Better together

Jewish-Arab feast marks coinciding of Passover and Ramadan

Arabs and Jews come together in Beersheba for Iftar and Mimouna event in effort to mark shared society and culture

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

A joint Iftar and Mimouna celebration in Beersheba on April 23, 2022. (Courtesy, Hagar Association)
A joint Iftar and Mimouna celebration in Beersheba on April 23, 2022. (Courtesy, Hagar Association)

As Passover and Ramadan coincided last week, a Beersheba community of Arabs and Jews celebrated with a joint Iftar and Mimouna, combining the feasts that mark the end of the daily Ramadan fast and the traditional Moroccan Jewish celebration at the conclusion of Passover.

More than 300 people took part in the event held Saturday night at Beersheba’s historic Turkish railway station, which included eating the sweets traditionally served for Ramadan and Mimouna – the Arab stuffed-and-fried katayef pancakes and Moroccan fried mufleta crepes.

“It’s an amazing opportunity of Passover and Ramadan coming together, said Sam Shube, executive director of the Hagar Association, adding that Passover and Ramadan — which moves around the calendar each year — fall at the same time only twice every 40 years.

Hagar operates a bilingual school in Beersheba that serves some 360 Jewish and Arab children from preschool through sixth grade; Israel’s only integrated Arab Jewish scout troop; and the Thaqafat Center, a platform for shared, Jewish Arab cultural activity in the Negev.

The evening began with the Iftar meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast, followed by a Havdalah ceremony to end the Sabbath, songs and stories of the Mimouna by musician David Peretz – a leader of the alternative rock music scene in southern Israel — as well as family activities.

The event was part of a wider initiative of cultural events organized by the Hagar Association, along with Eshel Avraham, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Beersheba, and Desert Stars, an organization that builds young Bedouin leadership in the Negev.

Singer David Peretz performing at a joint Iftar/Mimouna in Beersheva on April 23, 2022. (Courtesy, Hagar Association)

“We’re trying to expand into informal education, trying to integrate people outside of work and school,” said Shube, who recently helped organize a concert in the new hall in the Bedouin town of Rahat. “Now, more than ever, when terror and racism threaten to tear Israeli society asunder, this is the time to demonstrate shared society, common citizenship, and the cultural bonds that tie Jews and Arabs together in the Negev.”

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