Shared society initiatives promote awareness and encounters ...

Shared society initiatives promote awareness and encounters about Ramadan

May 24, 2017

Observance of the holy month of Ramadan begins this year on May 26th for Muslims across the globe, including the 1.4 million Muslims citizens of Israel, and will culminate with the celebration of Id El Fitr on June 25-27. Throughout the month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown, breaking the fast each day with the traditional iftar meal.  Ramadan also marks a special period of reflection, prayer, charity, and family gatherings for the community.

This year, building and expanding on their experiences in past years, a number of civil society organizations in Israel continued to develop programming to turn this major Muslim holiday into an opportunity for enhanced Jewish-Arab interactions, understanding and neighborly relations.  This programming is, as Gili Rei of Sikkuy noted, “not just about meetings between Arabs and Jews but an opportunity to become acquainted in a deeper way and learn Arab traditions and customs as well as help the local businesses.” Activities and initiatives include organized tours called "Ramadan Nights," which for more than a decade have brought Jewish Israelis and international groups to Arab communities, Iftar dinners organized by individual organizations, and efforts to ensure that major Israeli institutions are sensitive to the traditions and needs of Muslim citizens during this period. In 2015 and 2016, as many as 2,000 tourists participated in the “Ramadan Nights” tours

In addition to the programming offered by civil society organizations during Ramadan, PM Netanyahu shared holiday greetings in a video message to Israel’s Muslim population and Muslims around the globe,  and President Rivlin hosted an Iftar meal for foreign Muslim dignitaries, qadis, regional authority heads, representatives of the IDF, Police, Prison Services and leading figures in industry, academics, teachers and doctors on June 12th. He used the occasion to speak about recent violence in Arab society and issues of police-Arab relation, “[w]e will not be able to uproot this violence without complete cooperation between the sides, between the security and law enforcement forces in the State of Israel, whose duty it is to provide a sense of security to every citizen, and between the Arab political and civilian leadership.” 

 

Examples of some of the best-known Ramadan tour opportunities and initiatives are listed below:

RAMADAN NIGHTS – Central and Northern Israel:
This year during Ramadan, Shared Paths, a joint Jewish-Arab tourism initiative founded by Sikkuy’s Shared Tourism Initiative with support from USAID, has organized tours and events, including English language tours, in Arab localities.  These tours in Taybeh, Umm El Fahem, Shefar’am, and Nazareth to name a few, will include walking tours of the cities and iftar dinners hosted by local residents for hundreds of participants. Throughout the year, Shared Paths, which is made up of four different tourism initiatives in central and northern Israel, brings dozens of groups to Arab localities in an effort to break down stereotypes, enhance Jewish-Israelis’ exposure to their Arab neighbors' culture and narrative, and promote tourism in Arab localities. For this year’s Ramadan Nights, Shared Paths prepared a video highlighting the programming:

 

RAMADAN NIGHTS – Negev:
City tours, musical performances, and iftar dinners will take place in Rahat on May 31st, June 1st and June 3rd as part of Ramadan Nights in the Negev.  These activities are organized by Desert Magic, the Bedouin tourism initiative under the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, and the Negev Development Authority, in cooperation with the Rahat municipality and A New Dawn in the Negev, a local Bedouin-Jewish NGO. 

 

THE ABRAHAM FUND INITIATIVES' APPEAL: 
The Abraham Fund Initiatives sent a letter of appeal to heads of government ministries, public authorities, private sector companies, NGOs, hospitals, universities and more, calling on them to acknowledge  the month of Ramadan and "adopt policies that support those fasting, and ensure respect for their beliefs". TAFI recommended that employers: (i) Announce the beginning of the holiday to all employees, providing an explanation of Ramadan and the ways in which they supports their fasting employees; (ii) Avoid scheduling meetings during the breaking of the fast each day; (iii) Allow Muslim employees to leave the office to join their families for the iftar meal; and (iv) Avoid providing refreshments at staff meetings and instead, encourage employees who are not fasting to eat in the office’s kitchenette.

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