Passover, Holy Week, and Ramadan

Suzanne Gross, NEM Interim Worker

April 12, 2022

This week is a great convergence of the three Abrahamic faiths: 

  • This week, Jews around the world will be preparing their homes and synagogues for Pesach or Passover, culminating in the Passover Seder on Friday night
  • This week, Christians around the world using the Julian calendar will be concluding their 40 days of Lent, moving through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and culminating on Easter morning
  • This week, Muslims will continue their 28-day fast during the holy month of Ramadan.  Each day of fasting ends at sundown with a celebratory Iftar, or breaking of the fast, bringing family and friends together.  Ramadan culminates with an Eid – Eid al fitr, which, this year will be May 1.

My husband Robert is currently in Palestine, living with seven other North American Jews in three Palestinian villages in the south Hebron Hills.  The villagers have been very generous in including these volunteers in the festivities leading up to Ramadan.  Ramadan is a holy month of fasting to identify and empathize with those struggling with poverty.  It is a time of fasting and prayer to come closer to God, a time of sharing of wealth through zakat, and a time of coming together as a community.  There is much joy and anticipation as people prepare for and observe Ramadan.  Here in Edmonton, I was invited by friends to have coffee together the day before the start of Ramadan.  My greeting, “Asalam Aleikum” was well-received by all in the Somali coffee shop as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims around the  world during this time.  

I learned today that Robert will be helping to organize a combined Iftar and Passover Seder for the villagers and volunteers to share with their Palestinian hosts.  This will bring two traditions, and two peoples together for what will doubtless be a very holy event:  bringing fasting, generosity, community, and a powerful story of liberation together in one place.   

The Passover Seder is a story of origins – the story where a people were liberated from bondage and oppression of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, and propelled into a journey of covenant with their God of love and justice and care.  The Jewish people retell their story of origin every year.  The story is the same, but the context is always different.   Palestinian people have their own origin stories; they too have a connection to the land, and a religious claim to being heirs of Abraham. Organizing a seder in the context of a 50+ year occupation offers up a troubling paradox:  a powerful story of liberation from bondage in a current political context of perpetuating bondage and oppression – in the name of a religion that celebrates a God that liberates.

In other parts of Palestine where Christian Palestinians congregate, and in our communities, we will be celebrating Easter – a day to rejoice that death does not have the last word – that the saving words and actions of Jesus, the new Moses for the occupied Jewish people of first century Palestine, could not be killed on the cross. They live on in the stories of Jesus we tell today, and in the hearts of those of us who sign on to Jesus’ commandments.

Jesus’ foundational commandments were to love God and to love our neighbours, strangers, widows, orphans, children...   The tragedy of our day is that the people who have taken these commandments to heart are often invisible.   There are so many among us who quietly get up every day to face the winds of oppression and violence with active persistence, resilience and dignity.    They embody the Jews steeped in the same Jewish law that shaped Jesus, the Jesus of miracles and love reflected in the Qur’an, and the Jesus whom we, Christians, claim as our Lord and Saviour.  They are Jewish peacemakers, Muslim Palestinian peacemakers, and Christian Palestinian peacemakers.  

Let us pray that all voices involved in this deep and holy peacemaking will be unleashed for the good of us all as we continue to pray for peace in our world.  

Full image -- Photo credit: Artur Kornakov on Unsplash

Passover, Holy Week, and Ramadan

Passover, Holy Week, and Ramadan