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My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, And Hope in the Muslim World

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On the cusp of Ramadan, as the hot August sun was beginning its evening descent ushering in the Holy Month, David Eden, the newly hired "journalist expert" at United Arab Emirates University, stood on the side of the deserted road in downtown Al Ain dripping sweat and hopelessly trying to hail a taxi. As he cursed his circumstance and was about to give up, a battered Corol On the cusp of Ramadan, as the hot August sun was beginning its evening descent ushering in the Holy Month, David Eden, the newly hired "journalist expert" at United Arab Emirates University, stood on the side of the deserted road in downtown Al Ain dripping sweat and hopelessly trying to hail a taxi. As he cursed his circumstance and was about to give up, a battered Corolla pulled to the curb.Could it be insha'Allah, "God's will," that brought him the taxi? Or was it beshert, "Destined to be?" And if that was the case, "Who" destined it?Sometimes a chance encounter can change your life forever. Rarely is it with someone so different and from such a dissimilar world. Even scarcer still is when it touches your heart and soul, and becomes weaved into your life's fabric. But that's what happened when an expat Pashtun taxi driver from North Waziristan picked up an expat American Jewish journalist on the evening before his first class. A narrative of identity, religion, brotherhood, renewal, and trust, David Eden's "My Pashtun Rabbi" is an eye-opening tale of his life-changing experience as an American Jew hired to be the "journalism expert" at United Arab Emirates University during the beginning of a worldwide financial collapse and another war in Gaza. In the days leading up to the 2008 collapse of the world's financial markets, David has just arrived in the UAE to begin his new job at the national university based in Al Ain, an ancient inland desert city situated on an archipelago of millennial-old oases in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on the rugged border with Oman. David was surprised he was hired and wonders what will happen when his Jewish identity becomes known to his students, faculty, friends, and nearly everybody? What would happen when they found out? How would the fact he was Jewish effect his relationships with his students and friends as the truth is revealed?That's the heart of My Pashtun Rabbi, the story about David Eden, a middle-aged American Jew, and journalist by training, who embarks on a journey of faith and redemption that lands him in Al Ain, an ancient inland oasis city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. David's life takes a major turn when that taxi driver, Noor, sees the potential in his passenger that germinates and blooms into a golden bond of friendship. Noor's family lives in the tribal territories of Pakistan, and he rarely has the opportunity to visit his parents, wife and five children. There is something special and different about Noor, and David begins to think of him as his very own Pashtun rabbi. David's journey also takes him inside the world of a prominent Emirati family connected to the nation's royal founding patriarch, and into the classroom where he "pushes the limits" on "allowed topics," and encounters a firebrand female Palestinian student who longs to return to Gaza, who doesn't know David is Jewish until the end of the semester, as a new war with Hamas breaks out in Israel.By telling a story about and through the people David holds dear in the UAE, he is able to weave in political, social, religious and cultural issues. These real-world issues linger persistently in the background of the story and directly contribute to a singular tension -- ''What is a Jew doing living and teaching in the UAE?" "My Pashtun Rabbi" is a timely, in-depth look at a little-known corner of the oil-rich Arab Muslim world through a totally different lens, more human than political – and more about the potential of tomorrow, rather than the turmoil of today. If people can somehow get beyond labels of religion and nationality, and get to know each other as human beings first, maybe we can help transform the world and help rid it of so much strife and discord?


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On the cusp of Ramadan, as the hot August sun was beginning its evening descent ushering in the Holy Month, David Eden, the newly hired "journalist expert" at United Arab Emirates University, stood on the side of the deserted road in downtown Al Ain dripping sweat and hopelessly trying to hail a taxi. As he cursed his circumstance and was about to give up, a battered Corol On the cusp of Ramadan, as the hot August sun was beginning its evening descent ushering in the Holy Month, David Eden, the newly hired "journalist expert" at United Arab Emirates University, stood on the side of the deserted road in downtown Al Ain dripping sweat and hopelessly trying to hail a taxi. As he cursed his circumstance and was about to give up, a battered Corolla pulled to the curb.Could it be insha'Allah, "God's will," that brought him the taxi? Or was it beshert, "Destined to be?" And if that was the case, "Who" destined it?Sometimes a chance encounter can change your life forever. Rarely is it with someone so different and from such a dissimilar world. Even scarcer still is when it touches your heart and soul, and becomes weaved into your life's fabric. But that's what happened when an expat Pashtun taxi driver from North Waziristan picked up an expat American Jewish journalist on the evening before his first class. A narrative of identity, religion, brotherhood, renewal, and trust, David Eden's "My Pashtun Rabbi" is an eye-opening tale of his life-changing experience as an American Jew hired to be the "journalism expert" at United Arab Emirates University during the beginning of a worldwide financial collapse and another war in Gaza. In the days leading up to the 2008 collapse of the world's financial markets, David has just arrived in the UAE to begin his new job at the national university based in Al Ain, an ancient inland desert city situated on an archipelago of millennial-old oases in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on the rugged border with Oman. David was surprised he was hired and wonders what will happen when his Jewish identity becomes known to his students, faculty, friends, and nearly everybody? What would happen when they found out? How would the fact he was Jewish effect his relationships with his students and friends as the truth is revealed?That's the heart of My Pashtun Rabbi, the story about David Eden, a middle-aged American Jew, and journalist by training, who embarks on a journey of faith and redemption that lands him in Al Ain, an ancient inland oasis city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. David's life takes a major turn when that taxi driver, Noor, sees the potential in his passenger that germinates and blooms into a golden bond of friendship. Noor's family lives in the tribal territories of Pakistan, and he rarely has the opportunity to visit his parents, wife and five children. There is something special and different about Noor, and David begins to think of him as his very own Pashtun rabbi. David's journey also takes him inside the world of a prominent Emirati family connected to the nation's royal founding patriarch, and into the classroom where he "pushes the limits" on "allowed topics," and encounters a firebrand female Palestinian student who longs to return to Gaza, who doesn't know David is Jewish until the end of the semester, as a new war with Hamas breaks out in Israel.By telling a story about and through the people David holds dear in the UAE, he is able to weave in political, social, religious and cultural issues. These real-world issues linger persistently in the background of the story and directly contribute to a singular tension -- ''What is a Jew doing living and teaching in the UAE?" "My Pashtun Rabbi" is a timely, in-depth look at a little-known corner of the oil-rich Arab Muslim world through a totally different lens, more human than political – and more about the potential of tomorrow, rather than the turmoil of today. If people can somehow get beyond labels of religion and nationality, and get to know each other as human beings first, maybe we can help transform the world and help rid it of so much strife and discord?

30 review for My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, And Hope in the Muslim World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mary Vogelsong

    A refreshing look at someone who foolishly travels to a dangerous part of the world but defies his low odds of survival, first by hiding who he is (Jewish), then by forming caring relationships with peoples of all faiths before they learn the truth of his identity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jay Johnson

