Pluralism and Tolerance in the New Year
September 14th, 2010
During the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, 100 Jews and Arabs gathered at the home of Shatil Be’er Sheva co-director, Yarona Ben Shalom for a festive iftar, the banquet marking the end of a day of fasting.
The air was charged with excitement and new experiences as activists from the unrecognized villages who have only had email contact with Bedouin women activists – and many other such virtual acquaintances — met for the first time. Participants represented the multi-cultural mosaic that is the Negev, including Jews, Bedouin, Ethiopian Israelis, people with disabilities, religious and secular government officials and a member of the Dimona Black Hebrew community who belted out an impromptu, bluesy version of “You’ve got a Friend.”
A microphone was passed around as the colorful crowd introduced themselves, told of their organization’s work and tied the event to shared living, Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. One Bedouin leader said, “I was born in the Negev in 1944 and I live in Laqia, just a few kilometers from here. This is the first time that I have ever been invited to a home in the Jewish town of Omer. I hope this is a new beginning.”
“All the spaces and sectors of the Negev merged,” said Rina Ukby, coordinator of Shatil’s Bedouin Women’s Leadership Project. “There was a social-political connection and a connection to all the Jewish and Arab organizations, initiatives and authorities in the Negev. (Bedouin) women and men were talking as if it was the most natural thing – but it’s not. It was amazing,” she said.
Some of the particiaptns had been to many iftars but said never one like this. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for an evening like this,” one of them said.
Over coffee, people passed around their cards, planting the seeds for future collaborations – and celebrations.
In the spirit of tolerance and pluralism, Shatil is pleased to welcome back our Religious Pluralism Coordinator, Shira Ben Sasson Furstenberg, whose year in the U.S. highlighted the need for religious tolerance and respect. “We can learn a lot from the open religious practices of American Jewry and we need to work together with them to bring such forms to Israel,” she said.