One is waiting for the moon, while the other, in thought and penitence

Sep 07, 2010
*Special to asia!

When the new lunar month begins this week, the holiday season will start for both the Jews and Arabs. But will there be the ultimate celebration, that of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Faith says it should.


“When is Eid?” I asked, not for the first time.

“Thursday, or Friday, we are waiting for the moon.”

That was always the reply.

On one of these days, the new moon will be seen here over the Palestinian territories and that is precisely when Eid will begin. This is unlike most non-Arab countries where Eid is clearly marked out on official calendars a year before.

It is perhaps a fitting practice since Eid is a Muslim festival, and one of the things about religion is remembering that man does not always have control, or know all.

Sometimes it is up to the heavens.

So in Arab East Jerusalem, they are waiting for the moon.


Night over Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock

The golden Dome of the Rock In Jerusalem is considered Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.


The Jews, on the other hand, have Rosh Hashanah marked out. It will begin at sundown this Wednesday, and the Jewish New Year will be ushered in with the blowing of the biblical shofar, or ram's horn.

Judaism is a contemplative religion, and the new year commences with pensiveness and consideration of all the wrongs done against God and others. For nine days, Jews are to repent and seek forgiveness from God and the people they have wronged, till the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, when God will decide accordingly the person's fate for the next year.

As observant Jews ponder upon the wrongs they have done, how many of them will remember the ones done to the Palestinians?

Does their God decree that the tenth commandment that says ' You shall not covet your neighbour's house' does not apply when the neighbour is an Arab?

Will the ultra-religious Jewish extremists in East Jerusalem who take over Palestinian homes by forcing them out using dubious papers?

What do they think, when they ask God to forgive them? Does their God decree that the tenth commandment that says “ You shall not covet your neighbour's house” does not apply when the neighbour is an Arab?

What about the religious settlers who want to demolish the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan so that they can recreate the ancient city of the Jewish King David?

According to the Second Commandment, “ You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

So why are they making an idol out of a piece of land that was David's four thousand years ago to worship it, with no regard for the Palestinians who live there now?

Let's not forget the religious Jews who claim that the Palestinian West Bank as the biblical Judea and Samaria, and will hence not give up a single inch of it.

It is the land God gave us, so in his name, we will create illegal Jews-only settlements that occupy the best land in the West Bank, so there is neither arable land left for the Palestinians, nor territory for them to build a future state from.

The Third Commandment says, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

In all the services that take place across Israel and Jerusalem in particular on Rosh Hashanah, how many Jews and how many rabbis will remember the Palestinians disenfranchised by the state of Israel?

None, I suspect.

The sins they repent of will be against God and against other Jews.


Jews praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall

This holiday season will see a larger-than-usual number of Jews gathering and praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall.


But hope is not lost in Israel, because what the religious extremists may not remember, some seculars do.

Two weeks ago, a group of actors refused to perform in the settlement of Ariel. Ariel is an illegal settlement of about 16,800 and lies more than 15 kilometres east of the Green Line, which is the generally-accepted .

In 1978, it was created in the West Bank through the expropriation of Palestinian farmland and land used by farmers for grazing their livestock. Today, according to Israeli human rights group Bet'Selem, wastewater from Ariel's wastewater treatment plant is polluting the water sources of the nearby Palestinian town of Salfit.

This has been happening for several years and is a problem that can easily be rectified if the settlement wanted to. According to Finance Ministry figures from 2007 obtained by Bet'Selem, Israel allocates NIS 9,035 per capita to the settlement of Ariel every year, 7.9 times higher than the average per capita allocation of NIS 1,200 a year for other municipalities in Israel.

Just a short drive along the highway from Tel Aviv, most Israelis may not think of Ariel as an illegal settlement, but it is in every sense of the term. Building a college there does not change that, and neither does the construction of a theatre.

Protesting against their government's policy of building and development illegal settlements  like Ariel on occupied Palestinian land, the actors refused to perform in the new theatre. It was a move that has now been backed by American Jewish actors Hollywood in as well.

The controversy it stirred up will perhaps finally rouse the dormant Israeli public into realising part of the country is built on borrowed land.

This is a move that punishes the residents of Ariel, who may live there not out of malice against the Palestinians. But it is one that needs to be taken.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi