When I came to Canada a little over two years ago, I wanted one thing above all else: not to stand out. Not to be singled out. Not to be made to feel different from anyone else. As a former refugee, I had had many occasions to be made to feel different since leaving my home city of Homs, one of millions of Syrians displaced due to the civil war. The fact that I could live my life in Toronto like any other inhabitant was a miracle I cherished every day. Before Canada, I hadn’t always been so lucky.
So it was with high spirits that I made my way up to York University on the evening of Nov. 20, to attend an event organized by Herut Canada, a Toronto-based Jewish organization. It was hosting members of the Israeli NGO Reservists on Duty, an organization consisting of soldiers who have served in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
I was always interested in meeting former soldiers of the IDF. Back in Syria, socializing with any Israeli whatsoever was the ultimate taboo. But I was in Canada now, browsing through the York University student cafeteria. Syrian President Bashar Assad could take his taboos and shove it. In Toronto, I was like anyone else. I could go where I pleased, when I pleased. And meet whom I pleased.