Being Single Across Borders by Elke Weiss, Israel

Tomorrow is my 29th birthday and I’m dreading the kind words. “Soon, be you a bride,” crows my great aunt as I try to keep my smile pasted on. Do they have information I lack? Are they hiding Prince Charming in the kitchen and bringing him out when I blow out the candles? “What will become of you?” says my grandfather, as I blink back tears. I don’t know, I’ll become an old maid and shame to the family? “Why don’t you try online dating?” says a helpful cousin as I ponder why I agreed to meet her for coffee. Wow, why didn’t I think of that? It’s a strange thing but what comforted me the most was a friend I met through the program, Sara Gamil. Sara is a lovely young professional with a great job and a great personality, who shares the joy of being part of a traditional culture that sees being single as a moral failing that must be solved at all costs. Her upbeat personality and commitment to social justice inspires me to remember I am more than my lack of wedding ring. I am a worthy human being.

Even though I’m Israeli Jewish and Sara is Egyptian Muslim, I feel like there is no border between us. We’re both young professionals who want Mr. Right and Career Right, and we want to have it all. We’re just not sure how. That’s the amazing gift of YaLa. It lets people see across divisions. When we strip away the group identifications, we see how similar we really are and how many friends are waiting for us, once we can find our common beliefs. It makes me yearn more for peace, because I want to travel to Egypt for coffee and pastries with her for my birthday. Since I can’t, here’s my birthday wishes:

I wish I could invite all of my YaLa friends to Jerusalem for a Shabbat meal.

I wish for a world where friends can meet up, from Algiers to Akko to Ankara to Abbeville.

I wish for a world where we aren’t separated by politics but united by common experiences.

And yeah, I wish for the right match to all single professionals who are being plagued by family!

So, blow out the candles with me. If we all wish for it and act on it, it will come true.

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