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Jerusalem SOS

West Bank Wall

A graffiti depicting a way toward peace on the wall in Bethlehem on the edge of the West Bank shows hope and a wish for reconciliation. Image: Delayed Gratification Flickr

Undividing the Muslim Jewish experience by ignoring difference

by Dr. Ms. Mehnaz Afridi – Women’s News Network

(WNN/CGN): NY, NEW YORK: As I listen to sound bites of news, a swarm of words sting me: Iran, Israel, nuclear, Palestine-Israel at a standstill, Muslims kill Jews, and Jews kill Muslims. As a Muslim woman who teaches classes about the Holocaust at a Catholic college, I am constantly frustrated by the media coverage of the Middle East which overwhelmingly serves to highlight and entrench national and religious tensions, prejudice and conflict.

A recently-aired documentary by filmmaker Karen Ghitis, on Al Jazeera, was an extremely heartening exception to the rule. The film, Jerusalem SOS, showed Jews and Muslims saving each other’s lives.

The documentary, which aired last month, portrayed Arabs wearing orange vests printed with the red Star of David teamed up with haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) Jews with side curls, black skullcaps and tzitziot (knotted ritual fringes on their garments). And both groups have only praise for each other. Working as volunteer paramedics for the Orthodox Jewish organisation United Hatzalah (UH), these Jews and Muslims are taking note of the most important aspects of their faiths: preserving human lives and justice.

I was reminded of the Qur’anic injunction that states that “on that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`il that if any one slew a person … it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity” (5:32).

Likewise, the Talmud (a repository of the ancient Jewish oral law and wisdom) states, “whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Babylonian Talmud, 22a).

In the documentary the UH-trained Palestinian paramedics note that there are often delays in ambulances reaching the sick and wounded in East Jerusalem because Israeli ambulances are not permitted to enter Palestinian neighbourhoods without being accompanied by a police or military escort. Moreover, some of the homes have no addresses. Because the UH paramedics know the area well and drive ambucycles (ambulances on motorcycles), they are the first to arrive at the scene.

The film shows the rescue team transcending physical and political borders in order to save lives. Members of both faiths help each other provide for their communities on their respective holy days: Muslims come to the rescue of Jews on the Jewish Sabbath, and Jews help Muslims in emergencies on Fridays, as well as during Ramadan.

Eli Be’er, the founder of UH, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying: “Jews and Muslims do not oppose working together, despite the invisible boundaries and suspicions that separate their communities. In the beginning, I met a few who were surprised about working together, but after they saw that they are great people and really professional, they all like it.”

These Muslim and Jewish paramedics have embraced the spiritual richness of their faiths and ignored the superficial boundaries of difference. Media outlets should try and take a cue from their story, and focus more attention on hope and cooperation.

Another heartening interfaith story from some months ago comes to mind. On 5 June, ABC News reported that “One Israeli man dying of a failing heart learned today that he would live, thanks to a Palestinian family who donated the heart of one of its members slain in the escalating violence wracking Israel.”

The Israeli who received the heart commented on how their hearts were the same, and ultimately they were the same inside.

Even though the rancour of negative media surrounds us, it is important to acknowledge that grassroots initiatives by organisations like UH, or the personal initiative of the Palestinian family who donated a loved one’s heart, are the key to building understanding between Jews and Muslims.

It is therefore crucial that Jews and Muslims tune into the many positive stories of life and death, faith and justice that occur on a daily basis on the ground.

I am always in search of such heartfelt stories that illuminate the commonalities of our faiths and demonstrate social justice. In the three monotheistic religions we are commanded not to bear false witness. After all, we are all children of God and it is through our actions and perseverance that we affirm our shared values and commitments to one another – irrespective of religious differences.


Witness: Jerusalem SOS

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  • H. Torrance Griffin

    It is good to hear such news, and I have long thought that any long-term solution that does not involve a few survivors inheriting a lot of rubble needs to start with two premises.

    A) The ‘Zionists’ are neither going to evacuate en masse nor submit to massacre. Cope.

    B) The Palestinians are neither going to evacuate en masse nor submit to massacre. Cope.

    (I would also add in extending the existing Law Of Return to the Palestinian Diaspra, starting Compensation Bidding Wars on exant properies with conflicting claims, and so forth… but in the end that is all haggling, those fist two are the core matters the bitter enders on _both_ sides need to swallow)

  • IlanReiber Says: Nice story!

    Here is another one, of our shared heritage in Jerusalem and tolerant Jewish values which are not reciprocated. We cannot even set foot in Mecca or Medina.

    And we could not set foot in the Temple, let alone in the Holy of Holies. As for “reciprocity,” talk to your rabbis ~ who forbid you from walking on the Temple Mount lest you might step onto forbidden ground. It is not the muslims who prohibit you from “The House of God for All Nations,” but those who deny the Messiah Jesus.

