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In bid to defuse head-to-head holidays, group airs cheery video

With Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha coinciding this week, the Abraham Fund coexistence organization releases a clip that tickles as well as informs

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

There’s plenty of tension in the air following a series of stone-throwing and fire-bombing incidents on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and in the West Bank.

Now the Abraham Fund, a nonprofit organization promoting coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, wants to make sure that the concurrence of Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha — two of Judaism and Islam’s holiest days that are observed on the same day this year, though in diametrically opposite manners — doesn’t offer more opportunity for provocation.

So the group made a video.

Designed by mixed media artist Hanoch Piven with his characteristic use of collage and narrated by Palestinian actor and singer Mira Award and Israeli actor Alon Neuman, it’s intended to charm, describe and elucidate a lunar coincidence.

Viewers are told that the two holidays will coincide this year. With very differing rituals — Yom Kippur is focused on fasting and prayer, Eid al-Adha is a celebration marked by family barbecues and revelry — the message is that both communities need to respect one another’s days of observance.

“It happens once in 30 years,” said Abraham Fund CEO Amnon Be’eri Sulizeanu, who shares his job with co-CEO Thabet Abu Ras.

That’s not strictly true. It actually happens for two or three years in a row, every 33 years, explained Rassem Kmaissi, a professor of urban planning at Haifa University who is a practicing Muslim.

Kmaissi explained that while the Hebrew and Muslim calendars are both based on the lunar cycle, Judaism and Islam treat the disparity between the 365 days of the solar year and 354 days of the lunar year differently, based on the traditions and rituals of the two religions.

In Judaism, many of the holidays are tied to agricultural and seasonal cycles, and the Jewish calendar coordinates the Gregorian and lunar calendars with months that are 29 or 30 days in length and years that are either 12 or 13 months long, corresponding to the 12.4 month solar cycle.

A Jewish leap year occurs seven times in a 19-year cycle, with 13 months instead of the usual 12. The added month is called Adar I and is inserted before the month of Adar (termed Adar II in leap years).

The Muslim calendar, however, follows a strict lunar schedule, relying on sightings of the moon and often making last-minute decisions as to the date of a holiday.

Eid al-Adha, which honors the willingness of the biblical Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as an act of submission to God, falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar. It is in this month, the final month of the Islamic calendar, in which the 4-day Hajj, or pilgrimage, takes place. The dates vary on the Gregorian calendar from year to year, drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.

Eid al-Adha celebrations can only start after the descent of the pilgrims performing the Hajj on Mount Arafat, a hill east of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, explained Kmaissi. As a result, it is the religious leaders of Saudi Arabia who determine the Gregorian dates for the holiday.

The exact date of Eid al-Adha is only decided within the week before the holiday, said Kmaissi, and can vary depending on the movements of the moon, air and sun.

“It’s how it’s done,” he said.

Last year, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha also coincided, said Kmaissi.

This year, Eid al-Adha eve will begin on Wednesday, September 23, toward the end of Yom Kippur, and the day will be celebrated on Thursday, September 24. In fact, said Be’eri Sulizeanu, some Muslims start the holiday by fasting, in an unintended overlap with the repentance-focused Yom Kippur.

Staff members at the Abraham Fund already broached the matter of potential friction last year, when the two holidays coincided, and spoke quietly to mayors, police, schools and the Education Ministry about paying attention to the issue.

“We took some time to understand the meaning of this, the potential explosiveness of what could happen,” said Be’eri Sulizeanu. “The Muslims will do barbecues and visit friends and throw fireworks while the Jews are in synagogue. It could be a catastrophe in certain cities.”

What they found last year was that nothing happened at all. They think it was because of their prior notice.

“We said, ‘pay attention that this is going to happen,'” he said. “They did, and nothing happened. And that showed us that we should do it again this year, but in a more expansive way.”

The organization turned again to local mayors and Education Ministry officials as well as to the police and religious leaders, reminding them to pay attention to the confluence of the religious holidays.

The video, however, was something they had thought about for some time, and drawing upon a connection to Piven, they presented the idea to him.

“He loved the idea,” said Be’eri Sulizeanu.

Awad, meanwhile, is a member of the Abraham Fund board, while Neuman is another supporter of the organization.

The piece has aired on television Channels 10 and 2 beginning Wednesday night after Rosh Hashanah.

For now, however, Be’eri Sulizeanu is concerned about the events over the course of the Jewish New Year — including the death of Alexander Levlovitz, whose car was stoned by Palestinians on his way back from a holiday dinner, and clashes between police and rioters on the Temple Mount — which were “very worrisome,” he said.

“We really worry that this specific coincidence could be very volatile,” said Be’eri Sulizeanu. “What happened is a very bad sign, and sometimes one incident like that spills over to other cities. We really hope it won’t; and we’re calling to everyone, to Jews and Arabs and religious leaders to be cautious. The holidays are a time of emotion, we know that from history, and we call to everyone to be aware and be tolerant.”

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