Jews, Muslims Fast Together for Peace

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Jews and Muslims will fast together, July 15, in a one-day Fast for Peace timed to correlate with the traditional fast days in both the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The American Muslim magazine has joined with The Philadelphia-based Shalom Center headed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in widely publicizing the call, urging Muslims and Jews to join in “serious and sorrowful conversations,” and for an iftar meal, breaking of the fast of Ramadan which will also conclude the Fast for Peace.

In Philadelphia, the annual Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation group will also be hosting a gathering of dialogue on July 15th, at 7:30 p.m. at the Al Aqsa Mosque, at 1501 Germantown Avenue, followed by an iftar.

the 17th of Tammuz, is a fast day in the Jewish calender, memorizing the day that the Babylonian army broke through the ranks of the Israelite defenders and the walls of the city. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple.

Tisha B’Av was later affixed by Jewish sages as a day of fast, prayer and reflection, to recall that tragedy and the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people, and a subsequent destruction of the Temple, exiles and horrific assaults on Jewish life in other lands.

As the Shalom Center reported, this year, the Jewish lunar month of Tammuz coincides with the Muslim lunar month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of fasting during daytime, abstinence from sexual relations, spiritual reflection and study of the Koran. It correlates with the early revelations reported by Mohammed the Prophet and concludes with a major feast.

Like Judaism, Islam follows the lunar calendar, and as happened with many Jewish holy days, Mohammed appropriated the timing of an early Middle Eastern festival originally dedicating to honoring a Moon God (Ibn Al Nadim, Al-Fahrisit, p. 348), for the purpose of establishing the holiest month of the year for Islam.

This approach to encouraging pathways to peace through shared meals, sacred times and dialogue can also be found in the teachings on deep ecumenism of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, who died on July 3.

Sachter-Shalomi was a long-time scholar in Philadelphia, serving at Temple University and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and the founder of the locally-based P’nai Or Religious Fellowship and ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

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  1. says

    It is extraordinarily strange that nowhere in the article do the words “Palestine,” “Gaza,” or “Israel” appear — since the renewed outburst of vicious violence on ALL sides there was the specific occasion and explicit content of the Call to the Fast by The Shalom Center, and the responses by The American Muslim, and the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation.

    In the article, the word “peace” is left to float disembodied in a vacuum devoid of history, and devoid of the reasons explicitly named by The Shalom Center, drawing on a proposal initiated by Israelis and Palestinians for a one-day “Hunger Strike Against Violence” on the Fast of Tammuz/Ramadan.

    The article’s very puzzling omission deprives the Fast of its profound spiritual meaning, The omission makes it more difficult to trust in the independence and truthfulness of the “Philadelphia Jewish Voice” that were originally supposed to be its reason to come into existence.

    In The Shalom Center’s very first mailing to propose this Fast, on July 7, we said:

    “Our chaver Rabbi Eyal Levinson, an Israeli musmach of ALEPH, wrote about a proposal from Eliaz Cohen (a poet/ settler in Gush Etzion) that in the midst of outbreaks of murder, pogrom, and lynching in Israel & Palestine, Jews & Muslims join in the fast of 17 Tammuz, July 17. which is also a day in the fast of Ramadan. (Both fasts are from sunrise to sunset.) Eliaz Cohen proposed this shared fast be a Hunger Strike Against Violence.

    “My thought: — It would be both a serious expression of commitment to peace and decency and also a serious memorial to Reb Zalman (who schrei’d Gevalt, gevalt, about the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila, who visited the Kever Avraham in Hebron not in triumph but in Abrahamic peace, who became a Sufi initiate, who climbed the mountain known as Sinai with Muslims) for us here as well in the USA to join with Muslims on 17 Tammuz in a Hunger Strike Against Violence, and to end the day together with Iftar, the evening break-fast. To do this, we could ask a mosque near any one of us, and/ or a chapter of CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, to join with our own congregation.

    “Why should we do this? The editorial board of Haaretz, not just an op-ed piece, has just warned that :
    ‘There are no words to describe the horror allegedly done by six Jews to Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat. Although a gag order bars publication of details of the terrible murder and the identities of its alleged perpetrators, the account of Abu Khdeir’s family — according to which the boy was burned alive — would horrify any mortal. Anyone who is not satisfied with this description, can view the horror movie in which members of Israel’s Border Police are seen brutally beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, the murder victim’s 15-year-old cousin.
    ‘[We Israelis] belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.
    ‘Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state. ‘

    “It seems to me that for the sake of God’s demand for justice and love for BOTH the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and for the sake of our own souls as well, we must support such a ‘cultural revolution in Israel’ and in the American Jewish “organized” community — where idolatry for Israel is replacing love for Israel, despite deep disquiet and disaffection at the grass roots.”

    We summarized, repeated, and enriched these concerns in every message we sent out thereafter about the Fast.

    With blessings that PJV renew your memory and recover your commitment that as our sages taught, Emet, tzedek, and shalom — TRUTH, Justice, and Peace — are the three pillars on which the world must stand.

    Rabbi Arthur Waskow
    Director
    The Shalom Center

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