Ramadan nights

Perhaps efforts by Shared Tourism, can serve as a model for the shared society we must continue to strive toward.

Another Ramadan evening begins in Kafr Kasim (photo credit: ILANIT HARAMATI)
Another Ramadan evening begins in Kafr Kasim
(photo credit: ILANIT HARAMATI)
In the courtyard of a residential neighborhood in Taiba last week, friends old and new feasted under the stars in celebration of Ramadan. Laughter filled the air as Jews and Arabs ate together as family – less than 24 hours after the shooting at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv that left four dead.
As part of an initiative to catalyze social change, Sikkuy and USAID have teamed up to lead Shared Region tours to Arab communities.
Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality was founded in 1991 to promote full equality between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. Its Shared Tourism project aims to help engage Arabs and Jews as participants in a shared society by bringing Jewish Israelis and international tourists to experience Arab communities.
The tours are held in four regions – Western-Lower Galilee, the Jezreel Valley-Nazareth, Wadi Ara and the southern Sharon region – allowing visitors to explore the various stalls in traditional markets, visit mosques, and be hosted at open houses and dinners with residents.
For the month of Ramadan, Shared Tours provides the unique opportunity to have a true Arabian adventure in its Nights of Ramadan, which kicked off June 6 and runs through July 5. Participants will be able to walk through Arab villages and experience the traditions, sounds, aromas and food, and meet the local people. Last year Shared Tours brought about 1,000 visitors to various Arab villages; this year, it is aiming for 1,500.
One of the villages that has opened its doors to visitors is Taiba; located in the Triangle region, it is nestled between the western slopes of Samaria. Visiting Taiba offers the experience of seeing historical sites such as the Mameluke fortress, the Saray government building and a mosque, and watching the village come to life at the start of Ramadan – all while enjoying lively music and freshly baked festive desserts.
At a meeting with Mayor Shuaa Mansour Massarwe, he stressed the urgency of such initiatives in order to lower the walls of alienation and fear.
In times like these, in light of the Sarona terrorist attack, we must stand with our heads held high and say there is a better way to coexist, Massarwe said: “We must learn to live together. A lot of people don’t know Taiba, and it’s important we bring people here for the better coexistence of Jews and Arabs.”
USAID deputy mission director Jonathan Kamin explained the importance of backing such a cause. “We must find ways to bring people to find a common purpose” – which is exactly what Nights of Ramadan aims to do. “It’s about opening the doors to see there’s nothing to be afraid of, and there’s everything to be gained by knowing these people,” added Kamin.
The initiative to strengthen the connection between Arabs and Jews and among the local authorities can allow us to get to know our neighbors again, asserted Massarwe. “We are fated to live together, and we have to support and get to know each other.”
Food and celebration brought people together on a warm June evening in Taiba. Perhaps that night, and other efforts by Shared Tourism, can serve as a model for the shared society we must continue to strive toward.
Tours are offered year-round and are available in Hebrew and English. All profits from Shared Tours go back to benefit the local community. For more information on Shared Tours or Sikkuy: www.sikkuy.org.il