Hello! Shalom! Salam! Privet…I can continue the list of languages in which you may be greeted in Israel, or I can count the number of denominations and nationalities in the Holy Land, but instead I’ll tell you one short personal story.
I came to my first class at an Israeli college, and when it was my turn to introduce myself, I told my new classmates that I had received my Israeli citizenship four days earlier. One girl ran up to me and kissed me, wished me luck and offered to help me with Hebrew and with college bureaucracy. Her name is Maysam and she is an Arab student professing Islam. Despite the fact that Maysam belongs to another faith and nationality, and in Israel, interreligious and interethnic relations are a complex and constantly discussed issue, she was the first person who decided to support me in my first steps in my new home country.
Her act was a reminder to me of how important it is to be an open-minded person with a big heart and to support people regardless of their nationality and religion. I am very grateful to Maysam for this reminder. This also affected my approach to work. My job is to plan and develop international academic programs for young people. Despite the fact that I work with young Jews, I try to create an opportunity for them to get acquainted with people of other nationalities who profess different religions. I believe it is very important to have the opportunity to ask and answer questions, to listen and be heard.
I can assume that activists among the Muslim students at my college share this point of view. Before Ramadan, they united and organized a day of Islamic culture for the whole college, where everyone could come and ask questions about Islamic culture in general and about Ramadan in particular. A few days later, the college management announced that students who observe Ramadan will be offered alternative studying conditions to facilitate their studies during their holy months, for example studying in the evening and getting an extra day off. The beginning of the holy month of Ramadan was thus an excellent occasion for interethnic and interreligious communication, thanks to both the initiative of activist Muslim students and the supportive college management.
I hope that we will continue this tradition, begun by Muslim students, to learn about and connect between different traditions and beliefs. Perhaps through an attempt to learn and understand each other better we will be able to nurture understanding and care.
Natalie’s reflection comes to the Parliament of the World’s Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.
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