by Brian Freedman, ICCI intern
Last Tuesday, the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) co-sponsored an interreligious event for Iftar, the daily breaking of the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Religious leaders from across Israel gathered at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkenot Sha’ananim to celebrate Ramadan and participate in a discussion about the role of charity and social justice in the three Abrahamic faiths.
The featured speaker was an Islamic court judge, qadi in Arabic, from the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye. Qadi Muhammad Abu Obeid, a graduate from Essex University Law School in England, emphasized the communal nature of Islam and the responsibility Muslims have to care for the well-being of the less fortunate members of their communities. He noted that many ills in society emanate from the desperation of the miserable and poverty-stricken. The duty of Muslims, therefore, is to supply sadaqah and zakaat, two different forms of almsgiving in Islam, which “can help the poor and make a more balanced, peaceful and loving society.” Islam frees people from their selfish proclivities and puts them on a path toward altruism and “human justice,” he added.
Invited to contribute to the discussion, which was attended by some 60 guests, were Pastor Fuad Dagher and Rabbi Ronen Lubitz. Rabbi Lubitz, from the religious community of Nir Etzion, also discussed the imperative of charity but from a Jewish perspective. He noted that there are two different forms of almsgiving, like in Islam. The first mandates that Jews give between 10-20 percent of their salaries to charity. The second, which dovetails with the Islamic concept of sadaqah, entails giving moral and not financial support. An example would be consoling a friend who has recently lost a member of his family. Rabbi Lubitz remarked that almsgiving is so integral to the Jewish faith that a person is condemned simply for not giving charity when he is capable of doing so, despite the fact that he may not have actually committed a sin. Pastor Dagher, from the Israeli-Arab city of Shefar’am (Shefa-Amr), spoke briefly about the spiritual nature of almsgiving in Christianity and thanked ICCI for the opportunity to participate in such a unique event.
This was the the third consecutive year of the Iftar event, which KAS has co-sponsored with ICCI since 2010. Commenting on the importance of the event, Rabbi Ron Kronish, ICCI’s director, said: “This is the third year that we are bringing imams, quads, rabbis, and ministers together in Jerusalem for an Iftar seminar and meal. We do this because in these difficult times, we believe that it is important to show that religious leaders in Israel can cooperate towards mutual understanding and coexistence.”