Ronnie B., a Spring 2016 participant, is a junior from Mississauga, Ontario. She belongs to Solel Congregation, is involved in NFTY-NEL, and has been a camper at Camp George. In her blog post, she talks about a recent visit her class took to Ein Rafa, an Arab village near Tzuba.
“Understand, and then seek to be understood” -Stephen Covey
Recently, the students and parents on EIE went on a tiyul to a mosque in Ein Rafa, one of three Arab villages in the Tzuba area. The others are Abu Gosh and Ein Nakuba. These villages have good relations with Jewish population surrounding them. After a ten minute bus ride, we entered the mosque, the biggest in Ein Rafa. Everyone had to have tops and bottoms that covered their ankles and wrists, out of respect, and all the women had to have scarves that covered their heads. Personally, wearing the hijab, I felt a better connection to the holy building I was about to enter and to the religion I was about to learn more of.
We all went upstairs to the prayer hall, without our shoes, and sat separately between the genders (men in the front, women behind them.) Yasmin, a woman who converted to Islam once she learned about it in college, gave a brief explanation of her religion. She explained that Muslims believe there is one God (Allah) and Mohammed was his prophet who shared their one message, to believe in no other God except for theirs. This is also one pillar of the “Five Pillars of Faith” called “Shahada”. They must fulfill these five obligations in order to be considered a Muslim. The second pillar / obligation is called “salat”, where one must pray 5 times a day in the designated time slots. The third pillar is called “Takat” (similar to Judaism’s “tzedaka”) where one must give charity to the Muslim community in need. “Siyam” is the fourth pillar where the person has a duty to fast during Ramadan. The last pillar is “Hajj” where one must make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the birth place of Mohammed. It was very interesting to hear about the base of their religion and the similarities it has to Judaism. It gave needed background knowledge on a religion that we are surrounded by every day.
We had the opportunity to ask questions to the leader of the mosque, the Imam. A student asked about Islam’s view on terrorism and the first thing Yasmin said, translating for the Imam, was that no one can make judgements on something they have no knowledge of. Without the knowledge of Islam, there is never a way to fully understand the terrorist attacks. She continued to explain that the Islamic religion is in no way related to violence. Rather, it actually promotes justice and peace. In the Golden age, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all survived together. If Muslims were part of a violent religion, they would have killed off all the Jews and Christians at the time who refused to convert and we would not exist today. She also stressed the point that terrorist attacks are on the individual, not the religion, and that society has to clear up that stereotype before we can see any change.
Yasmin then welcomed the group to her house. She lived about a three minute walk from the mosque. She had chairs and carpets set up in her backyard for a more personal question and answer period. It was very interesting and eye-opening when Yasmin told her story of converting to Islam. I was impressed by how much of a change this religion took upon her daily life from the way she eats to how often she is obliged to pray. I also loved hearing about her view on females and hijabs. She acknowledged that some women feel oppressed because they have to hide their bodies, but Yasmin saw wearing a hijabs a feminist statement. For her, the hijab veils any distraction of her body from men and found that men respect her for what she has to say rather than her appearance. She is able to have her own space and feels she has control over her body with her hijab. Her statement brought a new and empowering side to wearing a hijab that I have never thought about before! I wish we had longer to ask her question because I felt the day and information was cut off too short.
It is very important that the young Jewish population is informed about Muslims living in Israel and around the world. Teens are so influenced and surrounded by social media that it is easy to believe anything posted with likes and favorites. Back to what the imam said, we can’t judge with no knowledge on Islam. I think that applies to not just religion, but any topic we come across in our lives. Especially for the next 3 months, I know now how important it is to approach different subjects with an open mind.