By Vikki Ortiz Healy, February 1, 2017, published in the Chicago Tribune

Meryem Yildirim, 7, left, sitting on the shoulders of her father, Fatih, of Schaumburg, and Adin Bendat-Appell, 9, sitting on the shoulders of his father, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Apell, of Deerfield, protest President Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee order at O’Hare International Airport on Jan 30, 2017. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)

A Muslim and a Jewish father had never met before bringing their children to O’Hare International Airport Monday to join in a protest of President Donald Trump‘s immigration ban. But after a photograph showing their son and daughter interacting went viral, they decided to bring their families together next week for dinner to celebrate peace.

As of midday Tuesday, the photograph taken by Chicago Tribune photographer Nuccio DiNuzzo and shared on Twitter by @ChiTribPhoto had been retweeted by other Twitter users more than 16,000 times. The two fathers said they have fielded calls from friends, acquaintances and national news outlets wanting to hear their story.

“It all happened pretty quickly,” said Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, of Deerfield, who lifted his 9-year-old son, Adin, onto his shoulders Monday night when the boy asked for a better view of the crowd there to protest Trump’s executive order that freezes entry of all refugees for 120 days and blocks entry for 90 days of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

At about the same time, Fatih Yildirim had lifted his 7-year-old daughter, Meryem, onto his shoulders because she was getting tired of standing.

Adin was wearing his kippah, or yarmulke, while holding a sign that read “Hate has no home here.” Meryem wore her black hijab while holding a sign that said “Love.”

DiNuzzo, a Tribune photographer for 25 years who had been assigned to capture images of Monday’s protests, said the scene immediately caught his eye.

“I thought, ‘This is too good to be true. I’ve got a Muslim kid on one side, I’ve got a Jewish boy and his dad — all cute kids,'” DiNuzzo said. “I knew that this was an important picture to make.”

But because the children were young and didn’t realize they were being photographed, DiNuzzo said they were fidgeting so much with the signs he wasn’t sure he’d be able to catch them in focus. Finally, when the dads turned to each other in conversation, the signs 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.”

Bendat-Appell brought his son to the airport after his weekly swimming lesson to help show the boy how to stand up for what they believe in. The boy’s maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who spent time in refugee camps, Bendat-Appell said. And as a rabbi at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in New York, Bendat-Appell said he believes strongly in using history to guide actions.

“Our tradition is not ambiguous about remembering our history for the sake of acting out in this world today,” he said.

Yildirim, a store manager from Schaumburg, had come to the airport with his wife and four children to bring cookies to the lawyers offering pro bono services to immigrants that had been detained.

“I told them they are the real heroes here,” said Yildirim, who, along with his family, joined the protest as lawyers munched on his wife’s homemade chocolate chip sweets.

Neither of the fathers know what their children said to prompt the huge grin on the boy’s face in the photograph, perhaps because they were engrossed in their own conversation about where to find a good kosher steak house and other pleasantries, they said.

“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.”

When the children jumped off their father’s shoulders, Adin happily approached the little girl and asked her name. Meryem, a bit shy, managed a “hello” before the fathers exchanged phone numbers.

When they started hearing from hundreds of friends and acquaintances, they texted each other, in awe of the way the small moment became momentous.

As the response grew, they spoke on the phone and finalized plans for a Shabbat dinner at the Bendat-Appells’ 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,” he said.

Read the original article here.