search
Call to prayerCall to prayer

A timeout for the muezzin

A rabbi and sheikh get together at dusk in Jerusalem

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Many coexistence and interfaith events take place in Jerusalem; in September, a small crowd gathered to hear the call of the muezzin through the songs and explanations of a rabbi and sheikh at the Sacred Music Festival (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Many coexistence and interfaith events take place in Jerusalem; in September, a small crowd gathered to hear the call of the muezzin through the songs and explanations of a rabbi and sheikh at the Sacred Music Festival (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

It was day two of the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival, and a group of people were gathered on an Old City rooftop just before dusk, overlooking the Christian, Jewish and Arab neighborhoods below.

It was the perfect setting for Rabbi Hacham David Menachem and Sufi Sheikh Ghasan Manasra — two bards, musicians and friends — who were waiting for the muezzin’s call to prayer, one of five that take place throughout the Muslim day of worship.

By their side was Manasra’s son, accompanying them on the oud; Menachem had his oud too, as well as a reed flute.

The call of the muezzin was part of the four-day festival, which began Tuesday and continues through Friday, September 12.

“This isn’t a show,” Menachem warned the crowd. “You’re part of the noisemaking.”

Seated on a scattering of chairs, low stools and pillows, drinking cups of mint tea and munching on fresh figs, grapes and sesame cookies, the crowd, small by design, chuckled appreciatively, waiting for more words of wisdom from Menachem and Manasra.

And they complied for the next hour, speaking of love, God and Allah, Moses and Muhammad. They joked and kibbitzed, referring to the Bible and the Koran, to ancient Egypt and modern times.

As the hour approached for the call to prayer of the muezzin, Manasra explained the opening words, which proclaim God’s greatness as the source of all truth.

“Some mornings, my wife and I jump out of bed, it’s so loud,” said Manasra, who lives in Nazareth. “It succeeds in waking up the whole neighborhood.”

Menachem joked that his dream was to step in one morning and try his own hand at calling Muslims to prayer.

As the clock neared seven, the calls of several nearby muezzin resonated over the rooftop, mingling with the ringing of church bells, traffic and an ambulance.

“You see? It’s all three religions making noise,” said Menachem. “The Christian, the Muslims and the Jews.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed