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Palestinians and Israelis mark interfaith new year in East Jerusalem

Over 150 people hold a joint feast in honor of the Muslim and Jewish new years in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israel is working tirelessly to replace Palestinians with settlers.

Over 150 Palestinians and Jews mark both the Jewish and Muslim New Years with an interfaith dinner in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, September 21, 2017. (Orly Noy)

Over 150 Palestinians and Jews mark both the Jewish and Muslim New Years with an interfaith dinner in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, September 21, 2017. (Orly Noy)

This year, the Jewish New Year lined up with the Muslim New Year, an event that takes place once every 33 years. In honor of the double-holiday, the residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah decided to hold a joint new year’s feast for Jews and Muslims outside the Shamanseh family home, from which they were evicted by settlers two weeks ago.

The struggle over the fate of the home may have come to an end for now, but the struggle against Israel’s policies of dispossession in the neighborhood, which have reared their head after a respite and now threaten dozens of families in Sheikh Jarrah, continues unabated. Palestinian activists and residents continue to arrive at the Shamanseh home every evening, making clear they are not going anywhere. [Read more on the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah here].

When we reached the home, the first thing we heard was the Muslim call to prayer and an Israeli flag that had been hung on the roof. The flag felt so foreign that for a moment it seemed its presence served to remind the settlers that they were there due to the good graces of the Israeli government. With the muezzin blaring in the background and the Arabic in the street, it was easy to forget that.

‘We will cry together and protect one another’

As prayers came to an end, the preparations outside the Shamanseh home were at their peak: dozens of people setting up tables, spreading tablecloths, organizing chairs, while greeting each other with hugs, kisses, and the traditional new years greeting in Hebrew and Arabic. I quickly realized that the vegan dish we brought was unnecessary; the hosts from the neighborhood made sure to include plenty of vegan options.

People continued to stream in, both Jews and Palestinians. Finally we sat around the table, 150 of us, in one of the most memorable events of the last few years. I spoke to a man, who according to his appearance was a devout Muslim, who told me he came from Shuafat refugee camp to take part in the event. “Although we have our own problems there,” he told me, “but when Jews and Arabs do something so nice together, we have to come.”

Almost surprisingly, there was no police presence, although the police had already made itself known when it banned a left-wing Jewish activist from the neighborhood over “suspicions of conspiracy to commit a crime,” no less. In a status published on Facebook, the activist describes the strange summons he received from the police, the bizarre conversation that took place at the station, and the infuriating 15-day ban (the activist was also forbidden from joining any demonstration in the country for a period of five days). Anyone who knows him knows just how much his presence was missed. Perhaps this is what Muhammad Shamanseh meant when he wished us a happy new year and said: “May we always remain hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, that the entire world sees that we are standing together, and if necessary we will cry together and protect one another.”

The settlers never once left the home. Those who proudly entered the Shamanseh’s home three weeks ago were nowhere to be found. Maybe they weren’t even home at the time, or perhaps they hid behind locked doors, listening to the Arab-Jewish party outside — a reminder of the days in which Jews and Arabs lived here side by side, and did not make a mockery of themselves by expelling children and the elderly from their homes.

It is likely that during their Rosh Hashanah dinner, those settlers raised a toast to their latest victory in Sheikh Jarrah. That task is not so challenging when the state itself takes an active role in dispossession. But those who were at that joint new year’s dinner knows that as long as dispossession continues, so does the struggle.

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Do these Jewish leftists count on Arabs to protect them?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​The “leftist” Jewish persons in the photo above apparently don’t need the same “protection” that rightist bullies do. The unspoken subtext of reality here is that Jewish “settlers” and “pioneers,” cowards, count on hiding behind the skirts of Mama IDF when they sally forth to bully, harass, beat up, steal from, and destroy the property of Arab inhabitants. And this happens every day.
        But Halevi begrudges peace seekers who break bread together.

        You are an offensive man, Halevi. And you are not simply a one-off, an aberration. You are common. All too common. You embody the ethos and spirit of the occupation.

        Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Recalling the golden days when Arabs and Jews “lived side-by-side”. Yes, as long as the Jews accepted inferior, Jim Crow-like dhimmi status, the Arabs were willing to have Jews live side-by-side” with them with a certain amount of respect. Note how the writer herself stated that an “Israeli flag seemed so foreign”. She accepts the Arab demand that the Jews subordinate themselves to Arab dominance. Only under those conditions is a Jewish presence tolerable.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Got any data to support that as a true proposition in Israel-Palestine in 2017?
        And do you have any data to disprove the observation that as long as the Arabs accept inferior, Jim Crow-like status, the Jews of the entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies are willing to have Arabs live side-by-side with them with a certain amount of respect? How can you deny that the Jews demand that the Arabs subordinate themselves to Jewish dominance? And that only under those conditions is an Arab presence tolerable.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Ben

          How can you deny that the Jews demand that the Arabs subordinate themselves to Jewish dominance?

          Because we have counter examples of Arab populations that are part of national collective: Mizrahi Jews. While there was some initial discrimination Israel put in place an aggressive affirmative action program that’s been tremendously successful in raising the economic, social and political status of these Arabs. Ashkenazi Judaism was able to be inclusive enough so that the Mizrahi could almost fully assimilate and help to form a conjoined culture. The high rate of intermarriage has created an Israeli population that is neither Ashkenazi nor Mizrahi and these terms will likely cease being even somewhat meaningful within a few generations.

          Israel has a proven track record of successful assimilation obliterating any need for ethnic domination.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            To blithely equate Jewish and non-Jewish Arab populations in this context is simply not an honest answer, it is a shuffling side stepping. There is a repetitive, characteristic blitheness to your replies.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            Your comment was about a racial criteria, Arab. I answered regarding the racial criteria. It is not being blithe it is your constant rants being contradicting by fact. Learning to be precise and accurate in your critiques might move them out of the easily falsifiable category.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Where’s the “rant,” JeffB? You use language falsely. Lecturing me about “precise…accurate racial criteria” exemplifies your signature tactic: evasive pedantry joined to what can only be called playing dumb. As if the ethnoreligious factor (Jewishness) that make all the difference in how Israel respects human rights in one person and not another could be reduced to “precise, accurate racial criteria” that as you use them are in fact studiedly imprecise: “Arab versus Jewish,” as you would have it, and not the obvious reality: non-Jewish Arab versus Jewish Arab and Jewish non-Arab. So what exactly was it that you “falsified,” JeffB? Please tell us. I’m all ears.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            “Arab versus Jewish,” as you would have it,

            When have I said anything like that? I said precisely the opposite. Mizrahi Jews are Arabs and fully Jewish. Donald Trump is 100% non Arab and not Jewish. Such a breakdown is plain stupid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You most certainly said something like that, JeffB, and you did not say anything like the opposite. Folks here can see that very well, I think. I have never encountered someone so slippery and evasive here. You are a fascinating study in these qualities. Really, you are something else.

            Reply to Comment
    3. JeffB

      Well two comments. I for one think this is great. I’m glad to hear of the 1990s style peaceful meetups. Something very different from denormalization. And I’m glad +972 wrote approvingly of it.

      Also the weird round about way you are talking about that someone arrested who couldn’t attend that most readers I suspect are supposed to know. I’m assuming that’s Israeli censorship? If so, anyone allowed to say what could be the possible grounds for this censorship? Not arguing just ignorant and can’t even think of a good reason.

      Reply to Comment

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