    Like an intricately crafted mystery novel, an engrossing memoir encompasses irony, foreshadowing, and presents an array of fascinating characters who make the reader care. Both genres often present implausible subplots, evoke vivid settings, and transport the reader to an intriguing world. My Pashtun Rabbi, David Eden’s engaging memoir, seamlessly incorporates those elements. He writes a truthful and compelling story that takes the reader to Al Ain United Arab Emirates where he spent a year as a Like an intricately crafted mystery novel, an engrossing memoir encompasses irony, foreshadowing, and presents an array of fascinating characters who make the reader care. Both genres often present implausible subplots, evoke vivid settings, and transport the reader to an intriguing world. My Pashtun Rabbi, David Eden’s engaging memoir, seamlessly incorporates those elements. He writes a truthful and compelling story that takes the reader to Al Ain United Arab Emirates where he spent a year as a journalism professor at that nation’s national university. As the school’s most recent hire, Eden quickly encounters what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. His first class, Computer Assisted Reporting, has only three students and is scheduled to meet in a Women’s Toilet. The university rescinds its promise of luxurious housing, and the first day of classes coincide with Ramadan, which affects his students’ energy because of fasting. Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Eden, however, can be glibly summed up with, “Oy Vey! What’s a nice Jewish man from Ohio like you doing in a place like this?” Fortunately, there is nothing glib about Eden’s story. His marriage was about to end in divorce, and he had been recently fired from his job at a Cleveland television station. (He later wins a wrongful termination lawsuit in which it is revealed that a colleague had continuously made anti-Semitic jokes in Eden’s presence.) As one who had taught as an adjunct communications professor in the United States with impressive credentials at major newspapers, Eden applied to be the journalism expert at the United Arab Emirates University. He hesitated briefly before disclosing his religion on the application form and figured he would not get the job. His candor, expertise, and experience, however, impressed the dean, and the promise of a substantial salary and spacious accommodations lured Eden to a world that most of us will never visit but one we can see through the eyes and heart of a paradoxically empathetic, objective, and impassioned man. A chance encounter between Noor, a multilingual, devout Muslim Pashtun cab driver who has left his native North Waziristan home for a better life and Eden becomes the centerpiece of this memoir. Eden intricately unfolds how Noor becomes his chauffer, his friend, his confidant, and, finally, his Pashtun Rabbi. But Noor isn’t the only rabbi. Eden follows the model of teaching students journalism rather than teaching journalism to students. Rather than simply providing a class, he creates a course; he proposes rather than imposes his will to both his students and, ultimately, to his readers. He eschews Power Point presentations. Despite his pupils’ initial protests, Eden isn’t afraid to cover their assignments with red ink, not to pontificate, but to improve both their writing and their critical thinking skills. While not exactly committing a sin of omission, Eden waits until the end of the first semester before revealing to a firebrand Palestine student that he’s Jewish. Her reaction, and those of others later, reveal so much about the core of humanity. Like all good teachers. Eden does not have to have the last word in discussions, he remedies his mistakes, and he acknowledges that his students become his teachers. Consequently, he earns the respect and love of an influential family of one of them, and through Eden’s recollections and adept storytelling, the reader gets treated to a genuine invitation to experience a fantastically exotic life with an extraordinary Muslim family who embraces their Jewish brother and, later, Eden’s son who flies in from college for a Christmas visit. Exploring the mysteries of human interaction and analyzing complex conflicts create the most powerful tales, especially when they’re not fiction. Eden does both adroitly by amalgamating his experiences as an American, who happens to be Jewish, who chooses to embark on a courageous journey to teach Muslim students more than just how to write. He embraces the culture and people unabashedly, and his infectious enthusiasm rings true throughout the memoir. Protagonists are the heroes or main characters of any story who undergo the most change, and sometimes the readers themselves can become one. Writers who leave it to the audience to decide who fits into that definition make the most impact and teach the greatest lessons. Through My Pashtun Rabbi, Eden allows for us to leave his world and return to ours much more enlightened and humbled than when we first started his book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cyndy

    This book was written by a dear friend of mine. His command of the English language is superior.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rabia

    Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is a book that takes a completely different look into the Muslim world. While most writers show a side of the Muslim world that the propaganda media portrays, David Eden shows a more human and more realistic side of this religious community, one where there is acceptance, love, friendship and peaceful coexistence. He tells his story without meaning to swa Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is a book that takes a completely different look into the Muslim world. While most writers show a side of the Muslim world that the propaganda media portrays, David Eden shows a more human and more realistic side of this religious community, one where there is acceptance, love, friendship and peaceful coexistence. He tells his story without meaning to sway the reader, but to show the other side of the picture so that people can understand that there is still hope and trust left in this world. Going through a divorce and with his son already in college, David is given the opportunity to teach at a prestigious college in the UAE. He enters one of the biggest and most powerful Islamic countries in the world, hoping never to disclose the fact that he is a Jew and just do his job. However, fate has other plans for him. Little did he know that on one fateful day a taxi driver named Noor from the northern part of Pakistan would open doors for him to understand Islam, the culture of the country and how the people live. He got to see humans, not just a religion, and to understand that, deep down, everyone craves just one thing: acceptance. What I truly enjoyed about this book was how the author conveyed his message without enforcing his ideas. I absolutely loved that David talked about people; humans who have feelings. He talked about people without labeling them with anything and it showed that he really gave people a chance to show their true worth to him in his interactions with them. He does not take any sides, he just shows what he encountered and how he felt when he met people like Fatima and Noor, both struggling in their own way to find a better future. The narrative is very strong and the way it is written made the story even more interesting for me. This is a truly exceptional and wonderful book that I would love to read again.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    This is a Goodreads win review. This is a very interesting book about David Dean, he went to United Arab Emirates as a journalist. He is Jewish and he would find out how to blend into the Muslim World . The book has a lot things I never knew anything about and a Culture I know nothing about.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gisela

