Blog  Learning about Islam in Ein Rafa

Learning about Islam in Ein Rafa

By Kate, Heller High Fall 2017

Today we had a tiyul in Ein Rafa and spoke with Yasmine, who converted to Islam, and her husband Musa. We learned a variety of different topics concerning Islam through out the day.

The first part of our tiyul included a tour of the the Arabic village, Ein Rafa. Ein Rafa is located not far from Kibbutz Tzuba. In fact, we were able to see Tzuba from where we were. In order to be respectful in both the village and the mosque we were asked to be fully covered, including a head scarf for the girls. Although it was something most of us weren’t used to, it gave everyone a feel for what it’s like to live in a Muslim area and to be in a mosque. We saw the gorgeous view from the village and learned about how the it started as well as current problems the village is facing today. Examples of this are how many of the individuals do not join the Israeli army because of the diffe rent affairs they are involved in concerning other Muslims, as well as how the Jordan and Israel border had separated villages which interfered with how the two interact with each other as well as family life.

The view from Ein Rafa

In class and in the mosque we learned about how Islam was created and spread by Muhammed along with his followers, as well as the teachings of the Quran and how it influences every day life. During the time of 638-711 CE a newly found religion, Islam, began to take over all of the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, and North Africa. Not only was the Islamic empire gaining more and more land and spreading Muslim belief and culture. Muhammed, the founder of Islam, started to preach about social justice, monotheism, and his revelation around 610 CE.

We learned how Muslims pray 5 times a day and use these prayers, Salah, to connect with individuals as a community and to God. During these prayers, women are fully covered and sit behind the men. The Quran, described as infinite and for the past, present, and future, provides guidance on a variety of aspects of daily actions as well as prayer. In the Quran one can find guidance on how to pray, the different movements used during prayer, and Hadith, which is the saying of the prophet.

Personally, I found the discussion of Islam’s point of view and opinions on current issues as one of the most interesting parts of the day. When discussing how Muslims view homosexuality, Yasmine had said that according to the Quran it is a sin and sexual acts in general are a sin. However, Individuals who are emotionally attracted to the same sex should be supported by the Muslim community. One also has to take into account that this can be seen as a more liberal statement and cannot take only one person’s opinion on the matter. I appreciated that statement because it can be said that at least some Muslims are somewhat more open minded on the topic and can still follow the Quran while staying true to their own personal beliefs.

The ceiling in the mosque

Another highly discussed topic was female treatment in Muslim society. To many individuals the treatment of women in Islam can be seen as them being limited. For example women sit behind the men during prayer services, are fully covered (which is dependent on the individual), and cannot make the pilgrimage to Mecca with out a male companion. In contrast, Yasmine spoke highly of how women are respected in Muslim culture. Her main example of how women are treated in Islam was Khadija. Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife, is said to be seen as a role model to Muslim women, was an individual who stood up for herself, and was supportive of her husband. She also proposed to her husband. Yasmine stated how Khadija is an example that woman can in fact make more money than a man, can have a business, can be a boss, and can be older than their husbands. With these reasons, Yasmine had said that Islam can be, in fact, used as a feminist cause.

The Hijab was also another interesting conversation we had, especially on whether or not it was empowering to women. With cultural pressures to be covered, Yasmine claims that many women lose the real meaning of the Hijab. She spoke of how it allows women to participate in society and avoid harassment. The main point that Yasmine was trying to get across, was that the a Hijab is actually empowering and can aid women to raise up to the status of a man. She used the fact that men in Islamic culture also cover up and that men are not supposed to speak directly to a women, but instead look to the floor as other reasons of how women do not have their rights affected by Islam. With my own beliefs, I find it hard to see covering up as something to be seen as empowering, but I thought it was beautiful how Yasmine brought the meaning of a Hijab in a totally different light.

To end the day, Yasmine and Musa had invited us to their lovely home and provided a delicious, Arab meal. We continued to discuss matters such as converting to Islam, how Yasmine and Musa have raised their children to be accepting and open minded, and other controversial topics such as terrorist groups and Islamic extremists. In contrast to how Islam is often perceived in the media, I would like to include something that Yasmine had told us in the mosque. She had said that the Islam comes from the word salem which means peace.

Something that I had noticed during the day and was able to relate to is how Yasmine perceived Islam. Everyone makes some kind of compromise or sacrifices in order to follow their beliefs and continue to actively participate in a religion as well as a religious community in the present day. This is evident in her responses on homosexuality and the treatment of women in Muslim society. My question for everyone is, What kind of compromises and sacrifices do you make in order to keep your own personal beliefs while still completing mitzvot or participating in other Jewish practices? Do you think that you would be able to fully commit to something without questioning and altering it to fit your own personality and opinions? If so, can you provide an example and if not, why not?