Before Yom Kippur, President Reuven Rivlin paid a festive visit to Kafr Yasif to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and to join in a main event attended by hundreds including Arab mayors, religious leaders, public officials and academics.

 President Rivlin visits Kafr Yasif for Eid al-Adha


Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman

(Communicated by the Office of the President)

President Reuven Rivlin paid a festive visit to the northern Israeli town of Kafr Yasif in honor of the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, and took part in a main event which brought together hundreds of participants, among them local Arab mayors, religious and community leaders, judges and academics.

President Rivlin personally greeted many of the participants and wished them well over the festival. He commented, "In his book, The Liberated Bride, AB Yehoshua depicts the image of my father, orientalist Professor Rivlin, as he visited the village of a student during the fast of Ramadan. Much to their host’s surprise, Professor Rivlin also chose to fast. The women could not understand why he, a Jew, insisted on fasting; they laughed at his attempt to fulfill this important commandment. They said to him, "Professor, isn’t Yom Kippur enough for you? The rice is on the stove and the meat is on the fire."

But he, who was familiar with the tradition and culture, insisted on waiting respectfully and fasting along with everyone else. My father’s life’s work grew out of the recognition of that which lies before us, the task of building a bridge between cultures. Our cultures, Hebrew and Arabic, on the one hand are so close and, on the other, so sorely lack the ability to communicate with one another, to reach out to each other, to listen and understand out of mutual respect. The education I received from my father taught me the keys to partnership between us, Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians, are not floating somewhere above us, but right here, waiting for us to seize them. These keys are not only in the hands of the political echelons, or of law enforcement officials, they are in our hands, the hands of each and every one of us. We, who are today at the opening celebration, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Kabir.

Within this festival, there are symbols and principles that connect us as the children of Abraham, alongside symbols that express the uniqueness of each religious community. For example, the biblical Binding of Isaac, a story of standing before God, a story about the struggle between sacrifice and the sanctity of life, a story that is seminal for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Indeed, the sanctity of these days is commemorated by Muslims and Druze alike and, as it has fallen this year, for Jews, as now are the Ten Days of Repentance concluding with Yom Kippur. As with any meeting of worlds, the coincidence of these holidays this year has all the ingredients to be a source of friction, just as it offers every reason to be used as an opportunity to repair and a make a fresh start.

In recent days, I have also recognized a new positive trend. I am starting to see a little light, after the difficult and painful summer we have endured, and perhaps precisely resulting from the sense of urgency that prevailed.

In recent days I have read, heard and learned that in Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Jaffa, Akko, and other places, residents along with community leaders and mayors, local religious leaders, social activists, Jews, Arabs, of different beliefs and from different ends of the spectrum, are trying to come together to find a common path. I see how, slowly but surely, people are beginning to stand up across communities, first a few, and then by the dozen, to say ‘enough is enough’.

We must take the reins, we have the keys. Responsibility for our own fate, our future, and our community life lies in our hands, indeed upon our shoulders.

We are not prepared to retreat, not in the marketplace, the real or the virtual, not on the streets nor on Facebook, from confronting rampant violence. The acceptance of this degree of personal responsibility – within each individual and their conscience, within their surroundings, the community in which they live, the professional community in which they work, whether it be in the legal, financial or public sectors – this is the beginning of the road. This is, I believe, the beginning of the path to mending our society as a whole."

The President commented on the alarming level of violence across the country, noting, "This violence, whether it be political or within communities, is an issue to which the police and law enforcement communities must respond.

"The unimpeded, harsh violence raging today in the streets of Arab towns and cities is not merely a problem for the Arab sector. When there is violence that affects an individual’s everyday security, violence that takes place in Israeli society, violence that exists in Israel, it is the State of Israel’s responsibility to deal with it. But, in the same breath, we all know very well that real change for the better, throughout society, can occur only when all parties are held accountable, and only if neither side will neglect their responsibility, leaving it for the burden of others.

"The eradication of violence in all its manifestations begins by taking responsibility. This is a personal and communal responsibility, as it is a national one. I hope and pray that this year will be marked by individual and institutional responsibility. I want to believe that the very same ray of light which I have recognized, which begins from the grassroots, will strengthen and grow, amongst other communities and cities. May this be a year in which we will carry together a shared responsibility for our lives here."

The President concluded by offering blessings in both Hebrew and Arabic, saying, "I wish that you all will be inscribed for a good year, and have a Chag Sameach and Eid Mubarak, during which we will all act with kindness and charity. And that we will end the last year and its setbacks, and begin a new year of blessings."

The festive event was hosted with the participation of Interior Minister Gidon Sa’ar, who commented, "This year, two important festivals are taking place, both for Judaism and Islam. My request from the local municipal leaders, religious leaders, and from the general leadership is to call upon all the citizens of Israel to behave with mutual respect and to be tolerant of the faith, belief and customs of others. I also want to extend festive greetings to all the Jewish, Muslim, Druze and Circassian citizens of Israel."