Israeli ambassador to U.S. hosts Ramadan dinner
Omer Bajwa, the Coordinator of Muslim Life at Yale University, talks to Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.
August 25th, 2011
05:16 PM ET

Israeli ambassador to U.S. hosts Ramadan dinner

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The Israeli ambassador to the United States hosted a dinner celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Thursday, marking the first time an ambassador from the Jewish state has hosted such a dinner in the United States, the embassy said.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren hosted the dinner at his residence, with about 65 guests in attendance, including imams, rabbis and officials from the White House, Congress and the State Department, according to Israeli Embassy spokesman Lior Weintraub.

Oren said the unusual dinner is fitting at a time when the future of the Middle East is uncertain, as the Arab Spring has unseated regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and as Libya appears poised on the brink of a revolution.

“We’re in the middle of a huge transition in the Middle East, and we see risks, but we also see opportunities there,” he said. “We want to be able to tell people in the Middle East what those opportunities are.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation about Israel, and we want to show we’re open to dialogue and reconciliation,” he said. “We can begin to build bridges on an interpersonal level.”

In remarks at the dinner, Oren cited the biblical Book of Psalms: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity."

Thursday’s Ramadan dinner, called an iftar, featured a call to prayer, during which the dining room at the ambassador’s residence was turned into a Muslim prayer space, the embassy said.

All food served at the meal was halal, meaning it has been prepared according to certain Muslim customs. The meal was prepared under the direction of a Muslim chef, the embassy said.

The fast was broken with traditional Islamic foods like dates, apricot juice and soup.

The dinner's guests included Dennis Ross, a White House adviser on the Middle East; State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland; Farah Pandith, the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities; and Hannah Rosenthal, state's special envoy to monitor and combat anti-semitism.

Oren said he hopes the meal at the Israeli ambassador’s residence becomes an annual tradition.

“Israel has a very large and vibrant Muslim population, with Muslim members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and in science and academics, and I’m their ambassador as well,” Oren said. “This is very much a state function for us, not just about reaching out.”

The ambassador said he was heartened about prospects for Jewish and Muslim cooperation when his wife visited an Israeli hospital last week for an emergency appendectomy, with the operation and the recovery overseen by Jewish and Muslim doctors and nurses working together.

Oren said he saw medical staff “acting on the basis of common humanity, without any distinction over faith. … Everyone there was an example of how it can be.”

The iftar dinner comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and much of the Muslim world, with a rash of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in the past week and the Palestinian Authority preparing to make a bid for statehood in the United Nations next month.

Iftar dinners are held during Ramadan to break the daily fast.

President Barack Obama hosted an iftar dinner at the White House this month, a tradition that dates to President Bill Clinton.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Israel • Judaism • Ramadan

soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Reality

    And the celebration of cons, legends and myths continues:

    One of the big, big cons:

    It is called the Infamous Angelic Con:

    Mohammed had his Gabriel of the topic Ramadan con(this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie, horn blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Billy Jester

    bet they are serving kosher pork

    August 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • abdul izsmelli

      and your mom will service all of the guests after dinner, I am certain.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Kyle

    This is a great gesture and hopefully will be replicated by someone in the muslim community. It is great to see the 'human' side of people every once in a while; it certainly helps offset all the rock throwing and gunblazing of the right.

    Thank you

    August 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  4. HeavenSent

    Jesus warned,

    Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    Matthew 7:13


    August 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dave

      What? So now I have to buy a new gate?


      August 25, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Dave Is Emotional

      You must forgive Dave, he is an emotional, outspoken person. Have you taken your meds yet Dave? I think you're beginning to act up again.

      On a side note, HS, what in the WORLD does your post have to do with this article?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Dave is emotional, my post had everything to do with these fools that haven’t a clue to who Jesus is.

      If you do not believe God, it will be accounted to you as wickedness (Psalm 119:118; 1 John 5:10).


      August 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  5. Dave

    Ok "Dave Is Emotional" person. I could write volumes to substantiate my opinion that religion is evil. Can you UN-substantiate it? Name ONE postive thing that can be attributed to religion. One.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Dave Is Emotional

      Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. used teachings of the Bible and Gandhi to insist on the notion of Civil Rights and equality.

      Now aside from wars (people's fault, not religion), pedophilia (people again), and corruption (oh look, that's people too), please inform me of the "volumes" of reasons religion–not people–is wrong.

      In response to those listed, I'll paraphrase the Bible:
      war: those that live by the sword, die by the sword & blessed are the peace makers

      pedophilia: If anyone causes one ot these little ones to sin, it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and thrown into the sea than the fate that awaits them. (Judgment by God, not condoning violence).

      corruption: countless stories of Jesus condemning the Pharisees for their church and political corruption.

      I could site other religious texts as well, but my question remains: where are your volumes? Show me that it is the religions–all religions as you claim–at fault, and not the people "following" them.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Dave

      I don't know if I have the strength to keep this up, but hopefully my meds will kick in. Religions are cults. Cults tell people what to believe. People follow. Thus religions are inherintly corrupt and distort free will. Most wars throughout human history have been based on "my God is better then your God, and/or my messiah is better thany yours". That seems pretty obvious and you seem like a smart person. Even if you don't agree, you still have not given me one thing religion is responsible for that is positive. The words of Doctor King didn't require a Bible. It is common sense. The Catholic church has instutionalized child abuse. Jesus did not value religion, you just said so yourself. Religions divide people, they don't bring them together. Religions are not needed and indeed, lead to greed, war, abuse and other evil doing. Plus this whold "worship" thing is just creepy.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  6. Jay

    Great gesture of peace and respect- I really hope there is no hidden agendas unless the agenda is to build bridges- I hope many more like this will come .

    August 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  7. mseikeh

    Nice. They might observe the Sabath in Mecca one Saturday......

    August 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • A Theist

      If you aren't joking, then I am deeply saddened... mostly because I can only believe that you are.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • mseikeh

      You don't have to be saddend. I am NOT joking. No one in the 80s ever thought the Berlin wall would fall ... things can be changed....and it can beat your imagination...

      August 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  8. George

    Western Christianity has officially been destroyed thanks to Obama.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • zooompilot

      Do you suffer from frequent headaches and uncontrolled bowel movements? Yep, you have it. You have an acute case of morbid stupidity.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Dave

      I wish.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Billy Jester


      August 25, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  9. Pharod

    As a non-Arab Muslim myself, I think it's a great peaceful gesture to have Isreali ambassador do this. It's good for all of us to at least for once remember that despite all the hatred and bloodshed, we are bound by humanity and that celebrating each other's difrences sends a lot of positive messege

    August 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Dave

      DESPITE the hatred and bloodshed???? That is all religion is good for, hatred and bloodshed!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • tada123

      i agrre with you farod as an israeli jew. it is great and i hope it will help, even in the slightest way for peace.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      I think it's disgusting. Just as bad as Chrislam.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Dave Is Emotional

      Dave, that's a rather bold statement you're making. Care to qualify, or do you just want to continue looking silly as you throw around absolutes and unsubstantiated claims?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Dave

      Wow, if I would have known dinner would make the Jews give Israel to the Muslims I would have recommended it a long time ago! What's that you say? They are NOT giving up Israel? Well that better be one darn good meal then.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  10. Naveed

    What an honorable thing to do..This goes long ways in showing that Israel respects Islam. Now, how do I get invited!! lol.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  11. Bolaji09

    Progressive step. Inch by inch, the dividing wall should with time crumble. Learn a bit from communities around the world (African especially) where neighbors of differing religions get along perfectly without necessarily sharing meals of religious significance of the other side.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  12. Rick Springfield

    It will go fine as long as one of the participants doesn't pack his cloak with 5lbs of TATP.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Naveed


      August 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Michael

      Ahh yes... the shopworn all-Muslims-are-terrorists argument. Grow up.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  13. Rocky

    Cool, does this mean I get invited to sit down and eat Christmas turkey with the Israeli Ambassador at Christmas time? or maybe an Easter ham? I won't hold my breath.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Balboa

      As soon as I come to your house for Hannukah. Shall I bring the dessert?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • IV

      If there were nearly as many Christians in Israel as Muslims and if there was nearly as much violence between them and the Jews, then yes. Until then, keep breathing.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Howard

      I knew someone would find something cynical to say about a good gesture.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  14. Happyfrenchman

    Very good. Bravo to Israel. We all have to get along. Jews and Muslims have for centuries gotten along pretty well.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Sad frenchman

