Sunday night at Beit Hanasi, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted an Iftar break fast meal for mostly leaders of the Israeli Arab community.
President Rivlin highlighted the importance of building understanding between the different communities in Israel, he said:
I am aware of the distress and pain of the Israeli Arab society – the violence in the Arab community, the shortages in housing and employment, the significant gaps in the allocation of resources and budgets – and I am working with the government on the one hand, and the mayors and companies on the other hand, in order to advance these issues.
The President’s house is your house; it is the home of all citizens of Israel. The citizenship of the Arab residents of the State of Israel is not a goodwill gesture. It is the citizenship of individuals and of a society which is part and parcel of this land; this land is their homeland, the State of Israel is their home. I am happy that Arab community leaders, and citizens, see this house as an address to raise their concerns, and I hope that this cooperation will go from strength to strength.
Today it so happened that we all fasted together, Jews and Arabs. At a time when you are marking the month of Ramadan, today we marked the 17th of Tammuz, and fast over the downfall and destruction of Jerusalem in Temple times. For all of us, the purpose of this fast is not to discipline the body, but to cultivate in our minds and spirits compassion and kindness, and opening our hearts to the one another.
The President spoke of his condemnation of the recent wave of terror attacks.
Ramadan is based on the values of compassion, mercy, and grace. But unfortunately, there are those who seek to exploit the sanctity of Ramadan, and distort its meaning in favor of criminal and murderous terrorism. I join in the concern of those countries around us, about the increase in terrorism, and I send my condolences to the President of Egypt, and the Egyptian people, following the horrific terrorist attacks in the Sinai. In the face of these bloody events, we have the duty, all the children of Abraham, to condemn strongly, loud and clear, these atrocities committed ‘in the name of God’, or ‘in the name of Islam’.
These have not been easy weeks for anyone who loves this country; for those who believe we have the ability and the duty – as Arabs and Jews – to live together. At this time, in the face of those on both sides who seek to fan the flames, we cannot and must not remain silent. We must remember that the greatest task which remains before us, is to build trust between the Jewish and Arab communities. This mission is not, and must not, be the mission the property of any particular political camp. Because in the building of trust between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel, in the land of Israel, lies the key to our existence here, to fate, and to our future.
Today, perhaps more than ever, we need leadership on both sides, who do not lose their voice, and are capable of standing before their own communities without losing their inner compasses, especially in the depth of the storm. We need leadership on both sides, uninhibited by fear, nor feeding fear. Leadership that is not driven, but that leads. Leadership that creates a common language and builds trust between the parties. Leadership that does not embolden the animosity and division between people, but rather strives valiantly each and every day towards a vision of hope and cooperation. During the days of Ramadan, Jerusalem has always worn its festive clothing. Jerusalem was and remains the focus of prayer, and of commerce and the marketplace – and this is how we want it to remain. We are working extensively to ensure a festive atmosphere in the Palestinian areas. But the Palestinian Authority have a responsibility to act decisively against terrorists seeking to sabotage our daily lives here.
The President concluded, I hope and pray that this month will be one of prayer, and of mercy, and of the opening of one heart to another.
Before the meal started there was a special Muslim prayer for breaking the fast.
Speeches were in Hebrew and Arabic. One of the Arabic leaders spoke about Ramadan using the Hebrew term “Chesbon Nefesh.” Not an easy expression to translate or explain, and it seems this year even harder to live up to, to take accountability for ones thoughts and actions.
The evening ended with platters of sweets and fresh fruit.
How sweet it all was.