Rosh Hashanah and Eid el Fitr – together!
Ramadan has come to the ending celebration, Eid el Fitr – and it coincided with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Everyone celebrating on the same day! I was invited to a joint celebration event that I’m guessing was a one-of-a-kind in the Mid-East! Included on the private invitation list for the event were Israeli Jews, Palestinian Muslims, and international Christians (me and two friends) – everybody willing to assume great personal risk, to do what was right, in the name of friendship.
First, we met by a pool of water, Ein Haniya Spring, just inside the West Bank, for the Jewish New Year ritual of Tashlikh – with prayers and a symbolic casting of our sins and negative burdens into the water, according to the message from the Prophet Micah: “And compassion is on its way to us. You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing. You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.” (7:19, The Message)
Then, we trekked up into the village of al Wallaja to the home of a Muslim family, who were eager to open their home to this unusual group. Here we ate sweets and sweets and sweets at a grand Christmas-like family party. Then came dinner… platters and platters and platters of food – which, being only given a large spoon each, we ate from together! We watched wedding videos and talked and laughed and even danced together – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians, Internationals – in an area of the world where friendship gatherings like this are rare, to say the least! We shared stories and became friends, or as more than one said, “more than friends, family!”
How was this gathering possible? In late 2003, group of friends: an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Muslim, an American Christian, and a guy with a Jewish mother and a Christian father, who had recently converted to Islam (!) shared a dream of starting a cafe that would be open to everyone from any nation in the world. Thus began All Nations Cafe! Five years later, it is no longer in East Jerusalem, but has moved out to a roadside location just past the Israeli checkpoint in an area all people can reach – at least for now!
People gather in an old house for coffee and conversation, and they build friendships.Together, they hold classes for children and adults, theater workshops, and winter and summer family camps. Israeli kids and Arab kids act and sing and dance together. For all those who are part of All Nations Cafe, an important part of their ongoing work is taking care of Ein Haniya spring and its surroundings so they can continue to enjoy it together.
People caring for one another and the land they share – this is where hope is born. In the hearts of these men and women, boys and girls, lies the greatest chance for peace that I have seen in this land of conflict – a willingness to accept each other with love and respect, and work together for a better tomorrow. What a wonderful way to begin a new year, for all of us!
peace/salaam/shalom – Pastor Pat
“For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” – Isaiah 61:11
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