Salam Neighbor – Hello Neighbor

1001Media Mohab Khattab Salam Neighbor leaving for Jordan to film

I just dropped my Mojo off at the airport.  Carrying two extra bags of winter clothes, he is on his way to Jordon.

His first stop is Amman to meet American filmmakers, Zach Ingrasci, Chris Temple and Sean Leonard, the creators of  Living on One.  They flew in from California.


Zach and Chris want to say “Salam Neighbor” to the 570,000 Syrian refugees.

On January 19th, he will drive them and their Jordanian translator, Ibraheem, north, five miles past the Zaatari Refugee Camp, to the Syrian/Jordanian border.  There, in the middle of the wintery desert, he will drop them off, and they will walk away with the clothes on their back and a camera.

You might be asking, “What kind of evil plot is he involved in?”

The Jordanian government and the UN have given Zach, Chris, Sean, and Ibraheem permission to become a refugee for the next month.  Like a half-million Syrians, they will walk away from the bombs to the the fourth largest city in Jordan, the Zaatari Refuge Camp.  Joining the long-line, they will be checked in, given an UNHCR tent, a ration card and, maybe, a blanket.  Sean will film everything and post to YouTube.

Why have they given this opportunity when international reporters have not?

Because these extraordinary, twenty-somethings proved in Living on One that they are willing to take themselves out of their comfort zone and live in unimaginable circumstances.

The state of Syria is currently unimaginable.  And the refugees keep crossing into Jordan.  No one knows how or when it will end.  No one knows what these young men are going to encounter.  Security measures have been put into place but Zach and Chris want the full experience: getting tossed out of their home; crossing a border; and setting up a new life in a UN refugee camp.

Salam Neighbor is not just a film, but a social action campaign.  Generous donors will give $1 for every Facebook LIKE.  The funds will be distributed between UNHCR, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee

On January 19, they will leave Amman and journey north.  Zaatari will be their home-away-from-home until just after Valetine’s Day, February 15th.  

I invite you to stay abreast of how Zach and Chris fare during this winter. They are already tweeting @livingonone and put up blogs on their website.

You can participate by sharing Salam Neighbor on your FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts.  And in your nightly prayers, send your wishes for Salam to the Syrian refugees and their Jordanian hosts.


What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach have just launched Salam Neighbor.

They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach will live alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!


The Majlis – Public Salam

In Arabic, majlis means a place for sitting.

In the Gulf, all important or connected people have a majlis, a ring of chairs that is opened for anyone to enter and sit with the King, the business man or the esteemed, religious leader.  Upon entering, you are expected to walk around the entire gathering and great everyone individually before taking your place at the end of the line.  One by one, each visitor gets an opportunity to chat with the host.  It is a kind of town meeting where congratulations are given, grievances are expressed or issues discussed.

Of course, fitted for a King, a royal majlis is grand.

But anyone can create a majlis.

majlis one bench by side of the road by eva the dragon

It starts with a bench set along the street or in any open spot.  Someone sits down and calls out, Salam a lay kum – “PEACE be upon you” – to the passerby.

Like Jesus in John 20:19, the receiver responds with “PEACE be with you” – Ah lay kum a Salam.

Greeting someone with PEACE clears the air of any shared negativity.  Without any animosity or grievances, a second chair appears because now there is space for a conversation.

Shlow-nik is the local greeting after Salam.  Like a mood ring, the majlis holder literally asks, “What is your color today?”

I interpret the greeting as a way to express feelings without actually calling them forth.  An unpaid psychiatrist, the listener does not have to engage in the situation.  He lends an ear and responds with haram, masha al’lah or mabruk confirming his understanding of the situation, but leaving all solutions and graces up to God.

Tea, sweets or whatever is on hand are offered because the next part will take awhile.

The conversation expands outward to others in your sphere of influence.  How your children, your mother, your father, your great-aunt, and how all the extended relatives are fairing must be addressed.  To a 21st century Westerner accustomed to getting down to business, it feels like a lot of time is wasted talking about irrelevant people.  But to the Arab, our lives are intertwined with our family, our tribe.  Meeting one is coming into contact with the entire tribe.

It is only after we understand the other’s state of mind and their current family situation and after any physical discomfort caused from hunger or thirst has been eased that we are ready to discuss Matters.

majlis with satellite dishes dragons rabbits and roosters

In the village near our house,  over several weeks, I watched a man create a majlis.  It started with two plastic chairs set up in the vacant lot across the street from his house.  An old sofa was added, then a second.  An extension cord was pulled across the street to run a popcorn maker.  A third sofa appeared and because it was summer, a large fan.  It only took a few weeks before a satellite dish was added and outdoor lights.  Despite the nearby altercations between the villagers and the police, nothing was ever covered or stolen.  It was a majlis.

Last summer in the USA, I noticed people living in beach towns created outdoor majlis.  In my grandparent’s small, Mid-Western town, the unfenced, front yard and porch was the equivalent.

A majlis can only exist where there are no walls, and someone invites you to sit in Peace.


Tales by Chapter

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