Image: Medjool dates in a dish Copyright: forden / 123RF Stock Photo
Last week, my friend Muyesser sent me a text message: “Would you and Linda like to come to Iftar on Monday night?” Linda had plans, but I was free and very excited; I’d never been to an iftar.
We are in the middle of the month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from food, water, and intimacy from sunrise to sunset. Just after sunset, they break the fast with a meal called iftar. Usually it is a meal just for the family at home, but it can also be a community occasion, a big party. This iftar would be a gathering of Muslims from many different parts of the Bay Area, meeting at a high school over on the peninsula, south of San Francisco.
As the sky turned various shades of red, men and women carried in huge platters of food and put them on a buffet table that ran down the center of the room. Children ran around excitedly, and adults who were done with their tasks gathered at tables, talking. Then the organizer stood up with a microphone and welcomed us. He then passed the mic to me for a short blessing. I prayed for all the children of Abraham and Sarah to be blessed with insight, courage, and open hearts to see us through challenging times. After that an imam taught for a few minutes about the spirituality of Ramadan. Then a young man came forward to chant from the Quran.
Suddenly the sun slid below the hills and it was time to eat. My neighbor, a very sweet woman, offered me a medjool date from a little plate on the table. People were moving towards the buffet table, nibbling dates. Others were still standing by their tables, drinking from bottles of water.
The potluck was delicious and it reminded me of many Jewish potlucks I’ve attended. There was a huge platter of quartered pita, followed by salads, hummus, roast vegetables, dolmas, roast chicken pieces, and many different concoctions of rice and legumes, some with nuts. Dessert was on a separate table.
Where before the atmosphere had had a nervous energy (everyone was hungry!) I could feel the room relax as we ate. I sat with a group of women who became more and more playful, stopping every few minutes to make sure that I’d gotten some of a delicacy, or that I had enough to eat, or did I need water? One mother sent her daughter to the dessert table (“Bring back a plate of them!”) They were very sweet, and we laughed and talked.
Then, as the children got up to play, people began to visit. Several people came by the table to thank me for the blessing. The terrible murders in Orlando came up, and the women around me were emphatic in their disapproval. They and I were on much the same page: how was it that a man was able to buy a military type rifle with a large magazine, when he had been under investigation for terrorism and was a known wife beater?
It was a peaceful evening, a friendly evening. Eventually it was time to say my goodbyes. The organizer and my friend were both very kind, and we agreed that we needed to bring our communities together in the near future.
I made my way to the car. The Strawberry Moon, the full moon of the Summer Solstice, hung in the eastern sky above my home.
22 thoughts on “My Evening At the Iftar”
What a lovely evening. Joyous and peaceful. I would love to participate in iftar. May be all be blessed with peace.
Pamela Fender Author Beside Myself-Recovery From My Family Betrayal and Estrangement-A Memoir
Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse any typos.
I met Muyesser through a group of Jewish, Arab, and Muslim women who met for several months to do good deeds and sweeten the conversation (we called ourselves “JAM.”) While I’m no longer in touch with any of the others, she and I stayed connected via facebook and met recently for lunch to reactivate our friendship.
I joined that group in order to learn and to meet women I’d not otherwise have a chance to meet. It was just luck that two of us hit it off. Still, if this is something that interests you, check with your local religious organizations and see if anyone is doing some kind of dialogue or group. This important peace work can only be done one-on-one, but it will change the world.
thank you for sharing a lovely event, may there be many such gatherings taking place
Amen, Meredith. It was an evening of peace and sharing, and I was very grateful to be included. We all agreed there should be more of it, and I promised that whenever they called, my answer would be “yes.” Am also looking for some opportunities to make invitations from the Jewish end.
Yes! Reminds me of having our non-Jewish friends and family join us for Passover sedar! Thanks for sharing this.
That is what it felt like, Ken! I had the same thought when I was listening to the imam teach. It wasn’t my tradition, but it was beautiful and I was honored to be there.
What a beautiful evening you had. Praying that our One G-d continues to bless the entire world with many good friends and inclusive communities striving for understanding and peace.
Amen v’amen, Sheila. We need to be the hands of the Holy One in the world, reaching out to embrace one another.
I went to an iftar at Netivot Shalom, the first time in my life. I sat with a group of scientists, including one doing doing protein research, just as my husband did, though his concentration was on how certain proteins feed cells and dispose of wastes. It was a cheerful, loving evening.
Our communities need to start talking to each other.
The strawberry moon is rare. The last time it appeared was June, 1946, the month and year I was born.
Wow, Anne, I had no idea this moon was so rare! It was certainly very beautiful.
Our communities DO need to talk more. I think we also need to get past the “Basic Intro to Islam/Judaism” conversation and DO things together. Iftar, Seder, social justice work – there are plenty of shared values for us to build upon!
Your recent posts have been very educational.
Thank you, Sheri! It’s all Torah. (TM)
You are providing a valuable opportunity for those of us who want to learn more about your faith to do so. Additionally, you provide a place of wisdom and strength from which we trust your knowledge.
Sheri, I’m concerned – when I click on your blog link, I get an error message. When I type the link in I get the same error. I hope that the Internet is not mistreating you!
Oh dear, I’m not sure how to check this out. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll see what happens when I log in from Tom’s PC.
Quite an experience, Rabbi Adar! And you wrote so well about the group dinner and participants. I also agree that the more interactions of the two faiths, the better for our world. In summary, a great post, with very rich comments. Thank you!
A beautiful story of your evening. I felt as though I could see you taking in every moment.
So good to hear from you, Sheri! It was a beautiful and gentle evening. I was touched by my welcome.
It wasn’t until I read through your story and was reflecting on your great storytelling ability; it hit me that I’d heard this story before. Sure enough, my reader had for whatever reason scrolled your blog through twice and I responded twice. With everything going on in my life, your story touched me in a much different way this time. I was happy that instead of staying home to read or study or just to have some alone time, your joined in this celebration and it turned into such a joyous evening. Again, your storytelling sent me to another place all together than it did the last time I visited and that’s a real testimate to your rich talent in serving the Master’s Children. Thank You.
Thank you for the high compliment!