I’m Not a Terrorist, I’m a Baking Student

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FILE PHOTO: Strawberry cake
FILE PHOTO: Strawberry cakeCredit: Limor Laniado Tiroche

For a long time, my dream of learning to be a baker had been baking slowly inside me, at low heat. The temperature rose after I began working as a food photographer. Then I understood the time had come to take my dream out of the oven. Now I’m fulfilling it, fulfilling myself and feeling satisfaction, but also more than a few stabs to the heart.

The reason is simple: I chose to set aside one of the items in the kit I received from the college and leave it at home. It’s a very important item that was supposed to help me realize my dream, and I was supposed to bring it to every meeting of the class. But this item – and it’s not hard to guess what it is – was liable to leave the dream shattered.

A knife in my bag and a headscarf are a combination that could cost me my life in these crazy days. I’ve already stopped walking around with my hands in my pockets, for fear of rousing suspicions. And I surely wouldn’t go out into the street with a knife.

The moment a policeman, soldier or armed civilian saw the knife lying innocently in my bag, he would draw conclusions immediately and get ready to pull the trigger. If the person who spotted the knife wasn’t armed, but who still breathes the tense air of Jerusalem or roams the pathways of social media, he’d make do with shouting “terrorist!” But even in that case, I’m not certain the outcome would be any different.

I don’t walk around with a knife for fear that I wouldn’t even have time to whisper back, “I’m not a terrorist! I’m just studying baking!” I’m afraid I wouldn’t get the chance to explain to someone that the knife in my purse is meant for completely different purposes than those he imagines. This knife leaves only sweet crumbs behind it, and if they are red, it’s only because they were soaking in a pool of stewed raspberries.

I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to explain that I’m studying in a mixed class – of Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, religious, secular, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim. This is a fabric no knife can cut.

When I need to cut something, I borrow a knife from one of the other students, usually a Jewish one. I use it and return it with a big smile.

Every student in our class has his own views and opinions, which he keeps to himself. We share only sweet experiences with each other. In our class there is indeed a knife fight going on, but the fight is over which knife will shape the tastiest dessert.

The course began at the same time as the current wave of violence, and during our first sessions, I noticed several glances and gestures that expressed unease and perhaps even suspicion. But with time, they were replaced by smiles. While in many places, people have trouble keeping their feelings separate from their behavior, our teachers treat everyone the same, fairly and respectfully, even at the most difficult moments.

I’m not trying to describe a utopian situation, because we don’t live in paradise. And I wouldn’t presume to say that studying together to make desserts will necessarily lead to a sweeter reality. But when you learn to get to know each other, to accept each other, to respect each other, to understand the need for self-fulfillment and the frustration caused by its absence, that goal becomes more achievable.

Since it’s impossible to yell out all these penetrating thoughts in less than a second, but no less dangerous to walk around with them buried in your heart while you have a knife in your purse, I chose to leave my poor knife at home and try to realize my dream with a kit that’s missing a utensil.

The author is a resident of East Jerusalem.

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