On Wednesday (Sept. 23) as Jews end their Yom Kippur fast, Muslims will begin the Eid al-Adha
holiday. Imam Haytham Younis and Rabbi Alana Suskin met for coffee and then exchanged the following email
dialogue about the two holidays’ convergence and the meaning of a shared story that lies at the
intersection of both faiths.
Suskin: It is a rare occurrence for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Eid al-Adha (the Feast
of the Sacrifice) to fall back-to-back, but seems appropriate somehow. Just a week ago, on Rosh Hashanah, we
read the Torah portion relating the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son — the Jewish perspective of the same
story that underlies Eid al-Adha. For Jews, this is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac at God’s command (stopped,
of course, at the last moment, by an angel sent by God).
Younis: Yes. Eid al-Adha similarly commemorates the obedience of Abraham and his son to the
command of God in fulfilling the sacrifice, as well as the observance of the pilgrimage to the House of God (the
Kaaba) in Mecca, which, we believe, was established by Abraham. According to the Quran, the son involved in the
sacrifice however, was Ishmael, not Isaac.
Beginning tonight and continuing through Wednesday night, the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,
will be observed by Jews throughout the world. Throughout the season leading up to Yom Kippur, Jews
engage in the accounting of one's soul -cheshbon hanefesh: we examine our behavior, taking an honest
measure of ourselves and our community in the year that has passed. This self-reflection reaches its pinnacle
on Yom Kippur.
Of course, it will be the politicians and diplomats who will negotiate the terms of a peace deal, but with all
due respect to the negotiators, an enormous amount of work needs to be done, on the human level, to prepare the
ground for a historic compromise, and to solidify the deal, once the ink dries.
I believe that each and every one has access to tools to promote peace. The tools I
have are my voice, my guitar, and my strumming fingers. They help me speak a language that everyone
understands, the language of music. And through music they help me reach hearts and minds on both sides of
the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
In Israel, veteran musicians like me cannot avoid politics. You are pulled into the political arena without
wanting to become a part of politics. It was my first song, Yihiye Tov (It will be Okay), that exposed
me to the power of song. It was inspired and written at the occasion of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977
visit to Israel, and it became my first hit. Although it spoke about the tragedy of “not seeing the end” to our
wars and conflict, it is not a hopeless song. On the contrary, it is filled with faith and love.
I was active in Peace Now, the grassroots peace movement that was established to push then Prime Minister
Menachem Begin to sign a peace agreement with Sadat, and which four years later brought 400,000 Israelis to
protest against the Lebanon War. Today, people refer to that war as the “first” Lebanon War. Yes, there was a
second. Just like we’ve had a first intifada and second intifada, a first Gaza war, and second, and third. I’m
During that war, in 1982, I was drafted to sing in the front lines. It was my first experience in a war zone,
and I became shell-shocked. I was angry and depressed. I performed in anti-war demonstrations. My managers
warned me that my political activity was going to destroy my career. That didn’t stop me.
For years, I sought ways to fulfill my dream of not only singing about peace but of actually making peace,
on a small scale, through music. Thirty years later, I started working on East Jerusalem West
Jerusalem, an album that is a journey, a collaborative experience with Palestinian musicians, focusing on
hope and peace. The opening song of this album, “One to Three,” says: “I was born into this reality/
I was brought up with a war/ That doesn’t mean I must accept it/ Don’t want to fight no more.”
On both sides of our divide, most of us — almost all of us, I believe — don’t want to fight any more. We
are tired and scarred and fed up with pain and hatred. We seek hope for a better future. This is what my album
expresses, hope for a peaceful future between Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which we connect with each
other as human beings, above and beyond our national differences.
I tried to both express and practice this notion while creating the album, recording for eight days and eight
nights in East Jerusalem, at the studio of the Palestinian band Sabreen, with Palestinian musicians and
fellow Israeli musicians.
I love the album, the product of these eight days in the studio, but I equally loved the
journey, working jointly with my Palestinian and Israeli musician friends and the great American singer
songwriter and Grammy Award winner Steve Earle as producer in the intimate settings of the Sabreen
recording studio. I’m so happy that we documented on video the making of the album, as well as the
friendships that I forged with some of my Palestinian musical partners.
