Muslims and Jews breaking the fast together- 17th of Tamuz and Ramadan
Until Sunday, I thought Muslims could drink water throughout Ramadan. The idea that Muslims throughout the Middle East weren’t drinking water seemed crazy to me! I’ve fasted for Yom Kippur, but let’s be honest, that’s one day and I lived in New York, so it doesn’t count. I thought of people in Saudi Arabia, how do they not drink water in July?! But then my friend informed me that they can’t have food, or water.
Interfaith Encounter Association held a dinner where Muslims and Jews broke their fasts together. I feel like someone up above made it so that the 17th of Tamuz would fall sometime during Ramadan, so that we could feel the hunger together, and once we eat, feel the happiness together. I walked in and felt at home. Everyone was smiling, so happy to meet one another. Most of the Jews were like me, new immigrants, barely any true Israelis present, and everyone was super nice for people who didn’t eat all day! I made new Muslim friends, we spoke of casual things…
A woman got up and shared her story. She told us what Ramadan meant to her. She spoke in Arabic and even before someone translated what she had said, I felt her. Her passion, her love, her beautiful soul. She told us about how she feels Ramadan is a time for women to stand out. Ramadan is a time when people and families come together to eat. How important the women figure is in the kitchen and in Ramadan (truthfully, she makes an excellent point. My dad always made it clear- The way to a mans heart is through his stomach). She told us how she wishes we could all come to her home in Hebron and promised us an incredible dinner.
Next, everyone began to explain what their Jihad was. Jihad, means struggle, and kind of like a New Years Resolution (in my language), it’s something you decide you need to overcome and fight through this Ramadan. A man stood and told us that his Jihad this Ramadan, was to lose 10 kilos. He was proud when he mentioned he isn’t even half way through the time span, and he already lost the 10 kilos! One woman stood and told us that she receives second hand donations, sells them, and uses the money to feed and help the poor in the West Bank, that was her Jihad. One Jewish girl told us about the importance of the 17th of Tamuz, about how the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem, which led to the destruction of the second temple. It was incredible to see Muslims listening to stories about a Jewish fast, and Jews listening to stories about a Muslim fast.
I spent the evening sitting with the Muslims I never spoke to, and for that matter never thought I would have the chance to speak to, and listened to their stories. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to video tape the entire evening, post it on Channel 2 news in Israel, and show the world, especially Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, how beautiful the room looked. How beautiful it was that we were sitting together, laughing, eating, explaining about our religions, and most importantly, getting along. How we joked about the fact that the tablecloth was red and napkins were blue cause it reminded us of 4th of July, how we each got our plates set up and poured ourselves water as we waited half an hour for the fast to end, as I didn’t even mention I wanted anything and the Palestinian sitting next to me told the waiter what I wanted so I wouldn’t wait another second for my meal, and as we wished our Palestinian friends could receive another permit so they could come and visit us in Tel Aviv next week. As Ramadan ended 35 minutes before the 17th of Tamuz fast, and some Muslims chose to wait an extra 35 minutes with the Jews out of respect. I wish I could have showed them the woman who invited us to her home in Hebron for dinner, how she was excited to speak to Jews, and couldn’t stop smiling when she mentioned her stuffed grape leaves. I wished I could have brought more Jews to see her face light up even more when she spoke to us. I wish I could have showed them what I saw, I wish I could convince them of what I already know…
I’m not sure if it’s someone up above that managed to put these two fasts together on the same day, but I thank whoever it was. For bringing us together when we were hungry, and reminding us that just as we can get through the hunger, we can get through anything. Muslims and Jews, the entire human race, together.