“A Jewish guy walks into a fundamentalist Arab country to teach American politics at a Catholic college,” is how Gary Wasserman begins his book. The decision to head to Qatar to teach American Government at Georgetown University’s Doha campus sounds questionable at best. It is four years after 9/11, during the Iraq war and Israel’s conflict with Lebanon. Relatives, only half-smiling, assure him they will recite the mourner’s kaddish if needed.
When he first arrives in Doha, Gary keeps his faith to himself. Yet who he is proves too important. It becomes a vital part of why he spent eight years teaching in Qatar, teaching students who never met a Jew. Issues arise – from Jewish “power” in America, to countering conspiracy theories about Zionism, to students visiting Israel in defiance of the Arab boycott.
Yet there are simple stories born in the intimacy of the classroom that allows candid exchanges with Muslim youth struggling to find their place in conflicting worlds. Underlying them is one man’s journey of learning and change, offering insights, humor, and hope.