Reprinted with permission from the Jakarta Sunday Post.

An e-mail came to my inbox about two months ago. It was from Ari Alexander, co-executive director of an organization called Children of Abraham. It's an organization that fosters dialog between young Jews and Muslims from all over the world. This project is based on the Internet, so we can enter the dialog from any place in the world. I've been a member since 2004.


 In his e-mail, Ari, an American Jew, asked me if I was interested in attending the Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, due to take place in Seville, Spain from March 19 to 22. When I read his e-mail, my first reaction was: Is this a joke? We all know there are problems between Muslims and Jews, which cause us to fight and hate one other. I have met a lot of imams in my life and they all agreed that Jews are the enemies of Muslims. They are infidels. We cannot be friends with them. I remember an imam saying in a sermon, "Jews are our biggest enemy. We have to kill them, or they will kill us first." Scary. And now this congress will gather together imams and rabbis and hope they will make peace? Interesting!

I replied to Ari's e-mail immediately, telling him that I'd love to attend the congress as a Children of Abraham student, and see how the imams and rabbis made peace -- instead of killing each other. In response, Ari sent me a list of questions and said the Children of Abraham could send four (of its 147) students to the congress. The list of questions would help them choose the four lucky students. They would judge us based on our answers, so I gave them the best answer I could possibly give.

It took almost a week for them to decide who the lucky four were. I got more nervous by the day. I checked my e-mail every morning and evening with no avail. Finally, on March 3, I received an e-mail from Ari saying I had been chosen to represent Children of Abraham students at the congress. I was speechless and jumped from my chair to run around my house. I was very happy! March 3 was also my 19th birthday and Ari's e-mail was the best birthday gift I've ever had. Later, Ari told me that Children of Abraham could only send two students, not four, to the congress, and they chose me to be one of two. It was indeed an honor for me. I only had two weeks to get everything ready for Seville. It was probably the busiest two weeks of my life, and my excitement grew.

It stayed with me until my flight to Seville from Madrid. I was on the same flight as some rabbis -- an Indonesian traveling alone. When I saw the rabbis on the plane, I suddenly felt hesitant. I'm going to meet the enemy, I said to myself. Will the imams and the rabbis make peace? Are we going to be OK during the congress? Before we landed in Seville, I asked God to fill the hearts of the imams and rabbis with love, so they could share it with each other.

The congress organizer picked us up at the airport by bus. When I entered the bus, I felt like a stranger. The bus was full of bearded old men in black suites, and they were all staring at me, a girl wearing a brown sweater, jeans, sneakers, backpack and a look of exhaustion. A complete stranger. Some of them smiled and some of them gave me a "who-the-hell-are-you" look while I struggled to find a seat. Finally I found a seat beside a man with a white beard and black hat. He introduced himself as a rabbi from Israel. "You should come to Israel someday," he said. "You'll learn a lot of things there. I can arrange a visa for you if you are interested." I smiled at him and thought, a rabbi has just offered me a visa for Israel. Please tell me, God, is this reality or am I hallucinating after a 20-hour flight?

When we arrived at the hotel, we didn't have much time to rest because we had to attend the opening ceremony. I was very sleepy, so I took a shower to refresh myself and prepare for the ceremony. I met Ari and Gul Rukh Rahman at the ceremony. Gul, a Pakistani Muslim, is a co-executive director of Children of Abraham too. I was very happy when we met. I've been working with them for two years via the Internet, and it was the first time I'd met them in the flesh. Ari also introduced me to Yasser Salimi and Pearl Gluck. Yasser is a Children of Abraham student like me, and Pearl is a filmmaker. She was going to make a documentary film of us during the congress. They are my good friends. They knew that it was my first time to meet Jews, so they encouraged me to talk to the rabbis. I was pretty scared at first. Talk to the rabbis? What if they don't want to talk to me because I'm a Muslim?

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