There is a joke about summarising the chaggim — they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.
Yet how often do we invite strangers to celebrate with us? One of the best ways of making friends is by sharing a meal, and recently during Ramadan, many Muslim communities did just this — opened their events to people from other faith communities.
This year we have had several opportunities to share Muslim culture and heritage as guests of the Muslim community during Ramadan. Stuart Diamond and his wife, Lindy, attended an iftaar dinner at the Consulate General of the United States for more than 100 Capetonians from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Lester Hoffman and Gwynne Robins were among 340 people of different religions who enjoyed the food at an interfaith iftaar held by the Shia Muslims in their magnificent new Ahlul Bait Mosque in Ottery. Both the Ahmadiyya community and the Open Mosque invited Jews to interfaith iftaars and Temple Israel hosted the Open Mosque to an iftaar at their shul.
The Diamonds were also invited to an interfaith iftaar hosted by the Turquoise Harmony Institute, where Stuart and Judge Desai were the speakers. Their talks were filmed and placed on the THI website. Stuart and Gwynne were also hosted to a family iftaar with the THI director, Aydin Inal and his family, in the home of his friends. Warm conversation and an abundance of delicious Turkish food made it feel more like a Shabbat family meal than a polite formal gathering, but one of the THI’s mottos is “That we may know one another” and that is what such events achieve. They help to break down prejudices and turn strangers into friends
Stuart said, “Because when we share a meal and break bread, and we start to speak as people, over something as simple as food, we break down the boundaries and the walls that keep us apart”
In return the Cape Board hosted an interfaith iftaar a few years ago and has welcomed members of different religions to Freedom Seders, to a Sukkat Shalom, to breakfasts during United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week and most recently to a meal with a panel discussion on faith and sport with the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative.
To show compassion and goodwill to one another in everyday life, it is important that we embrace and enjoy these opportunities to build our greater Cape community. If we want this to be No Place for Hate, we must learn to share our common humanity and sharing a meal is one of the best ways to do so.