On the evening before the last day of Ramadan, I took part in a spiritually transformative experience. My close friend Niv Leibowitz and I, along with eight Israeli Jews and Christians, came together to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. At Iftar (the breaking of the fast) our group distributed dates, water, and snacks to local Muslims near Damascus Gate, wishing our neighbors an “Eid Mubarak.”
Our gesture was met with overwhelming gratitude and warmth from the Muslim community. We were welcomed with open arms, continuously thanked for our kindness and generosity. Not one person refused our offerings. Some offered hugs, others poured of their own drinks to give to us. That night I saw first-hand how respect and compassion truly can transcend religious differences.
Eid al-Fitr is a time when Muslims come together with family and friends, share food, gifts, and good wishes. By joining this celebration, we showed that Jewish and Christian neighbors can come to the inter-communal table in good faith, with respect and understanding, proving that different faiths can coexist peacefully and respectfully.
One of the Muslim men who received the dates and water was bewildered by our presence, asking why we were giving snacks out. The question is understandable, given the decades of fear and suspicion that developed between our communities. I answered: “We are here to spread love and peace.” He couldn’t have been more appreciative of the response.
The message this story sends is clear: In a battered region where religious and cultural differences often lead to violent conflict and hate, acts of solidarity can work to mend our deep wounds. Jews, Muslims, and Christians can all work towards a more peaceful and harmonious future; however, the onus lies on us to take the first step and acknowledge our shared humanity.