But the tension eased when Jarbawi realized that Schaefer was similar to him in many ways. Jarbawi was learning Hebrew; Schaefer was studying Arabic. They were both passionate about their beliefs, but not overbearing. One day, Schaefer walked up to Jarbawi and "proposed we drink a coffee." They talked for hours and promised to help a Brown professor develop a course to promote "dialogue" about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"I told him I'm someone who is extremely honest," Jarbawi says. "I love to discuss. I love to talk. But my honesty is as sharp as a sword. I told him if you're willing to work with someone like me, then I am willing to do the project. He said, 'That's exactly what I'm looking for,' and that was that."
What followed next surprised Jarbawi. He found not only an academic partner, he found a friend. He found a man who was friendly, generous, and eager to hear the other side. Schaefer introduced Jarbawi to his parents (his father, Arthur Gross-Schaefer, is a rabbi) when they visited the campus, and the two talked about getting an apartment together this summer to work on their project. Schaefer had promised to teach Jarbawi how to cook schnitzel.
"He was the first Israeli that I allowed myself to un-clutch my fist to," Jarbawi says. "It's not easy to forget all the misery and tragedy that you had to go through as a child. Childhoods were stripped away before your eyes . . . Now my fist is left open without anyone to join it and that's what hurts me."
Jarbawi attended Schaefer's funeral in Santa Barbara and during the service the rabbi spoke of the special friendship and asked the young Palestinian to stand up. Jarbawi says he felt shy about all the attention and wanted people to come away knowing that, above all, the two students had accomplished something great in their short time together: "Avi, he was my friend."
: This Just In
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