The holy month of Ramadan is now over but the purity, peace, and spirituality we get will be remembered and felt in the days to come.
Muslims in America observe Ramadan like in any other Muslim country, but the interfaith Iftars we have here are very rare, especially those that were hosted by the Jewish community.
Few years ago, former Ambassador of Israel Ron Dermer started a tradition to host “iftar” at his home. His backyard was echoed with the Loud Azan, called by an Imam for Maghrib prayers.
Jews, Christians, Muslims shared the Kosher Halal meal, and this tradition is now being carried by the new Ambassador of Israel H.E. Michael Herzog and his beautiful wife Madam Shirin Herzog.
A graceful event with mouthwatering Koshar Halal meal greeted the guests. Persian Chicken in pomegranate and walnut, Citrus and walnut tabbouleh, Fennel and kohlrabi salad, Israeli zucchini pie and Iraqi okra, especially prepared by the Iraqi chef.
It was a selective gathering of notables, few requested me not to mention them while few tried to stay away from my camera, reasons better known to them. But I enjoyed every single moment. The most delightful moment was, when Ambassador and his wife accompanied Muslim friends for the maghrib prayers into another room. They (Muslims) were praying while the Ambassador, his wife and staff remained there until the Imam called for Salam.
Coming back to the main hall, I got a seat next to another Pakistani gentleman and an Indian Muslim who were talking about religions. I found it interesting and jumped into conversation but was surprised to hear that the older guy was arguing with him about his faith as the Pakistani young guy was “Ahmedi”.
“Pakistani government deserved appreciation for labelling you guys as “non-Muslim”. “Yes, uncle, if you kill him you will go to the heaven”, I taunted the older guy with a huge smile.
He continued telling me that these Ahmedis cannot also go to the holy places of Makkah and Madina. “Oh really”, I responded. “You know what, these people also do not need visas to come to the United States, ” the older guy said with so much conviction that even I started to think that it might be true.
The Ahmedi guy and I look at each other with surprising thoughts. However, I decided to leave the conversation as the Ambassador was about to speak to the guests. But I wonder why he was here, having so much hate about other religions as this is interfaith iftar?
In his opening remarks, the Ambassador talked about peace, love, and harmony. Told about the peace initiatives in the region. I was surprised to know that Ambassador Michael Herzog is a retired IDF Brigadier General and has held senior positions in Israel’s ministry of defense while his wife Shirin Herzog is an Israeli attorney and was a trailblazer in the country’s legal field.
Normally such “Real power couples” in Washington D.C don’t mingle too much but to be honest, I was totally wrong. When I was introduced as a Pakistani journalist, I got a warm welcome. They were mixing up with the crowd like they know everyone personally.
“It was important to me, personally, to restore this important tradition and ensure it remains a pillar of our Embassy, Ambassador Herzog said. “We are all the sons and daughters of Abraham; we believe in and worship essentially the same God. We come from religions that command tolerance, promote ideas of coexistence, and push us to seek peace”.
“I strongly believe the extremists who seek to pervert our respective religious traditions do not represent much of the people who find peace and beautiful meaning in these traditions. The Abrahamic monotheistic religions and traditions hold a special place in Israeli society”, Ambassador remarked.
The Middle East continues to change dramatically before our very eyes. The Abraham Accords represent a historic breakthrough and have been a catalyst for hope and promise for the future between Israel, its Arab neighbours and the broader Muslim world.
These new and budding relationships are not just happening between governments, but perhaps even more importantly between the peoples of our countries. Over the past 20 months, Muslims and Jews in our region have connected in ways that were inconceivable just a few short years ago”.
It was a great event, so I posted some pictures on social media and decided to write and report. And like always whenever I post pictures and upload videos with my Jewish friends, I was asked, “Did you talk about the Palestine issue? Did you ask questions about their brutalities? Excuse me,” I am going there to have some fun, to eat and to make some friends, I am not going to a press conf”, that’s usually what I always say.
“Did he answer the question about why Israel is killing innocent people and displacing families from their ancestral home so Israel can build more Jewish neighborhoods in that area”, a follower at Instagram left a question at my post.
“It was just an iftar not a Q & A session my friend, I responded. “Off course Jahanzaib, Israelis just want peace, ” she said. “Actually, they do ”, I responded again. “You gotta be kidding me. I hope you are not serious or blind to what is happening in Al Aqsa. I heard the plight of Paletenians growing up and now my grandchildren are hearing about it, and you are telling me that Israel wants peace in the region? Or maybe they want peace by getting rid of all the Muslims from the area”, she came back with another comment, and I responded back, “It is a good debate that we can do but just think about who is responsible.
In the world of technology and innovation, Israel has more high tech start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world. Powerful military, growing economy. This State is only 70 years old and home to just 9 million people while neighbors just rely on throwing stones.
God also only helps those who help themselves. Don’t just get into a blame game. And by the way “Might is Right”. When Muslims ruled the world many centuries ago, they also left tales of brutality. Just blaming others would not fix the problem”.
The next comment she posted was “Wow, I am shocked to hear that an informed journalist speaks in favor of Israel and its aggression. I think you missed it somehow that Palestinians do not have the backing of the USA and EU”. I am not supporting Israel’s aggression but telling you the facts”, I reacted. And the last comment she left is that “the salt in that iftar’s meal was so strong that you started speaking their language” and sent her a smiling emoji.