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Hebron Jews and Arabs unite at kosher Ramadan meal

Muslims and Israelis call for economic ties that transcend a failed "two-state solution."

19.5.19, 20:38
Jewish and Arab leaders from Hebron and other communities in Judea and Samaria attended an iftar break-fast meal during Ramadan. 

The Islamic holy month is observed by fasting during the daylight hours. Every evening at sundown a traditional meal to break the fast is served. In this case, the meal was provided by a kosher catering company. It was hosted by Ashraf Jabari a prominent Arab Muslim businessman from Hebron who was born into the influential Jabari clan.
 
He, together with Avi Zimmerman of the city of Ariel in the Samaria region created the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a joint project by Israeli residents of communities located in the post-1967 borders of Israel and Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority. 

“We all love the same coffee,”  stated Noam Arnon, Hebrew-language spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, noting the traditional Turkish style coffee and praising the event as the harbinger of a positive future. Arnon, the author of several books on the history of the city, has often met with Arab residents.
 
"Strange that today you need courage to make peace," Arnon said at the meal. "We all remember days before the Oslo Accords where Arabs could go anywhere in Israel, and Jews could go to any village without fear. We look forward to the day of peace without evictions and without fences," he said, referring to the peace deal that gerrymandered the region.

His words fly in the face of the two-state solution concept which sees Israel removing Jewish settlements in areas earmarked to be turned over to the PA.

The meal was hosted outside Jabari's home who was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as stating, "this meal is meant to reinforce the growing trend in which economic-business connections can strengthen relations and friendship, by way of leading people to a more positive place." He added, "breaking the fast together, at a joint meal in the city of Hebron, clearly symbolizes our ability to bridge any type of gaps."

Jabari and Arnon spoke at a conference in 2017 which promoted the application of sovereignty to the area often referred to in the media as the West Bank. At the conference, Jabari bashed the Palestinian Authority which has ruled Hebron since 1997 as not acting in the interests of their own people. 

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council also attended the meal. Wearing kippah and tzitzit, like many of the religious Jewish settler leaders present, he praised the gathering.

"We are in the process of creating an alternative to the terrorism and corruption of the Palestinian Authority," he stated on his Facebook page.

"After many years of suffering for all after the Oslo Accords, many local Arab leaders in Judea and Samaria want to follow a different path," he stated. The the US brokered Accords created the PA in 1993.
 
Dagan said that both Jews and Palestinian Authority residents want "a path that negates terror and wants to encourage economic and human cooperation, additional industrial zones in Judea and Samaria and economic investments that will build an alternative of trust and respect."

Yishai Fleisher, international spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community referred to the participants as "Arabs and Jews, settlers and Palestinians who are pro-peace but anti-Two State, anti-PLO, anti-corruption, and anti-Jihad."

The meeting followed the Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative held February in Jerusalem. It was attended by US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Oklahoma senator James Lankford and many of the same leaders who came to the Ramadan event.

Avi Zimmerman, who cofounded the initiated with Jabari stated at the iftar dinner, "we are acting out of a vision to bring about equal partnership in all economic-business aspects between Israelis and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. We are currently busy building infrastructures that enable wide and comprehensive processes at the regional, political and international levels," Israel National News quoted him at stating.

Heather Johnston of the US Israel Education Association (USIEA) said, "we want to create a united front to bring about a breakthrough on the economic issue. We call out clearly to create a separation between economics and politics and hope to reach fruitful cooperation on the subject. From our point of view, we need to continue to strengthen the connection between the legislature in the United States and activity that advocates economic equality here in Judea and Samaria. "
 
Muhammad Massad, former terrorist stated, "the only way we are going to have peace is through security, and that means getting rid of the PLO and other organizations who are corrupt, Jihadist, and are paid by forces who don't care if Jewish or Arab blood is spilled."

However, at least one participant at the event broached difficult issues. The Jerusalem Post quoted Abdallah Dajani, a Jerusalem resident who works for Delta Airlines, as stating he feels like a second-class citizen because of his ethnicity. “
"One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter," the Jpost quoted him as stating.

On the Israeli side many are concerned about terrorism and antisemitism from PA residents. Ramadan in particular brings what Fleisher calls "Jihadists" out of the woodwork, as exemplified by the 700 missiles shot from Gaza into Israel on the first evening of Ramadan, resulting in four Israeli deaths.
 
Days after the iftar dinner, border police in Hebron stopped a female terrorist at the Cave of Machpela with a knife and a Koran. She was taken in for questioning, reported the Israeli police press secretary.

Ramadan logistics also have their own examples of both peaceful coexistence and acts of violence. Every Friday in the Islamic holy month, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs is reserved for Muslim prayers while the regular Jewish prayer services are held outside at the Seventh Step garden, the site where Jews were once restricted during the Mamluke and Ottoman eras. 

It is part of the ten days a year reserved for Muslim prayers when all Jewish ritual items are removed and stored away. Likewise, there are ten days out of the year in which the 2,000-year-old holy site is reserved for Jewish prayers and Arabic signs and items are stored away for the tens of thousands that arrive for Passover Succot and other Jewish holidays.
 
During these times, the Israel Defense Forces and Magen David Adom medics work hand-in-hand with the Islamic Red Crescent and Palestinian Authority personnel to insure crowd safety and provide rescue services if needed. There are countless examples of PA residents rushing to ask IDF troops to administer CPR or other life-saving medical procedures.

By constant, examples of friction include the repeated vandalization of Jewish property in the Cave of the Patriarchs. There are several decorative mezuzah covers that adorn the doorposts and gates of the building which were found smashed or removed after Ramadan prayers. Each time, they have been replaced. Other acts of vandalism have been reported following Ramadan over the years.

In 2018 an improvised explosive device made of two small gas canisters was found planted at an entrance to the Tomb of the Patriarchs during Ramadan. The site was closed for approximately one hour while sappers neutralized the device. 

This year, the shocking rape and murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem was committed by a Hebron resident from a notoriously violent neighborhood of the city, the Abu Sneinah hills. In 2016, Hebron resident Genadi Kaufman was stabbed to death outside the Cave of Machpela.
 
The fact that 80% of the city is under PA control and off limits to Israelis is another thorn in the side of reconciliation.

Nevertheless, the participants who enjoyed  the iftar meal together see relations slowly healing, especially with the prospects of US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be revealed "Deal of the Century." Some, both Arabs and Jews, predict this will include the annexation of what some call the occupied territories as part of Israel-proper, and don't see that as necessarily  a bad thing.
 
Special US envoy Jason Greenblatt re-tweeted a post about the meal commenting "groundwork for peace indeed! A wonderful example of what could be possible."
 
Days before the iftar meal, Jabari announced the creation of the  Reform and Development Party. He told the Jerusalem Post that Palestinians prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty. “We want to have the same rights of Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he explained. “Of course, it would be better for Israel if it accepted an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. But no Israeli prime minister would dare to accept such a solution. On the other hand, no Palestinian leader can give up Jerusalem or make concessions.”
 
The law and order provided by the "racist" State of Israel may be preferable to the corruption and radicalism of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Today, more are willing to speak out publicly about what they see as the failure of the land-for-peace formula. 
 
NOTES:
 
Why Palestinians Oppose Economic Prosperity - details on Ashraf Jabari reactions

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