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"Religious tensions" Hebron Style


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Freesoul
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« on: May 12, 2010, 05:17:09 pm »

Every weekday evening, from seven to nine, I partake in a kolel at the Me'arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs). At seven we have a minyan for Mincha (afternoon prayer), followed by a class in Maimonides, followed by a minyan for Maariv (evening prayer). The Me'arat Hamachpela is partitioned. The side with the shrines of Jacob, Leah, Abraham and Sarah is used as a synagogue. The side with the shrines of Adam, Eve, Isaac and Rivka is used as a mosque. The mosque has a loudspeaker over which the pre-recorded Islamic Mu'azin's catechism is blasted five times daily, and the IDF and Mishtara (police) always present at the Me'ara are responsible for turning on the loudspeaker at the appointed times for Islamic prayers. It so happened that the appointed time for the Islamic evening prayer for a while coincided with the time that my minyan was davening Maariv at the close of our kolel each evening.

One night, as the officers on duty were heading over to Ulam Yitzchak (the mosque side) to turn on the loudspeaker, one of our small congregation angrily berated them, because the loud noise of the Mu'azin was constantly interrupting the most solemn part of our Maariv prayer. A large, bald-headed soldier and the aforementioned congregant later got into a loud, heated argument, most of it in Hebrew too rapid-fire to me to follow. The next day, the same congregant preemptively yelled further invective at the same soldier, comparing him to the troops who dispossessed Jews in Azah. At the Maariv prayer that evening, an entire phalanx of police officers, all loaded for bear and in body armor, awaited our services, expecting riots or whatnot, none of which happened, of course. The less hot-headed congregants, at close of service, made a point of wishing each and every officer present a good evening, and peace and prosperity 'til 120 years in the most affectionate of tones. I just kept quiet and observed. Next evening, there was no situation to defuse.

This time of year, when the Islamic evening prayer coincides with our carpools out of Hebron, across the guard post and back into Kiryat Arba, one thing I notice is that while every mosque in Hebron is filling the air with their particular rendition of the Towheed and other statements of faith, the Arabs on the street are conspicuously indifferent. No prayer rugs, no genuflections toward Mecca, only sitting quietly and talking at close of day, while the loudspeakers blast their pre-recorded exhortations in the sing-song melody of manifest-destiny and conquest.
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