Four Days to Heal Khalil

- A peace initiative by Aref Dajani -



The past 100 years brought mistrust. We share the same existential fear of the Other. Khalil/Hebron is the City of Abraham, home to SIX monotheistic faiths. In the most fractured city from the River to the Sea, we share the Abraham Mosque and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. One feels joy on both sides, but there is no joy for the space allocated for women.

Four Days will Heal Khalil.
Day One: Remember the Prophet.
Day Two: Remember the Massacre.
Day Three: Hand out flowers.
Day Four: Women take over.

Days One and Two offer women a choice: Fast like the Muslims or Feast like the Jews. They remember the past and atone for the present to heal their town forever. Almost like the five Jewish minor fasts, Muslims start at dawn. Dietary law requires no grape juice, wine, or meat. Muslim and Jewish women will cook in a kosher kitchen, then feast with paper and plastic in a Muslim home.

Day 1, they remember the attempted assassination of the Prophet (blessings upon him) when Jews allied with the Pagans who sought to slaughter us all. Not out of Islamophobia, they feared the Great Nation prophesied for the Children of Ishmael three times in the Book of Genesis. Fasting and feasting will help them let go, let God, and move on.

Day 2, they remember the Hebron Massacre of 1929. This seminal event militarized our conflict. Not out of anti-Semitism, we feared we’d be ethnically cleansed. Let go, let God, and move on.

Day 3, schoolgirls hand yellow daisies and pink carnations to one another to and from school. Everyone fears they’ll be ethnically cleansed. Let go, let God, and move on.Barriers come down for Jewish and Muslim Feast days. Each group has full run of the space, but for women and girls? Puny!

Day 4, women and girls celebrate their own feast day to enjoy the whole space. Who doesn’t like a feast day with hamentaschen and qatayef?  Two caveats: no Israeli female soldiers and no men in drag! They will hold hands and pray as they explore their large space. The men will feel jealous, as well they should! Our women and girls will together forever honor their Nabi Avinu.

Repeat these four days until they Heal Khalil. Walls come down. Shuhada Street re-opens. No more dispossession. Everyone stays where they are. They cross from village to town with a last stop at Jerusalem, where women of SIX Abrahamic faiths pray on the Temple Mount. Our holy land will be made whole, because the women will show us how.

Salaam al’aan. Shalom achshav. Heal Khalil. I’m done.
Heal Khalil Context Fast or Feast

The Muslim fast runs from dawn to sunset: from when it is time to pray the Fajr (Dawn) prayer to when it is time to pray the Maghrib (Sunset) prayer. The cognate in Hebrew for Maghrib is Ma’ariv. Though the time of Fajr depends on the time of year, it is on average 1-1/2 hours before Sunrise.

The Muslim fast is compulsory during the ninth lunar month of the Muslim calendar: Ramadán, which runs from 28 to 30 days, depending on moon sightings or astronomical calculations. There are other times of the year when it is encouraged to fast: Nisfu Sha’aban (the 15th day of the month Sha’aban that immediately precedes Ramadán), Yawm ‘Arafah (the most critical day of the Hajj, on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th lunar month of the Muslim calendar).
Many Muslims choose to fast for three months: Rajab, Sha’aban, and Ramadán (lunar months 7-9). Still others choose to fast on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the year. The only days where it is forbidden to fast is on the three feast days (Eid-ul Fitr, the Festival of Breaking Fast) immediately following Ramadán and the four feast days (Eid-ul Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice) immediately following Yawm ‘Arafah.

Per the Qur’an and/or tradition: people unable to fast are encouraged to feed a hungry person for a day or a hungry family for a meal to compensate for every day of fasting missed.  I myself am unable to fast for health reasons, so I have volunteered with the Food & Friends organization in Washington, DC that feeds members of the community with terminal disease and are unable to leave their homes. That has given me more joy than fasting used to.

Anyone sick should not fast and are encouraged to make up the days they miss due to being sick before the next Ramadán. This is also true for people on travel. This is also true for girls and women who are having their periods. Women who are pregnant or nursing are forbidden from fasting and also forbidden from making up the days they missed. This is because they are feeding someone in need of food who is super precious: their baby (or babies).

There are two types of Jewish fasts: the major fast and the minor fast. The major fast begins at Ma’ariv and lasts approximately 25-1/2 hours: until three stars can be seen in the sky. The minor fast begins at sunrise and ends at Ma’ariv.

As I understand, there are two major fasts: Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. The minor fasts are the Feasts of Gedaliah, Tevet, Esther, the First Born, and Tammuz. Because these fasts are always a single day event, if you miss the fast for any reason, you miss it. Many, especially seniors, elect to end their fasts early, sometimes in the early afternoon. That typically requires local dispensation from their Rabbis.

For Muslims and Jews to “fast (together) like the Muslims”, they would fast from Dawn (Fajr) to Sunset (Maghrib) on any day other than seven (7) Muslim feast days and two (2) Jewish major fast days. For those who cannot fast, they would feed the hungry per above, but not delay when they would fast or feed the hungry.

