It seems as though hardly a day goes by without an interesting visitor or group. Yesterday, there was a young writer from the United States who is doing a piece on art and politics in the Middle East. She apparently writing for the NY Times. I am impressed, she seems hardly out of college. But she seems quite astute. She mentions that she is from the Boston area! Turns out, she went to U. Mass. Amherst and to Brown. She has been travelling and interviewing all kinds of people in Israel and the territories, expects her story to appear in a couple of weeks. I am a little surprised, because the Times did a story about collecting Arab art that featured the gallery quite prominently, just a few months ago, in March. That will be great, if there is another story in the Times that mentions the gallery, especially as they are getting ready to launch the American "Friends of " the gallery organization, in NYC, next year.
Yesterday was Eiman’s birthday. She is the most modest and conservatively dressed of all the staff the most serious (except when singing children's songs at the day care center.. She is engaged, and yesterday Mohammed, her fiancé (a different Mohammed) gave her a diamond ring. She was beaming and showing it off. I asked if it was an engagement ring, and she said, no, he had already given her an engagement ring, this was a birthday ring. He also had given her a huge basket of mostly purple flowers.I had asked earlier if Eiman and Layla wanted to do English that day, fully expecting them to say no. But when I came into the office in the afternoon, they were both folding scarves, the ones Halima uses with the children. They looked very appealing in the basket, and they invited me to join them. So the three of us sat on the floor, folding scarves and putting them in a basket, and talking. Folding the scarves had been Layla’s idea, and a good one. Before then, they had just all been stuffed into a couple of plastic bags.
I decided that this was my chance to bring up my curiousity about wearing the hijab. Their first answer was the standard “it’s an individual choice.” But I prodded a little further, saying I understood that, but I didn’t understand what made someone choose to wear or not wear one. I was hoping they’d talk a bit from a personal perspective. I think we have a very good relationship at this point, and felt comfortable asking. And it seemed an appropriate time, while we were folding the scarves.
I mentioned my interest in knowing that Halima just started wearing one a few years ago. And I said one thing that puzzled me was that some women wore the hijab but also wore lots of makeup, which seemed to me to be a contradiction. At that, both young women got quite animated, saying they didn’t understand, either, how people could do that, it was just wrong. Both Eiman and Layla, who doesn’t wear a headscarf, were quite in agreement about that. But it goes beyond makeup. Lots of women wear fancy scarves, and some use special fancy pins to anchor them. I would just love the opportunity to sit down with someone or several women and discuss what wearing the headscarf means to them. Generally, married women wear them, and unmarried women have the choice.