort on Israel’s side, I meet a floater. I mean literally. The chap, a baby boomer, is idling on salty waters 400 metres below sea level! Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth. His latest wife, half his age and very pretty, sits on the sand, fully covered with a hijab. The aging Arab is an amiable fellow, with four wives. “All men and women have the right to decide how they want to live their lives, with whom, how many at a time and for how long. Monogamy is only a personal choice.” He’s right.
    Mount of the olives: the highest point overlooking the holy city of Jerusalem, shining bright is the golden Dome of the Rock from where Prophet Muhammad (PUBH) ascended to Heaven. In the foreground on the slopes is the oldest Jewish cemetery
    All things considered, whatever the tag our age carries, people are too complicated to label.
    Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 30th, 2015

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