Muslims join in interfaith Ramadan dinner

Meeting held for Jews, Christians to give Muslims "a chance to share their culture and religion with others," ICCI director says.

Interfaith dinner panel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Interfaith dinner panel 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Interfaith dialogue is encouraged in Islam, but only so long as the interlocutors don’t seek to harm the Muslims “or remove us from our homes,” according to the the cadi (judge) of the Haifa Shari’a court.
“Muslims are told they can be fair and benevolent and connected to those who are not coreligionists, as long as those don’t fight our religion or remove us from our homes,” Iyad Zahalka said on Wednesday in an address on interreligious dialogue from a Muslim perspective he gave ahead of an Iftar meal, the traditional dinner held at the end of each fast day of Ramadan, which began on Monday.
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“I need to find a common ground that doesn’t hurt you, but does no harm to me either. I can’t try to speak with you, with you telling me to leave my home.” Zahalka’s address was the opener to the discussion organized by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim center in Jerusalem, hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Representing Judaism and Christianity on the panel were Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kehillat Kol HaNeshama and Rev. Canon Hosam Naoum of the Anglican St. George’s Cathedral, who spoke about the significance of fasting in these religions, and noted the cross-fertilization of such interreligious encounters and debates.
“We can’t have a dialogue just for the sake of dialogue,” said the cadi. “It must have clear definitions. One of the most important such goals is to know the others. To know that Muslims aren’t blindly murderous people, to realize that Islam is a religion of tolerance, of belief in one god, cooperation, mutual respect, that doesn’t want to take anything by force or coerce anyone into being Muslim. Islam calls for understanding, and unity between the people,” he said.
“We also need to be unified around universal values that respect people, humanity. To give dignity to this life. The unity of family as primary unit, to fight violence and promiscuity, that harms man’s dignity – these are values shared by all religions,” he said.
The point of the meeting, explained ICCI director Rabbi Ron Kronish, was for Jews and Christians “to participate in a Ramadan event with Muslims, honoring the Muslims and giving them a chance to share their culture and religion with others.” Kronish added the additional dimension of the joint learning that took part in the dialogue, where “each of the three religious leaders tried to teach a text, and share their perspective on it.”
A Sufi group from Nazareth and Druse sheikhs from Galilee were in attendance, as well as Rabbi Shlomo Shok, an Alon Shvut resident and member of the Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace) movement, dedicated to promoting direct dialogue between settlers and Palestinians. To Shok, attending such events is important not only to expose members of other faiths to Judaism and Jews, but also for his own spiritual development as a Jew who is part of humankind.
“I need to reach places where there is integration between religions and peoples, to practice in myself the universal movement that a Jew should make, to leave the stance of particularism,” he said, “because the problem is not just geopolitical. When a person entrenches himself in a particular stance, his Judaism shrinks, becomes contracted. Being here for me is my exercise of opening up, as a Jew, to a world that is always so much bigger than how we perceive it.”
“If a Jew would take a stroll in China, or Manhattan, he’d get proportions on the question of belonging, his responsibility; he’d become more humble and modest in his attitude to others, and from that position be able to have greater influence, and give more of himself,” said the rabbi.