The documentary was recently completed and has not yet been distributed. One of my favorite scenes in the DVD
is the one documenting the experience of sitting with my friend and musical partner Issa Freij of
Sabreen on the roof of his family’s home in the Old City of Jerusalem, making music, laughing, together
finding chords on our guitars to accompany the Muslim call for prayer. It’s an experience I will never forget.
And it was completely genuine. There was no acting — these people are my friends and partners in peace. I’m
blessed to have many peace partners.
As someone who has always been close to Israel’s Peace Now movement, and proud of it, I am today proud to
partner with its US sister organization, Americans for Peace Now, to offer you the album and the film — a CD
and DVD set — for a donation of $72 or more. All but $15 of your
donation is tax-deductible.
As I see it,your gift to APNis a way for you to
contribute to bringing Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace. I hope you enjoy the CD and the film
documenting the path that led to it, and I hope that both inspire you to continue working for peace.
“Peace gotta come!”
Shana Tova, May this be a year of peace,
Born in Israel and raised in England and Spain, Israeli superstar singer-songwriter DAVID BROZA combines folk, flamenco, pop and rock-and-roll, and performs
in English, Hebrew and Spanish. He is known for his passion and dedication to humanitarian and
political projects, first and foremost the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A goodwill ambassador for
UNICEF, Broza is one of Israel’s most prolific and diverse musicians. East Jerusalem West
Jerusalem is his 28th album.
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Lag B'Omer - the 33rd day between Pesach and Shavuot- is a little-known Jewish holiday that celebrates (among other
things) the cessation of a divinely-sent plague that resulted from people not showing one another adequate respect.
It is celebrated with bonfires, and for the religious, a cessation in the semi-mourning practices observed
throughout the Post-Passover Omer period. In Israel, on Lag B'Omer, a pall of smoke hovers over the city of
Jerusalem from all the bonfires being set throughout the city.
Today, it feels as though mourning is the proper mood. The plague we suffer is one of racism, violence and
destruction. "Price tag" - the practice of destroying and vandalizing the property not only of Palestinians, but of
Christians, and of those who work for peace on the left, has continued to increase.
The holiday of Passover celebrates the redemption of a people from slavery- a story of redemption not only for
Jews, but for many people who yearn for justice and freedom. Yet, there are still injustices to be overturned. A
full glass of wine symbolizes complete joy, and during the Seder, we spill wine from our cup to remember the
suffering of others that accompanied our redemption. Traditionally, we then recite the ten plagues; this year, we
list ten modern plagues (starting with settlement expansion)- those that we have yet to overcome.
Each year at Passover, Jews read this line in the haggadah, "In every generation a person is obligated to see
themselves as if they had left Egypt." Why? Because each of us should understand that in our generation, just
as in our ancestors' generation, the status quo is not inevitable. Societies founded on inequality, on
domination of others, on ruling those who do not wish to be ruled cannot, in the arc of history, last. In every
generation there is a wrong to be righted. Today, it is in our hands to right it.
This year, you can add flavor to your seder by sharing this thoughtful reflection by Rabbi Toba Spitzer.
Rabbi Spitzer, who is the recipient of Americans for Peace Now’s 2015 Elizabeth Wyner Mark Peace Award, has
graciously contributed our 14th haggadah insert. In it, she reminds us of the costs for freedom, and asks
us to make an honest reckoning, an acknowledgment, and perhaps a commitment to make some kind of repair to
those who are affected by the privileges we enjoy.
Since 2001, Americans for Peace Now has asked rabbis from the extended APN family to contribute reflections
on the haggadah: that story which has for centuries been understood as the archetype of liberation. Many of
us have made these reflections a permanent part of our seder - we hope you will, too. You can find them
May we all enjoy a sweet and liberating Passover,
President and CEO,
Americans for Peace Now
Submitted by Rabbi Toba Spitzer (2015)
Rabbi Spitzer is recipient of Americans for Peace Now’s 2015 Elizabeth Wyner Mark Peace Award
To be read just before the recitation of the ten plagues.