Trip 20 Wrap Up at Elisha's Spring & Traditional Ramadan Iftar
After visiting one distinctly Jewish site (Na'aran Synagogue) and one Muslim (Hisham's Palace), we retire to the cool shady spring of Elisha, and discuss two historical narratives intertwined.
For the Jews, Elisha was a prophet in the book of Kings II who performed a miracle of purifying the waters of the spring by pouring salt into it. Historian Josephus Flavius mentions this episode in his writing, while referring to Old Jericho as the first Canaanite city. Josephus tells us the tradition belief that the spring was once poisonous to crops, contagious to men, and devastating for pregnant women.
This tradition still lives with local Palestinians in Jericho, as Elisha is recognized as a prophet of Islam as well, and the story of the spring is familiar. When the city opened the site to visitors, it raised banners advertising the site as the "Spring of the Sultan" because "Elisha's Spring" elicited negative reactions.
How does renaming or re-branding a sites redefine attachments to them and impact the connection of other groups to that place? Can a site hold multiple narratives or multiple peoples' historic ties at once?
With this question in mind, we continue to a local resort to prepare for the traditional Ramadan break-fast or iftar.
As the sun set and the temperature cooled, an Israeli participant asked to deliver a presentation on Islam as seen though the writings of Jewish sages. According to the speaker, Maimonides and other Jewish scholars related positively to Muslim prayers, and especially the opening Muslim Sura, which recognizes the sole supremacy of the single God.
By one interpretation of the Opening Sura, the main message of Islam is a universal one, about the divine leading people in righteous ways and in proper behavior towards others.
In some studies, is appears that Jewish sages in Arab lands or under Muslim rule were influenced by the language of the opening Sura and incorporated it into their own writing. Or, perhaps, it was the other way around - that the Koran was influenced by Hebrew prayers and figures of speech.
Perhaps, if we can unite behind the deep meaning of a particular text, and celebrate the richness of diverse historical narratives, we can pave a road towards mutual-recognition and a just resolution to continued conflict.
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