    The Zionist belief held by a devout Jew and based on the Torah does not in any way conflict with the Qur’an.

    This is true, and was the status quo from the liberation of The Promised Land until the early Twentieth Century ~ and is still the situation in many places in Palestine.

    It is the “irreligious, godless Zionism” that we as Muslims condemn and regard as a threat.

    It is the Israel of the pharisees and scribes, damned forever according to the words of the Messiah Jesus, who returned to the “Second Temple” commissioned by Grand Master Cyrus of Persia.

    The faithful of Moses who neither deny the Messiah nor recognize him (i.e.,, Israelites), or who do recognize and follow him (i.e., monotheistic Christians who follow him to the best of their knowledge), have remained in the former Kingdom of David since the liberation during the time of ‘Umar, and remain there still.

  • IlanReiber

    Nice story!

    Here is another one, of our shared heritage in Jerusalem and tolerant Jewish values which are not reciprocated. We cannot even set foot in Mecca or Medina.


    There are two varieties of Zionism today. The first of these is the Zionist conception of the devout Jewish people, who wish to live in peace and security in Israel alongside Muslims, seeking peace and wishing to worship in the lands of their forefathers and engage in business. In that sense, Muslims support Zionism. We would fully back the devout Jewish people living in peace and security in their own lands, remembering Allah [God], worshiping in their synagogues and engaging in science and trade in their own land.

    The Zionist belief held by a devout Jew and based on the Torah does not in any way conflict with the Qur’an. The Jews’ living in that region is indicated in the Qur’an, in which it is revealed that Allah [God] has settled the Children of Israel on it:

    Remember when Moses said to his people, “My people! Remember Allah’s [God’s] blessing to you when He appointed prophets among you and appointed kings for you, and gave you what He had not given to anyone else in all the worlds! My people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah [God] has ordained for you. Do not turn back in your tracks and so become transformed into losers.” (Surat al-Ma’ida: 20-21)

    It is the “irreligious, godless Zionism” that we as Muslims condemn and regard as a threat.

  • Al

    Masha’Allaah, beautiful stories!

  • I am always in search of such heartfelt stories that illuminate the commonalities of our faiths and demonstrate social justice.

    Here’s another with an interesting twist, from some years ago:

    Our Imam, an American with no family heritage of Islam, has a sister in Israel with no family heritage of Judaism. She needed a genetic match for a transplant to save her life. Our Imam was the only match to be found.

    The Israelis issued him an Israeli passport ~ an Israeli stamp on his American passport would bar him from entering Saudi Arabia to make Hajj. The Israelis flew him to Israel, first-class, paid all of his expenses, performed the transplant at government expense, and flew him back to the United States. Neither brother nor sister needed to pay a dime.

    The interesting twist: the muslim brother and Jewish sister are black; neither has a college degree or a position in a “critical” industry; and it was so “newsworthy” that not a word about it was “All the News that’s Fit to Print,” either in Israel or in the United States.

  • I recommend the writer to watch 2010 movie “God House”. A film by American Jewish photographer, Norman H. Gershman that shows Muslim tolerance towards Jews during the time when 150,000 Jews served in Nazi Army and the leaders of the World Zionist movement refused to help the European Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. Gershman chronicles the stories of Muslims, especially in Albania, who saved the lives of the Jews during WW II. Albania, Muslim country with a population of 3.6 million gave refuge to and hid 2,000 foreign European Jews. “These Muslim people in this small little country did something miraculous,” Gershman says in the film.Fritzi Weitzman 85 – then 13-year-old, was one of the Austrian Jews saved by the Muslims.

    However, it’s not an isolated case. According to Stanford J. Shaw, on the orders of Turkey’s president Ismet Inonu (a Crypto-Jew), Turkish ambassdors in Germany and France issued vissas to 100,000 European Jews to escape Nazi regime. In the past, Muslim armies liberated Jewish communities living under Church’s yoke in Jerusalem (638 CE), Spain (711 CE) and Greece (1450 CE). It was Sultan Slahuddin who after giving a crushing defeat to the Crusaders occupying Palestine in 1186 CE – allowed the Jews to resettle in Jerusalem after nine decades. On June 10, 2005 – The Israeli mole, Abraham Foxman, national director of Anti-Defamation League (ADL) presented organization’s highest award, Courage to Care Award, to Turkish prime minister Recep Tattip Erdogan in appreciation of its diplomates for saving the Jews under Nazi regime. While accepting the award at ADL headquarters in New York, Erdogan assured the ‘Islamophobe’ Jewish leaders that there is no anti-Semitism in Muslim-majority (99.7%) Turkey. ADL was taken to task for accepting the Muslim tolerance by Muslim-hating Daniel Pipes and his fellow Zionist creeps. Interestingly, since Erdogan has called Ahmadinejad “a good friend” – Foxman has been complaining about persecution of Jewish minority (26,000) in Turkey……

  • mindy1

    😀 😀 Love people working together

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