Jeru-shalom Day: A new vision for peace

This week, I rocked out at one of the strangest concerts I have ever been to. Rav Menachem Froman, the chief rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa and an outspoken advocate for peace in the settler community, decided to host a rock show with two of Israel’s biggest stars, Ehud Banai and Berry Sakharof, in honor of Jerusalem Day. The alternative event was titled Yeru-Shalom, a play on words emphasizing the Hebrew word for “peace” that is embedded in the city’s name.

I got to the concert a bit late. Walking in, I saw Rav Froman hunched in chair wearing a shiny white gown with a huge matching white shtreimel, a traditional Hassidic hat. Standing next to him was Sakhorof, who rocked a stylish button-down shirt with worn jeans as he brought the crowd to their feet with his famous songs. The hall was packed with hundreds of young religious Israelis, dressed in colorful, ragged clothing — the classic settler style.

After Sakhorof finished performing, Rav Froman got up. He said that he was truly honored that his brother was in the audience and invited him to speak to the audience. All of a sudden an old man with a keffiyah walked on stage. Turns out Rav Froman’s “brother” is Ibrahim, a Palestinian Muslim from Jerusalem. Ibrahim and Rav Froman hugged each other and spoke at length about the importance of peace and the real need to love our Palestinian and Israeli brothers in order to bring peace to Jerusalem.

One of the recurring themes in Rav Froman’s speech was the critical role of insanity in Judaism and Islam. Abraham, our collective forefather, was considered crazy for becoming a monotheist. In the Koran, Muhammad wonders aloud if he himself has lost his mind. Peace, said Froman, is a crazy idea; yet with a little effort, we can all be crazy together and make peace a reality.

As they looked at each other, the deep love and respect the two religious leaders had for one other was apparent to everyone in the room. As Ibrahim left the stage to deafening applause, I wondered if they are on to something. Perhaps this crazy peace can one day be a reality.

The evening ended with everyone singing the verse from Psalms 122:4: “May there be peace within your walls, tranquility within your palace.” As we sang and danced Rav Froman took off his big white hat and put it on Ibrahim’s, placing Ibrahim’s keffiyeh on his own head. With both all in white and sporting beards, an outsider would have been hard pressed to tell who was Jewish and who was Muslim.

I left the concert and headed home, not entirely sure what I had just witnessed. Nevertheless, I felt rejuvenated, excited and altogether hopeful. Tonight I am flying back to America after a year of intense studying in Israel. As I leave this country my prayer for Israel and Jerusalem is the next verse in the Psalm, which we also sang last night. “For the sake of my brother and my neighbor, I will say, ‘May Peace be with you.’”

Last night, we sang these words together. It was clear to us all that when King David wrote the verse thousands of years ago he was referring to our Palestinian brothers here in Jerusalem. I pray that our Palestinian brothers and us have the courage and strength to be truly crazy, and to finally attain this insane peace that we both so strongly desire.

About the Author
Ariel Fisher is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently studying for the rabbinate at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and will be working for the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L'Tzedek this summer.