Muslims join in interfaith Ramadan dinner

Interfaith dialogue is encouraged in Islam, but only so long as the interlocutors don’t seek to harm the Muslims “or remove us from our homes,” according to the the cadi (judge) of the Haifa Shari’a court.

Click here to read the original article in The Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post

By Jonah Mandel


Interfaith dialogue is encouraged in Islam, but only so long as the interlocutors don’t seek to harm the Muslims “or remove us from our homes,” according to the the cadi (judge) of the Haifa Shari’a court.

“Muslims are told they can be fair and benevolent and connected to those who
are not coreligionists, as long as those don’t fight our religion or remove us
from our homes,” Iyad Zahalka said on Wednesday in an address on interreligious
dialogue from a Muslim perspective he gave ahead of an Iftar meal, the
traditional dinner held at the end of each fast day of Ramadan, which began on

“I need to find a common ground that doesn’t hurt you, but does no harm to me
either. I can’t try to speak with you, with you telling me to leave my home.”
Zahalka’s address was the opener to the discussion organized by the
Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim center
in Jerusalem, hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Representing Judaism and
Christianity on the panel were Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kehillat Kol
HaNeshama and Rev. Canon Hosam Naoum of the Anglican St. George’s Cathedral, who
spoke about the significance of fasting in these religions, and noted the
cross-fertilization of such interreligious encounters and debates.

“We can’t have a dialogue just for the sake of dialogue,” said the cadi. “It
must have clear definitions. One of the most important such goals is to know the
others. To know that Muslims aren’t blindly murderous people, to realize that
Islam is a religion of tolerance, of belief in one god, cooperation, mutual
respect, that doesn’t want to take anything by force or coerce anyone into being
Muslim. Islam calls for understanding, and unity between the people,” he

“We also need to be unified around universal values that respect people,
humanity. To give dignity to this life. The unity of family as primary unit, to
fight violence and promiscuity, that harms man’s dignity – these are values
shared by all religions,” he said.

The point of the meeting, explained ICCI director Rabbi Ron Kronish, was for
Jews and Christians “to participate in a Ramadan event with Muslims, honoring
the Muslims and giving them a chance to share their culture and religion with
others.” Kronish added the additional dimension of the joint learning that took
part in the dialogue, where “each of the three religious leaders tried to teach
a text, and share their perspective on it.”

A Sufi group from Nazareth and Druse sheikhs from Galilee were in attendance,
as well as Rabbi Shlomo Shok, an Alon Shvut resident and member of the Eretz
Shalom (Land of Peace) movement, dedicated to promoting direct dialogue between
settlers and Palestinians. To Shok, attending such events is important not only
to expose members of other faiths to Judaism and Jews, but also for his own
spiritual development as a Jew who is part of humankind.

“I need to reach places where there is integration between religions and
peoples, to practice in myself the universal movement that a Jew should make, to
leave the stance of particularism,” he said, “because the problem is not just
geopolitical. When a person entrenches himself in a particular stance, his
Judaism shrinks, becomes contracted. Being here for me is my exercise of opening
up, as a Jew, to a world that is always so much bigger than how we perceive

“If a Jew would take a stroll in China, or Manhattan, he’d get proportions on
the question of belonging, his responsibility ; he’d become more humble and
modest in his attitude to others, and from that position be able to have greater
influence, and give more of himself,” said the rabbi.