I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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Below me the world turned slowly through the night, unaware of the multilayered geopolitics my coffee-jangled brain was imposing upon it. I could find reasons to forgive Judaism and Islam their present-day sins. Christianity was another matter.
Over and over I have discovered that my children feel alienated in environments where, at their age, I felt an automatic sense of belonging.
“You can’t have freedom of religion without free speech. You have to protect all of it: the Bible and the Quran and my right to say, ‘These books are full of fairy tales.’ ”
If we could have been inside his heart, if we could have been offered transportation from our Jerusalem to his heaven, this is what we might have absorbed: Abkar was not leading us in prayer. He was talking to God while we happened to be behind him, squeezed in so tightly we could hardly ﬁnd places for our foreheads on ﬂawless plush carpet.
My father. He wanted me to become a writer, but when I did, he didn’t like what I wrote.
He hated my first novel and called it pornography: it features lots of teenage sex and masturbation, as well as an unsavory portrayal of a narcissistic and selfish patriarch.
Guru Gobind Singh’s small fort in Anandpur Sahib was besieged by the mighty forces of Emperor Aurangzeb. The emperor, who believed Islam was the only valid, true, and right religion, was forcibly converting Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians. Guru Gobind Singh, however, believed that all humans worshiped in their own unique ways and that all religions, if practiced with love and heart, led to God.
I was wrong. Ismail did, in fact, have powerful connections to the band, connections called “Africa” and “exile.” He understood what I’d failed to grasp: that when he led Aliya up the narrow stairs of the tour bus, he was leading her back to the deserts of North Africa, where those who have been driven from their homes recognize the longing in one another’s eyes, where unexpected guests are treated like nobility and children like family.
I was on a trip back home to northern California — part work, part vacation — and I had a terrible head cold. My research for a magazine article on the wine country north of San Francisco had brought me to a chilly town on the edge of the San Andreas Fault, a place populated by a combination of wealthy tourists, ranch hands, and hippie holdouts.