It was the kind of relationship I'd expected to come to a crashing halt at any moment; our differences were too great, the similarities too few. Yet there I was, leaving my two young children, boarding an airplane to fly nearly 6,000 miles to visit a woman 15 years my senior and a world apart.
Nava Bin Noon is Jewish; I'm evangelical Christian. She has grown children; mine are in diapers. She grew up in Israel and has survived multiple conflicts, including the First Gulf War when Iraqi missiles rained on her home in Tel Aviv; I grew up in the United States knowing war only in theory. Despite these differences, Nava is one of my dearest friends.
What I Couldn't Share
We met when Nava temporarily relocated to the suburban American south. At the time I worked for an educational company, teaching esl (English as a Second Language) and American culture. Her family had moved during the summer, and her teenage daughters were slated to begin school in a few weeks, so they hired me to provide language and tutoring support to ease the transition.
When Nava walked through my office door, the first thing I noticed was her unusual beauty. Dark eyes, smooth olive skin, long, straight, thick black hair—she lived up to her name, which means "lovely." But she seemed nervous, quiet, almost shy. Near the end of that first meeting, she tentatively asked if her daughters would encounter prejudice because they were Jewish. I assured her she needn't worry, although I was puzzled she would ask. In halting English she explained that another cross-cultural trainer had warned her they would be viewed as devils. I was surprised by that comment, but didn't ask about it.1