Yom Kippur & Eïd al-Adha: Once upon a time

Yom Kippur just ended. This year, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar was also the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the most important day of the Muslim calendar. This coincidence has awakened many memories from my childhood in France.

  Once upon a time, when Yom Kippur and the Ramadan….

When I was living in France, for many years in a row, Yom Kippur was happening the same month as Ramadan.

For me, the Ramadan was a delightful time, eating from sunrise to nightfall. I remember my friends who used to bring delicious pastries to school, even though they could not eat them themselves. I remember my colleagues making tea and giving us dates before going home, when the sun was finally setting.

In our neighborhood, Ramadan’s nights were unforgettable moments. Few minutes before breaking daily fast, everything was coming to life. Suddenly, all the doorbells were ringing, all the doors were opening. Parents were sending their kids around to donate plates to all the neighbors, never forgetting our family.

A month of chorba of harira, burek and other delicious dishes. A month where kids were running every day to the kiosk downstairs, to buy the missing ingredients just a few minutes before sunset. A month during which, at home, we didn’t have to buy any food, during which every evening, we were almost waiting for the bell to ring. A month during which the whole neighborhood had this nice smell of coriander. That’s how I lived the Ramadan when I was living in France.

Then was the time of Yom Kippur. Then, for 25 hours, I too was fasting. Since my parents are very secular and because I almost didn’t know any member of the Jewish community in my city, after the sounding of the shofar I was returning from the synagogue alone.

Waiting for my return, my neighbor Zorha would take me to her apartment where she’d keep me a plate of chorba and a burek that she’d prepare just for me, without spicy sauce.  For her, it was out of question to let me break this day of fast by myself. So I was eating with her family, watching with them Algerian comedy on TV. This is how, for years, I’ve lived all the month of Ramadan and the day of Yom Kippur.

As for Eid, it was a real contest of the best cookies of the neighborhood!

This year, the Ramadan is over for some time already. This year, this is Yom Kippur and the Eïd al-Adha who happened to be on the same day.

I don’t live in France anymore. Now, I live in Israel. Before Yom Kippur, like thousands of other Jews, I went to pray at the Wailing Wall (Kotel) — the holiest place of Judaism — for a year of serenity, happiness and peace.

Alas, not far from there, in one of the holiest places of Islam, the latest events do not suggest peace in the near future. Alas, in the heart of the holy city, altercations are increasing.

My memories of a life of coexistence seem far away. I am sad to see here neighbors who insult and curse each other during this time, while remains forever in my mind the reminiscence of some pots of chorba that brought everyone together.

Shana Tova! Gmar Hatima Tova! And Aïd Mabruk to all my Muslim friends!

About the Author
French social educator, Chloe Perla Portheault didn't come to live in Israel because of anti-Semitism but in order to try to understand a country and and conflict that people talk so much about from afar. It's been a perpetual quest ever since.