11:30 pm, Berlin, Wednesday night.
Daniel is in town from Jerusalem.
After a saddening discussion about world politics we leave the house.
For a few moments we remain silent. Rain soaks through my jacket. I wrap my arms around myself. The sidewalks are empty. Where is everyone? The only people we pass are an old lady with her dog and a couple making out in a corner. No cars either. For today Neukölln has fallen quiet.
We make our way on to Flughafenstraße. My mind zooms out. The aftertaste of our conversation is bitter and scary. Threats, stabbings, bombs. World War III? I swallow and search my head for happier thoughts.
Daniel's voice brings me back to the moment. He has started to sing. Quietly, softly. I am surprised at the sound of his voice. He must be trained. His singing is gentle yet clear.
Once he notices my listening he interrupts himself, “This is a Shabbat song”.
Then he continues, louder than before. His expression while forming the syllables looks like he is stroking his favorite pet, or tasting his favorite dish. His smile narrows his eyes and deepens his laughter lines. I ask him to stand still for a moment. I want to listen, only listen. I close my eyes. My arms release their wrapping. I rest my hands in my pockets. They feel warm.
Daniel’s singing style, the words, the feeling he puts into it take me back to the calm of the Old City in Jerusalem. Lightness. Wideness. Silence. I remember the way the sun shone on my face while strolling through the narrow alleys. Then another image pops up in my head: My confirmation, the moment when the minister laid his hands on my head and said a prayer. It is like Daniel’s song is blessing me. I get goosebumps on my arms. My collarbones tickle.
When I open my eyes I see someone passing behind Daniel. The person wears a long, black coat and a headscarf. It is a Muslim woman. She pauses and looks at us. For a moment she listens. There is a smile on her face.
A thought strikes me: Three houses down the road there is a Stolperstein, reminding passers by that a Jewish person lived in the building before being killed in a concentration camp.
75 years ago this would have been impossible. A Jew singing a Shabbat song on the street in Berlin would have resembled his death sentence. Today he enchants a Christian and a Muslim with his song. For a few bars the three of us are connected. I swallow again, this time choked up.
Daniel takes my hand. We dance in the rain.
Maybe peace is not so difficult.
Read about our initial encounter here.