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Meeting at a Jewish Synagogue

Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.

I knocked at the dark heavy door but not a sound came from in or out.


What a relief. The sound of silence was something I truly needed right now.

I sat on a bench nearby and just breathed in and out. I have learnt to meditate taking the regular yoga classes at day break for few years now living in India.

“John?” Someone called my name and I jumped off ready to salute. No amount of yoga training could replace the army habits.

“Mr Elayyan?” I shook the outstretched hand of a seriously looking dark haired man in glasses. He smiled nervously back at me and I suddenly realized he can not be older than thirty.

I pointed at the bench and we both sat down while I peeked back at the dark synagogue behind us: “What a place to meet for a discharged Aussie soldier and a Kiwi software developer hey?”

“Well, there is a Mohammed Ali Warehouse behind it but I was not sure how would you take it to meet there?”


He laughed and I straight away warmed up to this shy young Muslim man.

“Atta is your first name right?” I took my laptop out so we could go straight to the business matter we met for but the man next to me did not move for a while. He just sat there staring at plastic rubbish flowing gently in the air around us.

“My brother owns this company, well owned, he was killed recently so my name is Essay, I am just taking over the business.” I looked up at him and shook his hand again: “So nice to meet you Essay and I am truly sorry for your loss, what a tragedy, lost my best mate in Iraq, never got over it truly.”

“I was living in Jordan for few years now, just came back to New Zealand for the funeral.” He nodded.


Keen to change subject I asked how the company I was getting involved with is doing in Jordan.

He looked at me and brighten up again: “In 2016 my brother made a contract with Aramex, the biggest transport and logistics company in the Middle East, and I had a blast driving one of their red vans round Amman to find out what sort of software the company’s couriers needed. The answer was to turn their low end phones into really accurate scanners, so that all their tasks were in one app and one click. It really worked. I just stayed behind to service it all.”

“Your brother must have been very clever and busy man indeed, what a loss for the company and your family I can only imagine.”

“Your brother must have been very clever and busy man indeed, what a loss for the company and your family I can only imagine.”


Essay smiled and touched his round short beard gently:

“The only part of my brother’s life that was lazy was his habit of starting the day when he felt like it. He was not a morning person. Once out of bed, though, he was unstoppable.”

“My best mate was like that too, his name was Yanka, the same as me, our parents were Polish you see, I have changed the name to John cause no one could pronounce it in Australia.” I chuckled: “But he kept it, much more brave than me and then in Iraq some Islamic suicide bomber got him. Bastard.” I spitted next to my feet in a sudden anger: “I have seen his brain splashed on the pavement like a squashed tomato,” I sighed and wiped my tears: “Then you have to go back to Australia and visit his young wife and his two little boys and tell them how their daddy has died.”

“My sister in law, Farah can not stop crying especially when two-year old Aya, she looks like him you see, looks up and asks where is daddy?


She refuses to take off her bib reading: ‘My Dad rocks!’

It is all dirty and smelly but no one can touch it because Daddy put it on her before he went to his mosque.”

“The Muslim religion you see,” I started not knowing how to explain myself without offending this young man: “Well it seems so violent especially for me fighting there it was well my parents are devoted Catholics we believe in Jesus you see and Jesus always preached love and forgiveness not hate and killing.”

“Have you been preaching love and forgiveness while there?” The young man turned to me suddenly in an open curiosity.

I looked at him sharply but there was no animosity in his eyes, just sadness so I sighed:


“I am a soldier, I mean I was a soldier, it was my job to terminate enemy at any cost and I was told who an enemy is, it was not up to me to decide.”

“So theoretically, if Jesus was hiding behind the enemy lines you would shoot him down too if he would be clothed as one of them, not one of yours?” He asked quietly.

I looked at him in surprise: “Probably, an enemy is just an enemy for soldier right? You can not humanize enemy otherwise you go soft in your head.”

We have been quiet for a while both lost in our own thoughts.

“The only regular break my brother took in the week was to go to Friday prayers. He was not truly religious but our father co-founded the Al-Noor mosque next to Hagley Park. All of us go there when in town you see, for family reasons.”

I nodded: “I can understand that, my father built the church in Katowice and every time I visit Poland I go there. I feel him all around me, I am at home with him right there.”

“Our father, Muhammed had co-founded it only a year after coming to New Zealand from America. In Oregon, he had founded another together with Christian and Jewish worshippers there to help the Muslim community to integrate. My mother had offered Arabic lessons to fellow Christians and Jews. They named me Essai, the Arabic for Jesus because they believed Jesus is everywhere around us and in us and we are all part of the one religion.”

I looked behind me at the Jewish synagogue and I patted his arm in a sudden warmth towards this young unknown man:


“Well it seems to me we are in the right place meeting here my fellow kiwi mate, we truly are.”

“So time for business yes?” He suddenly cheered up and I picked up my laptop from my case.

I winked at him: “It seems a family trait to want to grow things fast hey, I am sure Atta would be proud of you, we will continue to grow his company, the Kiwi and Aussie partnership, there is still time.”

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