Please find below an update from a recent encounter of our East of Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter group, which brings together Yeshiva (=religious Jewish academy) students and young Palestinians. This is another encounter that was made possible thanks to you to your caring and helpful donation. We kindly ask you to continue partnering with us and consider giving some of your end-of-the-year donations to support these rare and essential encounters.
East of Jerusalem Interfaith Encounter group
Friday, November 15 2013; between 9:30 – 11:30
Jerusalem, Damascus Gate
We dedicated this encounter to the Holidays seasons in Islam and Judaism. In Islam we dealt in length with the Month of Ramadan and New Year. The Muslim participants began the explanation of the Holidays by explaining the Lunar calendar and how it works and the fact that unlike the Jewish calendar it is not adjusted to the seasons of the year through leap years.
Followed, the explanation of the Islamic New Year, its origins in the Koran and the ways it is celebrated (including going to each of the female members of the family and giving gifts to each of them). The main part of the conversation was dedicated to the Ramadan – its sources in the Koran and its meaning as the month of the giving of the Koran. We learned that Ramadan is the month in which according to the Koran Muhammad started receiving the book. As a manifestation of subjugation of the believer to the Koran – Muslims fast on this month. The description was accompanied by many stories from the Koran and explanations about its current meanings.
During the long description we, the Jewish participants, were very impressed by many stories and rules that are very familiar to us from Judaism, but also impressed by the differences – in the character of the calendar, the place and nature of the New Year, and of course the different way we celebrate Shavu'ot, the Holiday of the giving of the Torah. We focused the next part of the encounter to describing these Holidays. We began from the calendar, stressing that we too use the Lunar calendar but we adjust it to the Solar one. We continued to the Jewish New Year, describing it as part of the sequence of the month of Elul, the Day of Atonement and Sukkot. We explained that these are days of repentance in Judaism – in which each person takes responsibility for his/her deeds and that when they end, after we worked very hard to repent, God forgives us for our sins. Finally we explained that we too have a Holiday to celebrate the giving of the Torah however we do not fast in it but celebrate happily.
As the encounters unfold we gradually discover that indeed we are all God seekers and wish to follow God's path. At the same time we discover that the two religions have very different ways in doing so. Despite the huge resemblance we are different and each religion has its own path to the truth. One of the participants added that we do not fight due to religion but due to our human nature and it is our task to learn how to do it constructively, how to not heart innocent people and how to direct the religious energies so that they are not hurting and offending but joint uplifting spiritual strengths.