Not long after the Hamas attack on Israeli citizens of Oct. 7, Redmond resident Karim Bouris, who claims “100% Palestinian, 100% Lebanese and 100% American” descent, came to the Source Weekly with an interesting proposition: An interview with himself and his friend Jordan Schiff, who grew up in a conservative Jewish family in the South, where they’d explore their friendship from what might be construed as “opposing sides.” We took Bouris up on the offer and raised him one, bringing the pair onto a recent episode of the Bend Don’t Break podcast. Find that episode among our podcasts at bendsource.com, and read an edited excerpt of the conversation below.
Karim Bouris, right, of Palestinian and Lebanese descent, and Jordan Schiff, left, raised in a conservative Jewish household in the American South, are two friends from Redmond who’ve had a host of meaningful conversations since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel.
Source Weekly: Let’s start at the beginning and talk about where you both were on Oct. 7.
Karim Bouris: This is actually quite fascinating. So Jordan and our wives and myself, we’re new friends. We went camping finally for the first time and we had no cell reception in a random act of luck, dumb luck. My wife gets a ding on her phone and it’s a new alert from “The Washington Post” about Hamas’ attack. And in that moment — here I am looking at a new friend who I knew is Jewish and I don’t even know if I can say that to him like ‘Hey, did you see this?’ because I’m devastated. I’m crushed. I’m dying inside and I’m supposed to now just like talk about what are we going to make for lunch together?
I didn’t know if he knew, and we just didn’t talk about it for three weeks. We just wrapped up the trip, came home and didn’t talk. For about three weeks, right?
Jordan Schiff: Yeah. Yeah, and for three weeks I kept asking myself whether I need to reach out to him and I didn’t know how, because I had to do a lot of thinking about, what am I really feeling, right? How do I want to show up? What do I do?
We got back and found out — we’re catching up on the news. I’m feeling all these feels, right, and then Israel starts its retaliation within that first week. I mean, it was almost immediate, right by the time we had gotten back pretty much it had started.
I’m Jewish and I know about his heritage, and I know that he’s feeling confused and scared and things like that, and I wanted to reach out. When I eventually did it was when I was camping again for the eclipse, which was I think a couple weeks later and I texted him and I said — this is maybe after one or two texts that said like hey, hope you’re doing all right, right — where I didn’t expect a response, but then I texted him and said. ‘Hey, you know, I went camping this weekend. I thought about you. I hope you’re doing well. These are some things that are on my mind. Here’s an eclipse playlist I made on Spotify. I’d really love for you to add some music.’ I’m Jewish and I know about his heritage, and I know that he’s feeling confused and scared and things like that, and I wanted to reach out. —Jordan Schiff
KB: I don’t know that I could have asked for a better friend who understood — didn’t judge for that, and when we did get together it was because of the sense that I am feeling an isolation. It’s a story that I am telling myself in my own head.
I have a group of friends, and so the best thing I can do is — we Middle Easterners do really well — which is let’s get together and eat. And that’s what we did. I sent a text to our whole group of friends in Redmond. It was four couples, and it just said how about this Sunday we just all bring something to share, and it was fantastic food. Everybody came and what we learned, and I think the dynamics of that conversation were such, that everybody was hurting in some way or another. It wasn’t just Jordan; I think we lead the conversation because we are so deeply by identity and history and story hurt by this and affected by this, but as our friends started talking, they all were experiencing a level of pain and isolation that this gathering helped them share. And so I think that’s the story — that since then we’ve seen happen over and over and over across Central Oregon and Bend in friendships.
I was just joking with you, Nicole — ‘Did you know there are four other Palestinians in Central Oregon?’ I didn’t until this happened, and now I have four other Palestinian friends and that’s fantastic. So, I want to see the light in these moments.
Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. You can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oas