When we first moved to Jerusalem, my son was outraged that people drove on Shabbat.
"Why are Jews driving on Shabbat?" he asked with some indignation.
"What makes you think they're all Jews?" I asked. "Christians and Moslems live here also." Long silence. I had sort of tossed off that answer, well aware that a sizable portion of Israeli society is secular, and even among the masorti, some drive on Shabbat. Frankly, I thought most of the Saturday drivers were Jews.
I was wrong.
December 30, 2006 was a Saturday. Shabbat. It was also Id al Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, one of the holiest days of the Moslem calendar. I walked outside in the early morning to a silence I hadn't seen since Yom Kippur. The streets were virtually empty. An occassional car went by, but otherwise the silence in the Baka/Talpiot area was profound. It was quiet enough that I could hear the voices of the imams and their congregations rising in exaltation from the basin of the valley south of the Old City.
The sound of Moslem prayer and sermon frightens many -- and often with good reason. MEMRI has carried absolutely blood-curdling sermons from the Territories that would equal those of any medieval religious fanatic. However, one advantage of being "on the ground" here is that one cannot deal in stereotypes, however tempting. What I could hear from the mosques in the adjacent valley was not anger, not hate, but joy and praise, and in that, Moslems are like Christians and Jews: we share a love of HaShem, seek to praise him and celebrate such holidays with joy and with family. And with food!
Id al Adha is a feast. Food and charity play a prominent role in this festival, as does worship, family, new clothes, and sweets for the children...somewhat like Christmas....somewhat like Rosh HaShanah...
That's not to say that peace and brotherhood are going to break out imminently, but I think that despite generations of enmity, what we have in common may someday serve as the foundation for something other than war.
I'm too old and much to cynical to believe much of the political "peace process" touted by our leaders, their leaders and EU/UN/US leadership. It has failed too often, and has too often been more of a dog-and-pony-show played for political advantage. But I have also witnessed kindnesses between people on an individual basis who are supposed to be deadly enemies; I have also seen the recent publication of a survey which shows that Jews, Christians and Moslems in Jerusalem know next to nothing about each other's beliefs. Everyone seems to think that The Other Guy's belief is that the Other Guy wants us dead. Moslems who were shown videos of individual Jews at prayer were astonished to see how much it was akin to Moslem prayer; Jews who viewed videos of individual Moslems praying were equally astonished at the similarities.
Living next to the Tayelet with its view over the valley, I have often found myself reminded of Shacharit and Mincha by the Moslem call-to-prayer, as we share approximate prayer times.
But prayer and family is what we have most in common. And on Id al Adha, prayers ascended to Heaven from mosques and synagoges in tandem. Whatever else our differences, we were united in praise of our Maker. Perhaps such unity of purpose found favor in the eyes of Heaven.
It certainly cleared the streets of traffic.