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October 2, 2014 6:14 pm

Agreement Drawn Up to Avoid Collision of Jewish, Muslim Holidays

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Israeli Jewish, Arab religious leaders meet in Lod to avert holiday tensions. Photo: Danny Meron, NRG

Israeli Jewish, Arab religious leaders meet in Lod to avert holiday tensions. Photo: Danny Meron, NRG

Jewish and Arab Israeli community and religious leaders met on Wednesday in the mixed city of Lod in order to find a way to avoid tensions likely when the somber fast day of Yom Kippur collides with the festive Muslim feast day of Eid al-Adha, this coming Saturday, Israel’s NRG News reported.

Due to the calendrical once-in-30-years coincidence, many people fear clashes between the two groups: Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – is a day of fasting and reflection, going to prayer and avoiding driving. Eid al-Adha is characterized by large public celebrations and visiting relatives – which requires extensive travel.

This sociological gap would be especially acute in cities like Acre, Lod, Ramle, Jerusalem and Jaffa, where the two neighboring groups live in parallel.

The Israel Police are set to send in reinforcements to maintain public order, according to officials, and during the week, met with the leaders of the various communities, and called for keeping the peace during the holidays.

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The that end, leaders of the two religions met in the city of Lod, near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, in order “speak in one voice for tolerance and interfaith understanding.”

Both chief rabbis of Israel, Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Rishon L’tzion, Yitzhak Joseph, together with the President of the Sharia Court of Appeals, Kadi (Muslim religious decisor) Daoud Zini, considered the senior Muslim religious authority in Israel, attended the session, along with the kadis of Jaffa and the central region.

Knesset members, including David Azoulay of Shas, Israel Eichler of United Torah Judaism, Tzachi Hanegbi of the Likud, and Ibrahim Sarsur of the United Arab List were on hand at the meeting, initiated and organized by MK Meirav Michaeli of Labor, and Lod Mayor, Yair Revivo.

Zini, a resident of Acco, north of Haifa, noted the clashes that broke out between Jews and Arabs in the city on Yom Kippur, six years ago.

“It was a trauma and a very serious crisis,” Zini said, stressing that, “Miraculously, there were no casualties. It took us many years to mend the rifts between the two sectors. I urge everyone to refrain from violence and to be tolerant.”

Referring to the unprecedented bloodshed in the region, Zini said that he condemned the rise of jihadist terror organizations. He noted that the Quran commands all Muslims to preserve and respect their neighbors.

“I say, enough bloodshed, enough of all the violence. I want to already see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Zini said, and added that “the reason for violence among peoples is ignorance. Each party has to learn about his friend and get to know their customs, so there will not be violence.”

Chief Rabbi David Lau said that, “No one wants to happen this year what happened in Acre six years ago. Therefore, at Rosh Hashana, as we are commanded to hear the sounds of the shofar, so we are to commanded to hear the sounds and sayings of our neighbors and listen to them. Listening and mutual understanding – that is what will enable us to live together as one people in one country.”

Revivo noted that “This year and next year, there will be a reality in which Yom Kippur and the Muslim holiday with take place concurrently. So, let us work hard this year to create understanding between all of the religious communities in the city of Lod, in order to prevent friction between the two groups.”

Revivo pointed out that the different sectors largely lived in separate areas, making it less likely that there would be overlap in public areas.

“We decided that, in the Arab neighborhoods, all parking spaces will be free and the public will be able to celebrate with joy; in mixed neighborhoods, we asked Arab shop owners to take the Jewish sentiments into account, and not open their businesses during prayer hours.”

He also proposed that the first day of Eid al-Adha could be celebrated on Sunday, to avoid friction, “and without disturbing the Jewish residents.”

The mayor said that in preparation for the holiday, the city also issued a joint manifesto in Hebrew and Arabic explaining the two holidays and calls to the public to maintain unity and lack of violence between them.

“Only in cases of saving lives will vehicles be allowed to travel through the city,” Revivo said. “As well, we asked the public not to play loud music while driving.”

MK Azoulay added that he called on the Muslims to celebrate the first day of Eid al-Adha within the family, and postpone the huge celebrations of the rest of the days until after Yom Kippur.

“This way, we could all manage this combination between the two holidays,” he said.

Acco is preparing to close the city to vehicular traffic and permit only pedestrian entrance, and Jaffa Muslim leaders agreed to a request to move a parade that was supposed to take place on Yom Kippur morning to after sunset, when the Jewish fast ends.

“We’ve already initiated three meetings with religious leaders, educators, community and security officials,” said Acco Mayor Shimon Lankri.

“If [public disturbances] occur, we – through the major forces that will be deployed here, and discretionary measures, whether implemented by police or local authorities – will deal with each case individually.”

Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi, said that the municipality would work to increase awareness of both holidays fall out on the same date.

“On the one hand, Jews will be fasting, and on the other hand, the Muslims will be celebrating,” he said, adding that he hoped that “raising awareness, as well as requesting discreet behavior on both sides – both by Yoel, as well as by Ahmed – will avert tragic events,” Lavi said.

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