Chicago, IL – A chance meeting at O’Hare airport between a rabbi and a Muslim man, both Chicago area residents, ended with a once in a lifetime photograph and plans for the two families to get together to share a Shabbos meal.
Both Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell and Fatih Yildirim had gone to O’Hare airport on Monday night to demonstrate their opposition to President Trump’s refuge ban. Rabbi Bendat-Appell was accompanied by his nine year old son Adin, and Yildirim by his wife and three daughters.
A photo showing the two men, each holding a child on their shoulders and signs calling for empathy and decrying the presidential ban, went viral after it was posted on Twitter.
“We were inspired by some friends and colleagues who had been protesting the ban and realized that Monday night was a good night for us to go,” Rabbi Bendat-Appell told VIN News. “About 20 minutes before the photo was taken, Fatih, who was live streaming, came up to me and asked me why I was there. I didn’t really know him at all or anything about him but I felt a connection with him.”
Yildirim said that he headed out to O’Hare with his family to raise their voices in protest and to show their appreciation to the lawyers who were providing pro bono services to those affected by the travel ban with freshly baked cookies. Having come to O’Hare right after their nightly prayers, Yildirim said his two younger daughters were still wearing their hijabs.
“We just wanted to go and show solidarity,” said Yildirim. “We started talking and realized that we have similar diets and eat similar foods.”
A short time later, Rabbi Bendat-Appell and his son moved closer to the front of the crowd, and hoisting Adin up on his shoulders to get a better view, Rabbi Bendat-Appell found himself standing shoulder to shoulder with Yildrim, who had done the same with his seven year old daughter Meryem. Rabbi Bendat-Appell carried a carboard sign bearing the words “We’ve seen this before. Never Again. Jews against the ban,” while Yildrim carried a white sign that read, simply, “Empathy.”
“We continued shmoozing,” said Rabbi Bendat-Appell. “It felt very natural. We connected as human beings.”
“I wasn’t there as a Muslim,” added Yildirim. “I was there as a human. I worry about this country. The American institution is being tested.”
The two were approached by, Nuccio DiNuzzo, a photographer from the Chicago Tribune who asked permission to capture the moment on his camera.
Dinuzzo’s tweet showing the unlikely foursome, with Meryem in her hijab and Adin in his yarmulka, has garnered 20,000 likes and has been retweeted over 13,000 times.
DiNuzzo told Time that he shot the picture at O’Hare’s Terminal 5, the busy airport’s international terminal. DiNuzzo said that the two Yildirim sisters in their hijabs caught his eye and he asked for permission to photograph the two girls. He start snapping pictures of Meryem Yildirim on her father’s shoulder when he saw Rabbi Bendat-Appell pick up his son as well.
“It was just a matter of waiting for the moment where I could see them looking at each other,” said DiNuzzo, a photographer at the Tribune for 25 years. “I got maybe one frame of that and that was it. I knew I had the picture.”
Because DiNuzzo’s photo came in too late to make the Tribune’s deadline, the newspaper tweeted it instead, where it quickly made the rounds on social media.
“To me that picture symbolizes peace, showing off the possibility that people can get along and that peace can happen,” said Yildirim. “ A picture like this of a Muslim man and a Jewish man could only happen in America.”
“I feel humbled,” added Rabbi Bendat-Appell. “If this act can bring a bit more hope and love into the world, I feel really wonderful about that.”