Tensions in Israel are increasing as the Jewish fast and the Muslim feast are set to take place on the same day. But should Muslims give up their holiday joy just to ensure that Jews are not disturbed?
(Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe)
Once every 33 years it happens: Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, and on the same day the Jews are engaged in introspection each looking at their relations with others in the world, and seeking forgiveness, on Yom Kippur. Jews fast while we feast from dawn to dusk in a rare and inexplicable festivity. I assure you that occasionally jokes are cracked about our fast, a month-long fast, compared to our Jewish cousins’ single day which they are unable to withstand.
But this year we must celebrate this holiday, no matter what. Because during the summer, nobody celebrated Eid al-Fitr at the height of the war on Gaza, and we don’t have another holiday until next summer.
We dub this holiday “Al Eid al Kabir” “the Great holiday.” In Judaism, Yom Kippur, is “the holiest day of the year”. In our holiday, in addition to sacrificing lots of sheep and calves, emulating the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) who was on the verge of sacrificing his son Ishmael (Ismail), we have another custom. We each visit all our family members, including those who live outside the neighborhood. We travel wherever we need to travel and greet everyone. In my case I expect to be calling on no less than 30 homes, greeting and well-wishing relatives on a long journey of ten villages and towns. And that’s just the obligatory visits, not including hosting others, restaurants and a fun trip for the children to compensate them for enduring the arduous trip. And here my stress level rises as a mother of three children whom I really don’t feel like sacrificing for anything or anyone.
An Iron Dome for Arab vehicles
For a moment I thought how nice it would be to travel on empty roads not being concerned with looking at red paths marked on the Waze app. But that sweet little dream dissipated in a flash. A warning light came on instead. What will happen in places inhabited by Jews? Would they throw stones at us? That would be indeed dangerous. Would it be regarded as a terrorist attack if they threw a rock or even a filled-up diaper at us?
Some friends with whom I discussed the matter, said they “expected trouble in their place” and that we need to prepare. That fear has been heightened following Protective Edge [called Tzuk Eitan (Strong Cliff) in Hebrew]: perhaps this will give a chance for a repeat performance for those who missed out on attacking Arabs last time? The Cliff has crumbled and there are rocks strewn about, just ready for use.
But how does an Arab prepare for stone throwing? I imagined that the first priority would have to be documentation, because for sure the question would rise as to who threw stones first, the Arab or the Jew? You try to persuade people in this country that an Arab family was going about its business peacefully and joyously and had stones thrown at its car without the family being accused of terrorism. Therefore this documentation is important! What else should have ready? Change of clothes, water and first aid, maybe a replacement car…and her list kept on getting longer.
The smartest way is to look for an alternative. Yep, this is the solution: “get the Waze App to find a path without rock throwing”. But hours of thinking and planning proved fruitless. I found out that it is impossible to reach all the destinations with the aunties waiting with coffee and sweets, or with skewers of meat and a fired-up a barbecue, in a path “free of Jews.” It’s just not possible. We just too are too intermingled with each other.
So I came up with a bright-spark idea: how about inventing an Iron Dome for every Arab vehicle traveling during a holiday? Perhaps giving Muslim revelers armored vehicles would be a pretty nice present from the state to its citizens on Yom Kippur. Why not? It may make up for the Iron Dome and the “Code Red” sirens which did not operate in Bedouin communities in the South. No need to worry about the “Color Red” rocket sirens – we will take care of it ourselves. Between all the slaughtering on the holiday and the lacking sewage infrastructure in Arab towns, everything will be painted red. Then I thought, maybe Israel’s chief rabbi could declare Eid al-Adha as an occasion of Pikuach Nefesh for all, where Jewish law says that the saving of human life overrides all other considerations. And believe me, I do have relatives that visiting them falls under Pikuach Nefesh, because if we don’t visit them, my family would have to face dreadful consequences. So it looks like I’m really worried.
Religious freedom for Bahais
I thought to myself why are all the Arabs and most of the Jews that I know, able to live in peace with the notion that there will be “troubles” on Yom Kippur. There is no way but to decode that word into riots, violence, racism, terror, fear and intimidation. Why should I have to protect myself from an attack which is known in advance? Why am I supposed to be tolerant and understanding? Why am I expected to lower my profile as in every other year?
This time, even if I wanted to lower my presence and my Arab voice I wouldn’t be able to: we have a great holiday to celebrate. But instead of taking advantage of the quality time of arguments and delightful tension with my husband and children in the car, I’m meant to limit my mobility depending on the location of “problematic spots.”
This year I have decided that I’m unwilling to collaborate with that. On this Kippur/al-Adha day I will travel as much as I need to and go to where I need to, and I’ll continue to dream of a normal country. I’ll dream of a country where everyone – Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i, Armenian, Buddhist and what have you – can act according to their conscience, in their private space, without hurting, or causing pain and suffering to others.
I believe that it is our responsibility to learn about each other, to understand what the people next door do on their holidays – and to get closer to them. The ignorance around us will only disappear if we talk to the Other and show interest in them, and educate everyone that in this world we are not alone. Let us pray, and more importantly do something to bring this day closer to us. If we can rise above our nasty propensities we might even succeed in wishing others happiness and compassion.
Happy holiday to everyone, and Gmar Chatima Tova [May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for good].
Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, director of the Na’am Ngo [Arab women of the Center] in Lydd/Lod/Lydda, a graduate in education of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, and a resident of Neve Shalom – Wahat al Salam, the only joint Arab-Jewish village in Israel. This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.
Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia.