Tarek: those guys seemed extremely observant
Last week we posted a quote from Tarek's website that generated a heated discussion in the comments area. Based on his quote about Sukkot and other information, many commenters on this site have been asking questions about how Lee and Dan handled certain situations during the show. We strongly believe in gathering facts rather than making assumptions and accusations, so we decided to get further information from a source close to the situation.
Lee is still very much alive on the show, so he's not available to talk to us. Since Dan was gracious enough to answer our questions last month, we decided to reach out to Tarek Saab. We asked Tarek to elaborate - from his perspective - on how Dan and Lee handled the Jewish holidays and other religious issues, and how it was perceived by their teammates.
A huge thank you goes out to Tarek for responding to us quickly, thoroughly and openly.
Here's what he wrote: [passages colored in blue for emphasis by OA]
First of all, thank you for the compliment. I will return the compliment by saying that I think you have a great site. I have visited several times.
I want to preface this e-mail by saying I have a very rudimentary understanding of Judaic tradition, so please forgive anything I say that might seem ignorant (I am in the lower-echelon of Mensa!). Dan (my roommate in the suite) was very clear early on that religious observance was going to take priority over anything related to the show, and he explained this to everyone on Gold Rush. Obviously, I am aware of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but Dan mentioned to me that there were some other holidays coming up that would cause an issue - Sukkot was one. I really respected him for taking the stance and sticking to it. I am religious as well, so I get it.
To answer your questions, those guys seemed extremely observant. Dan was getting kosher packages from home regularly, and there were times when the boys wouldn't speak on a cell phone. If I remember correctly, there were also times when it would be pouring out and they wouldn't use an umbrella or drive in a car. It was impressive, and I am sure there were other things they did that I didn't even notice. Even when we won the Post task and received a gourmet meal from Jean-Georges, the boys wouldn't eat it. (Actually, I ate Dan's meal in addition to mine). Later on in the season, our team would try to order all kosher food for dinner so Lee could get a good meal.
The topic of skipping tasks because of the holidays was very sensitive in the suite. Not everyone was in support of it because they thought it was an unfair advantage. (In truth, it can be a disadvantage as well because you can't prove your worth if you don't participate). As I explained on my website, I was in support of their decision even if they needed to take off additional time down the road. However, this was not the case with everyone. It was NOT an easy position to be in, and if they had taken off more time, I don't know how the others would have reacted. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Some have commented that they had an advantage because they were able to rest while we were working, but if I am not mistaken they were fasting during that time, so it wasn't exactly a vacation.
Dan was fired after the fifth task, so he was able to avoid future conflict. By default, I just assumed that Lee would maintain his stance and observe Sukkot after Dan left. Please understand that my comments are in no way an indictment of Lee or his beliefs or the way he chooses to practice his faith. I am not even familiar with the traditions related to the Sukkot holiday. I was just surprised that the issue wasn't addressed because I knew it was so important to Dan, that's all. I expected to lose Lee for another task. I didn't raise the topic with Lee because, quite frankly, it was none of my business.
I hope this helps. If you think your readers would find this interesting, feel free to post. Let me know if you have any other questions.