Palestinians walk next to decorations at the entrance to the compound of The Dome of the Rock ahead of the upcoming holy month of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Old City, June 11, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ramadan is just around the corner and the initiative “Ramadan Nights,” now in its 10th year, seeks to attract more Jewish visitors to Arab areas during the month of fasting.
The event revolves around guided tours of Arab localities in four regions of the country. The tours, open to members of public, will take place both during the day and at night, when Muslims break their daily fast. This is a time of festivity, as they eat and enjoy the company of family and friends.
Ramadan Nights is organized by the NGO Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality – and funded by USAID.
While most events are open to the public, one exception is the opening event. It is for invitees only and will be held next Thursday in the city of Taibe, east of Kfar Saba.
Those interested can register for tours on the website shared-tourism.org.il. Tours provide one or two guides and participants are emailed the location of the meeting point.
Gili Re’i, co-director of the Shared Society Department at Sikkuy, spoke with The Jerusalem Post about what this event means in the context of Jewish-Arab relations.
“I don’t view this as coexistence, but as building a shared society,” Re’i said.
“It is not just about meetings between Arabs and Jews, but an opportunity to become acquainted in a deeper way and learn Arab traditions and customs as well as help the local businesses.”
The program has expanded over the years and Re’i expects this year to have the biggest turnout yet. Last year 2,000 tourists participated.
There are also year-round tours, she added.
Asked about the Arab reaction to the tours, she responded that Arabs are happy with them and that they promote tourism in their villages and cities.
Mazen Ali, a tour guide and organizer from Deir Hana in northern Israel, told the Post that Ramadan Nights promotes coexistence and that for the past five years he has helped organize a Ramadan event with a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim imam.
The event involving religious representatives will be held this year on June 26. Those attending will be invited to an Iftar, or the fast-breaking meal that evening.
Tours of Deir Hana will also take place and Christian residents are invited to take part in the festivities.
“It has been very successful.
Jews come from the center of the country to learn about our culture,” said Ali, adding that he expects around 300 visitors this year. The events are paid for by donations, he said.