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These Kids Have Two Religions, But One Common Message

Photograph by Twitter

The story behind this viral photo is a heartwarming example of celebrating peace. As many have shown up at government offices and airports in protest of President Trump's executive orders on immigration, some parents have been bringing their children with them. Two Chicago-area dads—one Jewish, one Muslim—decided to take their children to O'Hare International Airport with signs in tow to make their voices heard.

In the photo, the dads held their children on their shoulders. The Muslim girl, Meryem, 7, holds a sign that says "Love Love" and the Jewish boy, Adin, 9, holds a sign that says "Hate Has No Home Here."

Meanwhile, their fathers also hold signs of protest: Fatih Yildirim holds "Empathy" and Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Apell holds "We've Seen This Before. Never Again. Jews Against the Ban."

The two men had never met before bringing their children to the O'Hare protest on Jan. 30, 2017, where their photo was taken by Chicago Tribune photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo. From there, the photographer shared the photo on Twitter and it has been retweeted more than 16,000 times.

And now, the two suburban families—the Yildirims of Schaumburg and the Bendat-Apells of Deerfield—have decided to bring their two families together next week for a dinner to celebrate peace.

So how did this unlikely but wonderful photo happen in the first place? Here's the full story, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"It all happened pretty quickly," said Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Apell. He describes the initial scene: He was there with his 9-year-old son, Adin, who asked for a better view of the crowd that was protesting Trump's executive over freezing entry of all refugees for 120 days and blocking entry for 90 days of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

He lifted the boy onto his shoulders and, at about the same time, Fatih Yildirim lifted his 7-year-old daughter, Meryem, onto his shoulders as well. She was tired of standing.

The young boy, wearing his yarmulke and holding the "Hate Has No Home Here" sign, and the young girl, wearing a black hijab and holding a "Love Love" sign, immediately caught DiNuzzo's eye.

But that photo wasn't initially easy to capture, DiNuzzo explains. Since the children were young and had no idea that they were being photographed, they were fidgeting so much that the signs were difficult to read, and DiNuzzo had trouble catching them in focus. Then, finally, the two dads turned to talk to each other and the photographer had his chance with signs that were visible enough.

"I knew I had my shot of the night," DiNuzzo said. "This is what it's all about. It's about human beings being together in harmony."

The story goes beyond just the photo, however, as both families were there to support the protest for different reasons. Rabbi Jordan brought his son to the airport to show him how to stand up for what they believe in, a cause which the rabbi strongly believes in because the boy's maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who spent time in refugee camps. Meanwhile, Fatih, a store manager, had come to the airport with his family to bring cookies to the lawyers who were offering pro bono services to the immigrants that had been detained.

"I know the tension between the Jews and the Muslims. People think we hate each other. But we're not fighting. When we come next to each other we can have normal conversations," Yildirim said. "We can promote the peace together."

The fathers exchanged phone numbers, and promptly texted each other when they both started to hear from hundreds of friends and acquaintances as the image went viral. The small moment had now become an iconic photo—now a momentous sign of hope.

The families have now finalized plans for Shabbat dinner at the rabbi's home next week.

"I just feel like if this picture, in some small way, can bring a bit more light and love into the world, I'm so happy about that," the rabbi said.

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