I was born to a Jewish family. I was raised as a Jew, I was raised to believe that Israel was not only a holy and sacred place, but a place promised by God to the Jewish people.
History has taught me many lessons, the most important lesson though is that a supernatural being cannot sign a lease or peace treaty. Man must go and claim lands. Humans must occupy a territory and decide how to treat his neighbors. History has taught me that there have been many wars, many Gods and often religion and war have gone hand in hand with one another.
It has been a long time since I have believed in God. My personal beliefs do not matter. I am in a vast minority of people, we nonbelievers are few and far between and often looked down upon. What I am though is a student of the Middle East. I know her history, have poured over her politics and wars, her religions and cultures. Few places on the planet have the heredity of the Middle East. Israel, a small chunk of land in the Middle East is even more unique. Israel is a land thick with history. It seems that every square inch of Israel has some historical or religious significance.
Try as I might, my Jewish identity is something I cannot shed. Most people I know will always think of me by my parents’ religion. As a Jew then, I would like to speak to my fellow Jews. I would like to tell them about a religion that has been vilified, turned sour by the acts of a very small percentage.
When the Nazis came to power in German they vilified Jews. Jews were responsible for all the ills that afflicted Germany after World War I. Many German communists were Jews, but not all Jews were communists. This did not matter, to Hitler the scourge that was Judaism and all the evils that Jews perpetrated had to be punished.
Now the world faces a scourge far worse than communism, terrorism. Just like the Jews of Germany who were blamed for the economic woes of the German people, Muslims are now being labelled as terrorists, as people who wish to only see the eradication of the Jewish people and of Israel. However, just because there are Muslim terrorists, does not mean all Muslims are terrorists.
If a Jewish man and Muslim man were to sit down at a coffee shop together and share several cups of coffee together they would find that much of their lives are the same. Religiously speaking they would find that they both believe in the importance of Abraham and Moses, they would agree that the divinity of Jesus was just a thing for Christians, they would also both agree that not only is Jerusalem one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it is also one of the most important.
As their coffee cups were refilled, they would both find out that they have dietary restrictions bestowed to them by God. If one of them was savvy about the early history of Islam they would mention that like Jews, Muslims used to pray in the direction of Jerusalem, not Mecca. Both the Jewish man and the Muslim man would agree that the stone that makes the Dome of the Rock so important was the foundation stone of the Earth, the place where God began the creation of the world.
Perhaps after two cups of coffee the men would enjoy a cigarette together. Over the course of that cigarette the men would learn that they both had sons, and the Jewish man’s son would be named Abraham and the Muslim man’s would be named Ibrahim.
After their cigarettes had long since burned out these two men, who were initially strangers and were now acquaintances would begin discussing their wives and the importance these women play in their lives. In Islam the woman is the vital half, the same is true for Judaism. Both Judaism and Islam believe that a man should be good to his wife that she is his partner in life, but they would both joke about their wife’s temper and cooking. When a beggar approaches the table with the two men sitting at it, both, without thinking reach for their wallets to give the begging man a dollar or two. They do this not to impress one another, but because both religions impress upon its believer that charity is a pillar in life, in Judaism it’s called tzedakah, in Islam it is zakat. The beggar now has enough money to feed himself tonight.
Several cups of coffee have been consumed and cigarettes have been smoked. The sun begins to set, and both men know that it is their time to pray. They both head towards their respective places to worship, but in all the talking they forget to introduce themselves. They shakes each other’s hand, the Jew is named Moshe, the Muslim Musa, they laugh that they are named after the same man and one says to the other “we aren’t so different, are we?” With that they rush to prayer.
What is it that divides Muslims and Jews? So much of their lives, their beliefs, their outlooks, even their shared history seems to be the same. Muslim dynasties always allowed Jews their own autonomy, whether it was the dhimmi or millet system it was there. Muslims believe that Jews are people of the book, people that please God. So why all the fighting?
Years of history, where Jews and Muslims lived side by side have been erased over the past century, because radical beliefs on both sides have blinded them from the truth. Jews and Muslims have ended a relationship that was almost 1300 years old. I call now for the mending of that relationship.
I am an objective observer of the conflict between Jews and Muslims and my heart drops with every wounded victim, when death occurs because of the actions between a Jew and a Muslim my heart breaks. Haven’t both sides seen enough blood shed? Why do Jews speak of the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, while they still mourn the Babylonian destruction of the first temple? Jews have never been a people to destroy the beliefs of others. Why do Muslims now discount the words of the Qur’an, ignoring that Jews are people of the book, people that Allah in all his mercy loves?
Hopefully the violence between Jews and Muslims will cease. And when the fighting has stopped, let the two parties come together, like two brothers and embrace one another. War is not the answer, nor is the death of innocent Jewish and Muslim children. The process will be hard, but once both sides agree to sacrifice a new era of brotherhood can begin, and together they can build a prosperous future.