by Meredith Rothbart, K4P Director of Development
Every now and then, those of us living in Jerusalem are reminded of our similarities and not just our differences. Just recently we commemorated the miracle of when Abraham went to sacrifice his son and sacrificed a (ram/lamb) instead. While the religions may differ on the interpretations (Isaac or Ishmael) and on the method of commemorating (Shofar or Sacrifice), one important point stands out: we share a history together. Sitting in synagogue with my family on Rosh Hashana listening to the Torah portion about Isaac’s sacrifice, I couldn’t help but think about all of my Muslim friends preparing for Eid al-Adha, commemorating their interpretation of the same event in their religious tradition. This past week in synagogue again, it warmed my heart thinking of my Muslim neighbors on their holy day in the exact same moments that we were pouring out our hearts to G-d for our holy day.
After a summer full of racism and clashes, many Jerusalem NGOs and even government bodies and police forces were concerned that this religious overlap would lead to violence. Campaigns went viral on social media, public street posts, and even on a few public busses. The message was simple: let’s not take our differences in commemorating this important story and turn it to violence. This overlap in religion, tradition, and culture can be seen as a call for us to recognize our similarities and respect the shared aspects of our dual narrative.
This image (posted by New Israel Fund) shows a Muslim man praying on the left and a Jewish man praying on the right, highlighting the similarities of the two men’s dress and prayer. The note in Hebrew and Arabic reads:
“Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha: Give Respect, Practice Tolerance.”
While peace doesn’t always make the news, I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that despite all of the concern, no violence broke out. In fact, youth from both sides shared in the real Israeli tradition of turning Yom Kippur into national biking day because all of the streets are closed to cars.
Personally, while walking my baby home from synagogue for her mid-afternoon nap, I saw a swarm of about 30 young Palestinian teenage boys riding their bikes through the bus lane. My immediate instinct, as opposed to this past summer when I was constantly filled with fear, was to rush ahead and make sure to pass by in the middle of them and take a good look at their faces. I was hoping to see some Kids4Peacers among the crowd, because they were headed toward a village where we have many families. Though I didn’t recognize any of these particular youth–it did bring out an intense realization for me. I wasn’t scared of the other. After all of the horrible violence and clashes and racism this summer, somehow things died down for real. Just over two months ago, I was terrified to even go into the Kids4Peace office, as Rebecca mentioned in an earlier blog. Now my gut is to join together.
Something about the holiness of the day brought us a all a bit of peace. What young mother dives with her baby into a group of teenage boys of her so called “enemy”? A young mother who knows that those that those boys are not her enemy. One who refuses to be enemies. One who knows the other, recognizes dozens of families from their village, one who hopes in the midst of her holiest day of the year for the opportunity to wish them a friendly greeting on one of theirs.
Sometimes it is nice to report on peace. We in Jerusalem, at least on this one day, experienced a sense of mutual respect and shared holiness. May we all learn from this that it is possible. Together, peace is possible.