      Ummmm If you call forced conversions, paying the jizya and constant threats getting along, you are right.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  15. Palestinian

    I think Israel will try anything these months to try to brainwash others. They know all these Arab uprisings aren't in their favor and the road will get bumpy for them. You saw how tough Egypt got with Israel last week. Now Israel knows that buying dictators with US money isn't the way, but building bridges with the people is the way. The US learned this lesson too. But honestly, I don't think the Israelis love Muslims. They hate them with a passion.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Befairandjust

      Why don't the Palestinians try their own brainwashing tactics, like recognizing Israel?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Interesting, I have a friend from Iran and 3 friends from Israel as well a Muslim friend. The friend from Iran is Arab and he does hate Jews and wants to see the Iranian leader overthrown. My Muslim friend does not hate jews and wants to see peace in the ME and wants to see freedom flourish in the ME. My friends from Israel do not hate Muslims or Arabs and want peace. All the friends I spoke of are anti terrorist though.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      **correction: my Iranian friend does NOT hate Jews

      August 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Thinker23

      You, probably, forgot that ALL wars between Israel and the Arab countries were initiated by the Arab dictators so your story about Israel "buying Arab dictators" does not hold water. On the other hand, your suggestion that, if allowed, the Arabs will run to kill the Jews means that (at least, in YOUR opinion) the Arabs are bloody hateful fanatics genetically programmed to hate and kill. If I was an Arab I would be offended.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Palestinian perhaps freedom in ther Arab world will reduce hatred and ignorance that was fueled by the tyrants. Actually the Arab states that become free might become allies to Israel.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • CSnord

      Yes, Israelis are just full of hatred for anything that is not Jewish. Which, of course, is in stark contrast to the tolerance and inclusion that is shown by Muslims, in general, and Palestinians in particular. The warm greetings brought on the flames of Katusha rockets. The fellowship shown by the suicide bombers that blow up market places. The kindness shown to those who denounce Islam as their heads are severed from their bodies.

      I'd rather face the hatred of the Jews than the kindness of Muslims.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • pathetic

      so many zionist supporters on. Of COURSE you will send rockets to liberate your homeland. Of course you will fight and kill the occupying force. That is the definition of freedom fighting.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ahmadenijad

      Happy New Year! I am hosting a Rosh Hashanah party at my house! We are going to party like it's 2029!


      August 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Pathetic: The best way to GET freedom is to make peace. The best way to FIGHT freedom is to attack your neighbors. This is what the Palestinian Arabs were doing for 60 years. Can they be proud by their achievements, in your opinion?

      August 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • CSnord

      @Pathetic - One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Israel is not occupying the land illegally. They have a mandate under the 1948 UN resolution that established Israel as a nation. That makes the Palestinians' actions illegal under International Law and, therefore, acts of terror. If the Palestinians object to the situation, their beef is with the UN, not Israel.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      And why shouldn't the Israeli Ambassador put on a Ramadan dinner? 10% of Israel's Knesset (Parliament) are Muslim. Remind us again, "Palestinian" how many freely elected Parliaments there are in the Islamic world? No, the Iranian fraud and the Hamas terror state don't count.

      And of course the Palestinian leadership has been cheating its own people for decades now, taking money from the Saudis and others and putting that money into Swiss bank accounts and villas in France.

      Let's see:

      Jewish refugees from Arab and Islamic countries have been integrated into Israeli society.

      Millions of Hindu refugees from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have been integrated into India.

      Only the Palestinians were left to rot by their "brothers".

      August 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • tada123

      palestinian, with all due respect muslims have been against israel for the better part of a century. you tried to destroy us 3 times minus all the terror activities. now israel has learned from past experience not to trust you with land (look at gaza. the moment israelis left hamas launched its first rockets). then you accuse us of being aggressors. you should look at yourselves. you kill whoever you want, and then when israel retiliates you cry to UN, which believes everything. muslims, mainly arabs have to realize palestinians will get their state when israel is out of danger,or at the very least until terror groups are disbanded.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • tada123

      Arabs have been attacking jews even before israel was even thought of:hebron massacre,baghdad pogroms,jewish communities being abused in yemen.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  16. Selby Willis

    I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner – Israel has a very large Arab minority and a large Muslim minority

