A year after a similar event landed four Palestinians in a Palestinian Authority jail, over 30 Palestinians joined dozens of Israelis as guests at the sukkah of Efrat mayor and settlements advocate Oded Revivi.
The group of some 100 guests gathered “to celebrate coexistence,” according to a press release.
The Palestinian participants were not identified in order to protect them from any backlash by PA authorities, but they were described in the release as “local Palestinian leaders from half a dozen local cities and towns.”
It is a Jewish tradition to host friends and associates in the temporary structure that are used during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) to recall the biblical account of the booths erected in the desert by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.
כ30 פלסטינים ביקרו היום בסוכה של ראש מועצת אפרת, עודד רביבי. בשנה שעברה זה נגמר במעצר של 4 מהם ע"י הרשות pic.twitter.com/qf56au1kG9
— Carmel Dangor (@carmeldangor) October 11, 2017
The event included music from a joint Muslim-Jewish musical group, and was attended by the top IDF officer in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nir Aran, and Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, among other dignitaries.
“Sukkot is out of the ordinary. We are commanded to go outside of our homes, just as the weather is beginning to change for the worse, and celebrate, exposed to the elements,” Revivi said, according to the statement.
“Making peace, like Sukkot, will only be achieved by taking extra-ordinary measures and utilizing out-of-the-box methods. First we must have peace locally between neighbors and only then will we be able to foster national reconciliation.”
He called the Palestinian participants “heroes,” saying, “I salute your bravery for coming here today. It should not be taken for granted that this event is happening for the second year in a row, after the outrageous Palestinian Authority arrests last year. We cannot allow those who prefer separation over coexistence to prevail. We must continue to break down the imaginary walls that separate us and continue to build bridges between our two communities.”
Last year, after a similar gathering, images of four Palestinian participants circulated on social media, leading PA security forces to arrest the four and detain and interrogate them for four days.
At the time, Revivi lashed the PA move, saying, “It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority. Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced. It’s time the Palestinian Authority asks itself whether it would prefer to fan the flames of conflict instead of working to bring people together.”
Palestinian statements at the time said the four were questioned about their meeting with “the murderers of babies” — a possible reference to an accident six weeks earlier in which an Efrat resident ran over and killed a six-year-old Palestinian girl. The girl’s parents were at last year’s sukkah gathering.
JTA contributed to this report.