    --Reviewed for Readers Favorite My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is a memoir of David’s experiences in the UAE as a Jewish man. My Pashtun Rabbi tells the story of David, a journalist, in his own words when he decides to experience a different life on a different continent in the midst of his divorce in America. His son is already in college and David is ready to try something drastically different and so he accepts a job teaching in --Reviewed for Readers Favorite My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is a memoir of David’s experiences in the UAE as a Jewish man. My Pashtun Rabbi tells the story of David, a journalist, in his own words when he decides to experience a different life on a different continent in the midst of his divorce in America. His son is already in college and David is ready to try something drastically different and so he accepts a job teaching in the UAE. He thus narrates his experiences of the country and its culture, how religion and Islam play a central role in everything, his own identity as a Jewish person which he avoids disclosing if he can help it, his close friendship with one of the most affluent and powerful families through one of his students, and most of all, his deep friendship and almost spiritual relationship with Noor, a Pashtun from Waziristan, the tribal area around Pakistan and Afghanistan, who is his taxi driver and one of his closest friends. My Pashtun Rabbi is a very engaging book, as one would expect, since it is written by a professional. More than that though, for me it is the subject matter and content that make it interesting and fascinating. It provides a closer look into a modern UAE, with its supreme oil wealth and affluence in the cities, alongside the tribal traditions and the poverty of the expat population from less developed nations who come here to earn a better living, among other things. I found the up-close look at the lifestyle full of camel racing and expensive cars, etc. to be all I had heard about. It was also very interesting and almost educational to hear of David’s perspective from the point of view of his religious identity of being Jewish in an Arab land. The one thing I do wonder about is, if David’s perspective was naturally—and understandably— limited with respect to female life in the Arab/Islamic countries. Although Fatima’s family seems exceptionally open-minded and progressive, the fact is there is systematic oppression of women in Arab countries of which there is little or no mention in the book. But that cannot be held against David since he naturally would not have free access to the women’s world and their true, inside stories and it is something only a woman would be able to do. Leaving aside this fact, the book is still thoroughly interesting and I liked learning more about the UAE in general and Yemen through this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Please Pass the Books

    My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is the author's memoir of life in the United Arab Emirates teaching journalism in the women's sector at a university in Abu Dhabi. Eden describes the decision making process and the initial confusion. "More pressing to me was the question of whether I had a future. It involved an unsigned contract and a promise of physical comfort, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into this time." As Eden d My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, and Hope in the Muslim World by David Eden is the author's memoir of life in the United Arab Emirates teaching journalism in the women's sector at a university in Abu Dhabi. Eden describes the decision making process and the initial confusion. "More pressing to me was the question of whether I had a future. It involved an unsigned contract and a promise of physical comfort, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into this time." As Eden dives head first into what could certainly be very shallow water, he is immersed in a world so foreign that the obstacles are both terrifying and comical. The hurdles relate to virtually everything, but as Eden finds his way (home, initially, as he's on the brink of abandoning the post), he meets an unlikely friend to help navigate the maze, finding more than just a lucrative job and something to fill his time in the vast desert...Eden, an American Jew in the Middle East, finds himself. My Pashtun Rabbi is a fantastically engrossing autobiography that digs far deeper than any I've read before. David Eden's writing style is reflective of his journalistic acumen; a delicious balance of credible and authentic first-hand experiences with the personal insight only a man who has wandered the desert could provide (a man who isn't Moses, of course). There is something of a slow awakening in this book that I found intriguing. Wrapped up among observation, humor, and a descriptive narrative, Eden peels back the layers with unexpected restraint and emerges with a restored sense of purpose and self. It's inspiring and eye opening, with all the right components to keep a reader furiously turning the pages, and ending on a note that kept me thinking long after I set the book down. Review written for Readers' Favorite.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    David Eden had a crumbling marriage and was out of work in Cleveland when he applied for a job overseas. He applied to teach at a University in the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that he is Jewish. He arrived during a sweltering summer in Al Ain. He met some of the other teachers and administrators. They were promised lodging that was not ready yet, so they were quartered in a hotel. Needing transportation from the hotel to classes, he hired a taxi driver. Noor, became his regular driver, David Eden had a crumbling marriage and was out of work in Cleveland when he applied for a job overseas. He applied to teach at a University in the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that he is Jewish. He arrived during a sweltering summer in Al Ain. He met some of the other teachers and administrators. They were promised lodging that was not ready yet, so they were quartered in a hotel. Needing transportation from the hotel to classes, he hired a taxi driver. Noor, became his regular driver, mentor, spiritual instructor, and lifelong friend. During the first semester, he discovered that none of his students knew he was a Jew and that they believed all Jews were evil. David came to know many people and have exciting adventures during his stay. He made incredible life changing friendships. During my reading, I pictured myself riding along. ( I would not have been as brave) Excellent read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roger Arsham

    It was truly a novel experience reading a book from someone I know from back in the day. All bias aside, I have to say that My Pashtun Rabbi was really excellent. Insightful and heartfelt and very well put together. Excellent job bringing together two very different cultures. Good humor and a very good read. I highly recommend it, whether you’re from Clevistan or not. My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, And Hope in the Muslim World. David Eden It was truly a novel experience reading a book from someone I know from back in the day. All bias aside, I have to say that My Pashtun Rabbi was really excellent. Insightful and heartfelt and very well put together. Excellent job bringing together two very different cultures. Good humor and a very good read. I highly recommend it, whether you’re from Clevistan or not. My Pashtun Rabbi: A Jew's Search for Truth, Meaning, And Hope in the Muslim World. David Eden

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael C.

    A very entertaining and well written book about one person's unlikely venture to THE UAE. David Eden was the perfect person to make the journey uniquely memorable and worthy of being retold. Then, he was the perfect person to convey through his words the deeper, very personal, profound friendships that he was able to build. A truly delightful book! A very entertaining and well written book about one person's unlikely venture to THE UAE. David Eden was the perfect person to make the journey uniquely memorable and worthy of being retold. Then, he was the perfect person to convey through his words the deeper, very personal, profound friendships that he was able to build. A truly delightful book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul Smith

    A well written book about a Jewish professor fitting in at an Arab country and being welcomed by an Arab royalty family.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Eden

    Listen, folks, this is my book and I wouldn't offer it to you to read if I didn't think it was worth your time. Nobody has done a book like this about the intersection of the world that is called the United Arab Emirates, let alone the "journalism expert" hired by United Arab Emirates University, who happened to be an American Jew. s Listen, folks, this is my book and I wouldn't offer it to you to read if I didn't think it was worth your time. Nobody has done a book like this about the intersection of the world that is called the United Arab Emirates, let alone the "journalism expert" hired by United Arab Emirates University, who happened to be an American Jew. s

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tabatha Smith

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice

  15. 5 out of 5

    Howard Wolsky

  16. 4 out of 5

    Martin

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sande Kaskel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura Lowe

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maile Roper

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marvin Hershenson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marsha Davis

  23. 4 out of 5

    Doris Hambuch

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aisha Smith

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janice Boomstein

  29. 4 out of 5

    Irfan Khan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Talha-Khan Aquil

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