Muslim dietary law, relative to Jewish dietary law, is simple.  Any food that Jews deem kosher is also halal, so long as it is meat-free and non-alcoholic. On the other hand, Jewish dietary law is complicated. What I write here will likely need to be amended. I will acknowledge all amendments, giving credit to each person who (first) corrects me on a specific aspect of kashrut: Jewish dietary law.

For Muslims and Jews to “feast (together) like the Jews”, it would need to be after Sunset (Maghrib/Ma’ariv) on any day other than the two Jewish major fast days. All food would need to be prepared in a kosher kitchen certified by a rabbi using cooking implements from said kitchen. No meat, grape juice, or alcohol can be served or used in cooking the meal. For certain parts of the cooking, Muslims and Jews can cook together. Cooking and feasting together would always be my preference over fasting, though that may prove difficult in Khalil (Hebron) due to the Separation Barrier dividing the relatively small town into Sectors H1 and H2.

Whether the food is served in a Jewish home or a Muslim home, it is best if all food is transported in plastic containers; e.g,  Tupperware, and covered as appropriate in plastic wrap. Serving utensils, forks, knives, and spoons should all be plastic while plates, bowls, and napkins should all be paper, whether wood, bamboo, or something non-metallic that was never used before.

My Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters, please let me know if anything I wrote is either incomplete or incorrect. I am working to appeal to the most “orthodox” as practice either faith tradition in Khalil (Hebron).

Heal Khalil Context Day One

Day 1 to Heal Khalil takes us back to the very beginning of enmity/adversity between the Muslims and the Jews. This takes us back to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessings upon him. When the earliest Muslims were being persecuted, both free people and slaves, the Prophet had them seek refuge with the Grand Negus of Coptic Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia.

There is a reason why the Muslim Empire and, indeed, the Muslim World today, surrounds but does not include Ethiopia. It is because, from the very beginning of the Mission of the Prophet, he made peace with the Coptic Christians of Abyssinia.

Later, all remaining Muslims in Makkah, including the Prophet himself, were at threat of pogrom — yes, I use that word carefully — by the pagans of Makkah. The Jews of Yathrib, 500 km north of Makkah offered them sanctuary. Refuge.

THERE WOULD BE NO ISLAM TODAY WERE IT NOT FOR THE GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY OF THE JEWS OF YATHRIB!

The name of the city changed later to Madina, Madinatun-Nabi or Madinat al-Munawwara, whichever you prefer. Respectively, it means City, the City of the Prophet, or the City of Light. Regardless, it was where the Prophet was buried within the Masjid Nabawi: the Mosque of the Prophet. Before the Hajj, I visited and placed hand to heart as I passed his grave. Please understand that the Prophet was born, raised, received his first revelation and died in Makkah.
Yet, it was his wish to be buried in Madinah along with his best friends: the first two Caliphs of Islam: Abu Bakr and Omar, may Allah be pleased with both of them. I feel supremely honored to have visited his grave.

Makkah today is a travesty. The Saudi leaders are rapidly returning to their pagan roots by building seven star hotels to “build the religious sector of their national economy”. Instead of building these seven star hotels in the desert, with ample land available that they could develop using petrodollars, they are destroying the antiquities of Makkah whose roots go back to the life of the Prophet! The Ka’aba itself is dwarfed by seven star hotels just outside of it, very expensive seven star hotels. They prove a distraction when one prays within the Grand Mosque, the most sacred mosque, the most sacred place in all Islam toward which all observant Muslims pray no fewer than five times a day.

The very first “pet peeve” of the Prophet was that Makkah was a place of commerce for the pagan pilgrimage trade. It was not so much a place of worship as it was a place of trade. It was almost identical to the “pet peeve” of Jesus (may Allah be pleased with him) when he engaged not so quietly the money lenders in the temples of Jerusalem. The Saudis are returning to what the Prophet railed most against!!

Madinah, formerly the Jewish town of Yathrib, is exactly the opposite. The town exudes love, is calm, and simply beautiful. It is inconceivable that the town is in the same country as Makkah! I am not as observant a Muslim as I would like to be, but I could seriously live in Madinah today. If you are a Muslim, you are commanded to perform the Hajj once in our life IF you are physically, financially, and logistically able. Though it is not part of the Hajj, definitely visit Madinah! If you go do ‘Umra (visit Makkah) outside of the Hajj season, you will not fulfill the requirement, but visiting Makkah (and Madinah) will be at 1/4 the price, courtesy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

Islam grew in Madinah. The Message of the Prophet was heard and embraced. Islam continued to grow. The observant Jews of Madinah recognized that this Prophet was fulfilling prophecy from B’reshit (the Book of Genesis) even more directly than any prophecies presumably fulfilled by Jesus. “To the sons of Ishmael are promised twelve princes and a great nation.” This is written THREE times in B’reshit! The Prophet was well known to be an Ishmaelite! This was precisely why he was welcomed into Yathrib by the Jews. That persecuted man from Makkah in dire need of sanctuary fulfilled prophecy. JEWISH prophecy!!

