Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Rabbi to Fast For Ramadan

“All this fasting is simply a way of getting the conversation started about how we — as Jews — could learn to engage with our Muslim neighbors,” says Rabbi Natan Levy

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: July 9th, 2014 in News » World

Rabbi to Fast For Ramadan

While there’s always seemingly been a conflict between the Jewish and Islamic faiths, perhaps more so now than ever before in the wake of three Israeli boys who were murdered, it’s a relief knowing there are still some people out there who hope to bridge the gap between the faiths.

Rabbi Natan Levy, an interfaith leader in London, England, has decided to fast during Ramadan. The fast, which lasts for a full month and prohibits practitioners from eating, smoking, drinking, and having sex, is an Islamic religious practice which aims to help “refocus” their lives. They spend the month fasting in order to focus their attention more devoutly on God, release old habits, forgive others, practice self-sacrifice, and humble themselves in hope of being more charitable and better people.

A beautiful and peaceful practice, Levy hopes his participation will open a dialogue between the Jewish and Islamic communities.

“I don’t want to appear naive; there are elephants in the room between Jews and Muslim, scary ones. But I think we [should] start talking elephants only once the bonds are there, and the trust, and the mutual understanding of two peoples standing under the gaze of God,” Levy said in an interview with The Times Of Israel. “I am sad and frustrated that the Anglo Jewish community appears to live in a state I could only call deeply distrustful of anything that hints of Islam.”

Levy hopes to help shift the conversation from radical Muslim groups, which is most often broadcast in mainstream media, and begin talking openly and honestly between the two faiths. That although their beliefs may be different, “we are both children of Abraham.”

Levy, in addition to bringing about a positive and open discussion between the Muslim and Jewish faiths in England, wants to encourage others to educate themselves on different faiths, and cultures, in addition to their own. “My daughter has not been taught a single thing about Ramadan at her Jewish school,” Levy explains in the interview. “All this fasting is simply a way of getting the conversation started about how we — as Jews — could learn to engage with our Muslim neighbors.”

He also hopes to incite social change, and educate others about poverty and hunger. “Fasting focuses my thoughts on the real hunger in our midst … My voluntary fasting won’t help feed the hungry per se, but being hungry makes me angry that others must go hungry, and I pray I can do more to help them.”

So far his Muslim friends have encouraged his participation in Ramadan, glad that an effort to encourage interfaith communication and discussion has been made. His Jewish colleagues, on the other hand, have been supportive although do try to tempt him with food to see if he’ll cheat during his fast. To date, no one has volunteered to join his fast, the only exception being his 10 year old daughter that he would not allow to participate.

And although his fasting was not intended to be a political statement, Rabbi Levy wouldn’t mind if it helped to encourage political peace. “So, yeah, I am fasting, for whatever it is worth, and whatever kind of power such a thing might have, so that Israelis and Palestinians stop hating each other enough to listen to each other, and mourn together now, so we may celebrate together in the future.”


Photo Credit: Rabbi Natan Levy and Muslim leader Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra embrace at a Holocaust exhibition

Photo Courtesy: Natan Levy, via Times of Israel

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