Acre Iftar meal honors nation’s Muslim citizens

Event meant to "legitimize non-Jewish holidays within Israeli society."

Iftar meal (photo credit: Husam Hijazi)
Iftar meal
(photo credit: Husam Hijazi)
Nearly 600 people of a plethora of religions convened in Acre on Monday evening for a festive Iftar meal, marking the end of that day’s Ramadan fast and paying tribute to the country’s Muslim citizens.
In the fifth annual banquet of its kind, the Abraham Fund Initiatives joined forces with the Acre Municipality to bring together public and religious leaders, businessmen, diplomats and politicians to mark another year of their activities and strengthen Jewish- Arab relations.
Ramadan, which began on August 11, is marked with fasting during the daylight hours, prayers and Iftar meals, and one of the most significant events for a fifth of Israelis. Only a minority of the Jewish public is aware of the Arab population’s holidays, co-directors of the Abraham Fund Initiatives Mohammad Darawshe and Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said.
“The goal of this event is to legitimize the non-Jewish holidays, including Muslim ones, within Israeli society; to promote an acquaintance and respect of the traditions and holidays of the Muslim populace in Israel,” Be’eri- Sulitzeanu said.
“This symbolic event completes the picture of our ongoing policymaking efforts,” Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said. “This is one day in the year to open our hearts and our eyes to the Arab minority in Israel, as well as the story of the Jewish-Arab relationship here. If there is no understanding, the alienation between the groups will grow, and we will never see amalgamation and egalitarianism.”
South African Ambassador Ismail Coovadia told The Jerusalem Post that as a Muslim, he was excited to attend this Iftar meal and meet the varied people attending it.
Acre Chief Rabbi Yehuda Yashar, Archbishop of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee for the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church Elias Chacour and Acre Imam Sheikh Samir Assi all spoke passionately in turn about the common denominators their creeds contain.
“It’s not a command to live together, rather a great privilege,” Chacour said.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman told the Post that “this event is not only to show respect for our Muslim friends here, but also to send out a blessing to Muslims nationwide and around the world.
“For the Jews, now is the time for Selichot [penitential prayers], for Muslims – Ramadan. This is an opportunity to open our hearts and promote a two-state solution, while providing full civil equality to the Arab citizens of Israel,” he said of the upcoming renewal of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Braverman also noted the groundbreaking allocation of NIS 300 million to promote higher education among Arabs and Druse, which is set to increase their numbers in universities and colleges by 9,000 over six years and help them stay in school until they get their degrees.
Braverman praised Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prof.Manuel Trachtenberg, chairman of the Council of Higher Education’s Committee for Planning and Budgeting, for the move.
About a third of Acre’s nearly 50,000 residents are non-Jews. On Yom Kippur 2008, violence between Muslims and Jews broke out there.
“There will always be extremists, from both sides,” Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri said of the riots during his address. “If we don’t get the better of our differences, hate will get the better of us.”