My Muslim brothers and sisters, you will understand SO MUCH MORE about Islam if you read only the Book of Genesis, the first Book of the Torah. You will learn why the most sacred night in the Muslim calendar is Leilatul Qadr. It’s in Genesis!!

The more lay leaders of Yathrib were scared of the rapid growth of Islam though they had nothing to fear. Later in the life of the Prophet, he executed a treaty with the Christians of Najran of Yemen. The text is online for all to see. Toward the very end of the life of the Prophet, the Muslims re-entered Makkah and properly destroyed the 365 idols surrounding the Ka’aba. Everything else was spared. Not a drop of blood was spilled. No one was forced to convert to Islam. “Lakum deenakum wa liya deen.” (“To your religion and to my me religion.”) At the very end of the life of the Prophet, the Muslims and the pagans lived side by side in Makkah. No harm came to anyone. Today, both Makkah and Madinah remain cities closed to all but Muslims, but that happened AFTER the death of the Prophet, not during.

Purely out of fear with zero evidence of harm EVER coming to them, the Jews of Yathrib switched alliances and allied with the pagans. They attempted to assassinate the Prophet through poisoning his food. Like the story in B’reshit where Esau gave up his birthright because he was starving, a companion of the Prophet was literally starving. The Prophet offered his food provided by his Jewish friends, the companion gobbled it up, and right then and there…died.

Unlike Christians who are commanded to turn the other cheek, Muslims are taught to wage war in self-defense. The Jews were on the offense against the Muslims and the Muslims fought back. That is where our antipathy began. Even then, when Saladin the Kurd liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders, he issued a proclamation of the Jews of the World to return. Many did with zero resistance.

The the Jews did not attempt to assassinate the Prophet out of hatred, but out of fear. Every quote in the Qur’an with antipathy toward Jews comes from that singular event.

Now, today, this is the time for Muslims and Jews to remember that it was out of fear and not hatred that the attempted assassination occurred. The Jews did not reject Early Islam. They feared Early Islam. And they continue fear Islam today.

Most Muslim leaders are not acting in accordance to Muslim conduct as commanded in the Qur’an. The desecration of Makkah by the Saudi rulers was painful for me to witness up close. I arrived in Makkah exactly one week after that construction crane several years ago tipped over and killed 200 pilgrims. Those cranes are so big and tall that they scared me as a pilgrim! Hearing about people being pushed off of buildings is nowhere found in Scripture. Stoning people to death is in Jewish Law but nowhere to be found in the Qur’an.

Today, Maryam is the most common name given to Arab AND Muslim girls. The Qur’an describes her as the mother of the Messiah, yes Jesus, and preferred over all women. We have a chapter of the Qur’an named after her! The Tanakh is nowhere near as charitable to the same amazing woman, mentioned more than any other woman in the Qur’an.

Hasbara teaches that Islam is a religion of violence. Indeed, much violence is perpetrated in the name of Islam by leaders who call themselves Muslim. Though we Muslims strive for one Muslim ummah, one community, we are fractured. Because of the call to violence by several and not all Muslim leaders, I pray that Wasatia — the Middle Path — will embraced not only by Palestinians but also the entire World, whether Muslim or not. Wasatia is completely consistent with Tikkun Olam: healing the world.

References from the Book of Genesis (B’reshit) per the Orthodox Jewish Bible translated into English:

B’reshit 17:20: And as for Yishmael, I have heard thee; hinei, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve nasi’im (princes, rulers) shall he father, and I will make him a goy gadol (great nation).

B’reshit 21:13: And also of the ben haamah will I make a nation, because he is thy zera.

B’reshit 21:18: Arise, lift up the na’ar, and hold him in thine yad; for I will make him a goy gadol.

Heal Khalil Context Days 2-4

Day 2 is to remember the Hebron Massacre of 1929. Though competing narratives abound, this singular event militarized our conflict. This event was born not out of hatred, but out of fear of the growing Jewish refugee community in British Palestine, identically how the Early Muslim community grew in Yathrib, as described in Heal Khalil Context Day 1. Let us achieve a warm peace and full reconciliation before the 100th anniversary of 1929!

Day 3 is for schoolgirls to hand yellow daisies and pink carnations to each other. Today, settlers attack, spit, and taunt Palestinian schoolgirls as they go to and from school each day. This comes out of fear that they themselves will be ethnically cleansed as a result of a two-state solution. Schoolgirls on both sides will find nothing to fear and the most important thing to gain by handing flowers to each other: safety.

Day 4 is for women to discover the joy of the Masjid Ibrahim aka the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Khalil (Hebron) as I saw among the men on both sides of the Divide. The Haredim were in bliss; the Sunni Muslims were in bliss. It is long overdue that the women of Khalil (Hebron) experience what the men have always experienced. And their daughters as well.

__________
Aref Dajani is from a distinguished Palestinian family and also authored his family story on this Blog. 

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