    August 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Thinker23

      The "very large" Muslim minority is 100% Arab. Not all Israeli Arabs are Muslims, however. About 10% of them are Christians.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  17. Muslim

    I think this is PR propaganda for Israel. This is the most anti-Islamic state in the entire world and hosting this will do nothing. Pity those Muslims who will attend it. Just look at israel supporters in the US and you will see how much they hate Muslims. I am not buying into this.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Befairandjust

      Because it doesn't help to foment your hatred.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Thinker23

      I have to agree that hosting a Ramadan dinner will do nothing to improve the relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Peace is like a tango: BOTH sides must be willing to make peace for it to happen. Until now it was Israel that offered peace to the Muslims and it were the Muslims who rejected it every single time (with two exceptions).

      August 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Muslim: If Israel is the most anti-Islamic state in the whole world HOW COME EVERY FOURTH ISRAELI IS A MUSLIM?????

      August 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      Don't be an idiot Mr. self-described "Muslim". Israel is the only country in the Arab and Islamic world where Jews, Christians, and Muslims sit in a freely elected Parliament. No doubt you prefer the fraud of the Iranian "parliament" or the terror state of Hamas, where opponents to the rulers are simply murdered.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Kendo Morales

      "Muslim" this is GOOD "PR propaganda' and you need to say "yes, this is good! Do it more!"

      August 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  18. RabbiM

    eating a break-fast meal is not the same as taking communion (which requires someone to be a believer). Just like eating a bagel doesn't make you Jewish!
    thank you Ambassador Oren for your inclusive pluralistic meal!

    August 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • A Theist

      Thanks for the clarification!

      August 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  19. Dave

    Why does God always have to be the center of attention? So childish.

    August 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Nonimus

      True, you'd think 2000+ years of worship would be enough for anyone.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Dave


      August 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • God

      Rebellious toys of mine! Now you will get a hurricane and an earthquake to remind you of Me.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • abdul izsmelli


      August 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Dave- plz note that this is a "faith now" article. Should it surprise you that two groups that have a background in the abrahamic religions might have something to do with God?

      August 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Dave

      I am gonna eat thunder and C___ Lightening!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  20. A Theist

    I'm just curious because I'm not a Muslim, but is it appropriate for a non-believer to be partaking in a meal that is meant to focus on their God? I ask because I know that in Christianity it's generally recommended that believers partake in Communion but only believers. Ultimately it's up to the individual, but my understanding is that it's generally a sin to take Communion unless you are right with God. How does that play out in Ramadan?

    August 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • A Theist

      *but only if they are believers

      August 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Mohamad

      because Christians and Jews are considered the people of the book i dont believe there is any conflict with this

      August 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • J.W

      Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in the same God. It seems to be that the 3 of them just have differing views about Jesus. I think the problem with communion is that it is representative of that last supper with Jesus and his disciples. Therefore the problem with Non-Christians partaking in this is that they do not believe Jesus is divine.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • M

      One doesn't have to be Muslim to participate in fasting and Iftar. Many universities around the country host "Fast-A-Thon"s which have a day in which everyone in the community is invited to fast and have a huge dinner.

      Fasting isn't just about worshipping one's God, it's also about discipline (not eating the delicious cake in front of you), humility, and compassion for those who are less fortunate. It also has medical benefits by helping to cleanse the body of toxins.

      August 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Allen

      Taking Communion and participating in a religious tradition of sorts are two different things. One is a sacrament, the other is more like a celebration. In fact, it's probably worse on the non-Christian's end to take Communion, being that the non-Christian is participating in a holy rite that is not of his/her own religion. The Christian doesn't care, being that it may result in having another person come into their religion, which is what most religions strive for anyway (converts). A non-Muslim participating in an Iftar dinner is equivalent to a Russian coming to eat with an American for Thanksgiving dinner. The Russian has no affiliation with the holiday and does not normally celebrate it being that he is from Russia, but the American is glad to have him because it is a time to get together to eat, drink, and enjoy each others company.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • A Theist

      Thanks for the clarifications. The answers seem to all be in agreement, and that's basically what I thought the difference was before asking, but I wanted some thoughts other than my own to see where I stood in comparison.


      August 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • abdul izsmelli

      so long as they do not park their camel in a restricted zone, it will be ok.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.