In the background of ongoing violence on the border of Israel and Gaza, a recent terror attack in Jerusalem, and a tense security situation, we invited Christian, Druze, Jewish and Muslim women to our TRUST WIN celebration of Sukkot and the International Day of Peace. Jewish women welcomed their friends, sisters, and their daughters from Daliat AlCarmel and Fureidis into the Sukkah of Rabbi Judith Edelman-Green outside her home in Kfar Sava.
Upon arrival with hugs and welcome, we danced and sang accompanied by darbuka (Arab drum) and percussion instruments. Already, before words were spoken, the language of song, dance and understanding, the mixing of religions and cultures, -- a Jewish Sukkah and Arabic song -- were blended harmoniously. Rabbi Judith welcomed the guests to her Sukkah and explained the symbolism of the Sukkah and the four species (symbolized by Palm, Citron, Myrtle and Willow leaves), emphasizing the great mitzvah of welcoming guests, the temporary nature of the material in our lives, but the permanence of ongoing friendship, love, care, giving.
The guests got a chance to shake the Lulav and smell the etrog. Ibtisam Muhameed gave a blessing in the name of the Moslem women. She moved us by saying that the Sukkah is like a womb - embracing and creating love. A member of the Druze delegation told the Jewish midrash that all kinds of people are needed to make up the four species. Siham Halabi spoke of the long-standing sisterhood of these women who have been meeting together and sharing holidays for twenty years.
Elana Rozenman welcomed everyone to our International Day of Peace and Sukkot celebration and explained how Sukkot is a unique Jewish holiday of universal peace because when our Temple stood two thousand years ago there were daily several sacrifices offered for the people of Israel. However, during the week of Succot, a total of 70 sacrifices were offered -- representing all the nations of the world and asking God's blessing for all peoples.
For the dinner, a great effort was made by the Jewish women to reach the high standards of hosting and serving which we have learned from our friends in villages up north, and a sumptious feast was served beginning with a woman from each religion blessing the Druze pita bread.
After dinner -- a new innovation -- the younger generation was introduced by their mother or grandmother. There was a stunning 19-year-old from Furedis called Intistar. She is studying to be a caregiver of the elderly. By the end of the evening, she had tears in her eyes and didn't want to leave. She said she had discovered a whole new experience of interfaith. Several Jewish women brought their daughters in their teens and early twenties, they all said that they would never forget this meeting.
One young woman was surprised that as soon as she arrived, instead of feeling awkward, she felt instant friendship with everyone. A discussion was held focusing on our responsibility to pass on the religious values and traditions of this generation to the next. The women agreed that we have to set an example and show our children our traditions and train them to follow them. The challenges of the technological age were brought up. There was true dialogue, listening and understanding, a hearing of the similarities and the differences. We all face challenges, and we all want a better world and the values of love and tradition.
One Druze woman spoke about how some members of the younger generation don't want to sacrifice a sheep on the sacrifice holiday. Nods of understanding came from women of all religions -- expressing that no matter how much we set an example and show our children, it is up to them to decide to keep the traditions.
Elana prepared us for a Silent Peace Walking Meditation for the International Day of Peace, explaining that we were going to walk slowly and silently through the streets of the center of Kfar Sava to the Sukkah of Lita Pollard for dessert. With each step, we would be putting peace into the earth and taking peace into our body from Mother Earth. At first, it was difficult for some women to slow down and stop chatting, but then hand in hand, arm in arm, the women walked silently and felt peace in every step. A deep inner calm. There were only positive reactions -- a woman came up to us, exclaiming, "I don't know who you are, but how exciting!!" People along the way stopped to look and smile. A police car stopped and the policeman wondered who we were and what we were doing -- and drove off shaking his head. The vision of women of different religions walking with dignity and spreading their inner calm and peace throughout the streets of Kfar Sava was just remarkable.
Lita met us in her balcony Sukkah with an amazing spread of cakes and tea. There was singing, laughter, stories, poems, blessings. We closed with everyone offering a one-word summation -- "Joy", "Sisterhood", "Calm", "Hope", "Inspiration", "Holiness," "Togetherness," and on into supreme togetherness. We sent waves of the sense of harmony and trust out beyond ourselves.
We are grateful to Rabbi Judith for organizing, facilitating, hosting in her sukkah and contributing to this report, and to all the Jewish women who cooked and brought food and Lita for hosting in her sukkah, to Siham and Ibtisam for organizing and bringing the guests who came to sit with us in our Sukkahs. We are also grateful to faithful California women for their love and support for this celebration and sharing our vision of women building peace and trust in our region.
Blessings and love,
Director, TRUST – Emun
Global Trustee, URI -- United Religions Initiative