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. E

    Alas... the article almost inspired hope for interfaith understanding, quickly quashed by many bigoted comments!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Bleh, most posting here are ignorant kids that would mess their pants if I gave in to the temptation of calling some buddies on Obrien road at Ft Meade to look them up and visit them at their homes.
      Not that I'd DO anything to cause harm, other than their shorts. It's tempting, but not worth the aggravation.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  2. Daniel

    What next???...The U.S. President will be wiping the Imams' Ass.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Mark

      Probably a good idea, since when they pray, one's head is close to the azz in front of you.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Wow! So, now the President is an Israeli!
      It looks like we're making progress! At least the idiot poster didn't call him a Kenyan.
      Now, he's a Jew.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Big Man

      Why not. Our govt already wipes the dirty, unwashed asses of Israelis and US jewish minions.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Mark

    I'm also hosting such a dinner for all Moslem guests that wish to attend. We have to reach out with friendship and embrace other cultures, not fear them. Any moslem that would like to partake of this meal, please do what you can to meet me at the following address: He11. Be early if you can.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • GTFU

      If only there were an age requirement for posting on the internet!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Lead by example. Go to hell right now and set the reception.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Mark

      My mom said I have to wait til I'm 18 b4 I can leave the house, so just go ahead w/o me.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Well, since you are mature enough to talk back to adults, you can leave and go to hell right now.
      Your mother will be waiting for you to come back.
      Let us all know how well it turns out for you!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Mark

      Wzrd, adults don't know what's going on anymore and are the reason the world is such a wreck. Their bodies are so ruined with medicine (don't do drugs Johnnie, but where's my cialis), their minds ruined by stupid entertainment (don't watch pron, but we're off to see Black Swan) and, well, their plain ugly. 'Cept my mom.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • DiabloDiegoDelMar

      Your mom tasted great last night.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Mark, you can tell me that adults don't know what is going on AFTER you spend two and a half hours collecting parts of a good friend after an IED blast.
      You can tell me about what we don't know what is going on after you have had your first firefight. I'll give you a hint, I had MY first firefight long before you were born. Bullets make a distinctive sound when they pass you. They also make a distinctive sound when they hit stone or concrete and strip and fragment.
      You can discuss what adults know when kill your first man in said firefights.
      You can tell me about what adults know when you've watched a human face ripped off by an explosive.
      Until then, you have less than no right to even CONSIDER telling me what is going on in this world. I retired, after over 27 years of military experience, a lot of it Special Forces and nearly 5 years in combat. I spoke of Qatar earlier, that is where we went on R&R.
      I've done all of those things and things that would make you lose your mind. I very nearly did, as did many of my men.
      You can talk as an equal after you've gone three full days without sleep, in contact the entire time, with the enemy. I don't mean hugging and shaking hands, but a mixture of high explosives, small arms fire and even some hand to hand combat. THEN, we can talk about what is going on. Because, THEN, I'll KNOW that you're cleared to discuss what is REALLY going on.
      But then, we'll only have small talk. Because, we'll already know that the BS going on in these forums is some idiots fantasy.
      I've had teams lives saved by our Muslim interpreter (pashtun and farsi) jumped in the way of incoming fire, giving his life in the process. Many times. I personally owe my life to Muslim men, in some cases, villagers, who ended up being on someone's short list for pain, if we let them.
      So, sonny, you do NOT know what is going on ANYWHERE. I just happen to have a HELL of a lot of experience in it, directly.
      So, consider my words below about being tempted to knock on someone's door in real life, after calling in a small favor from a friend on O'Brien road at Fort Meade. That is the NSA headquarters.
      Get a clue. Grow up.
      You do NOT know who you are talking to and who you might anger.
      *I* would not harm you. But, others most certainly would.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  4. Fact Checks

    Actually, the first iftar was held by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805. It's a tradition that pre-dates Clinton by a long shot!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Irrelevant to the story, as it is the ISRAELI AMBASSADOR hosting it at his residence. NOT the President of the Untied States of America.
      So, it's a LOT of a change and newsworthy, as opposed to news about the past few POTUS hosting iftar.
      Frankly, I never had the chance to host iftar meal, I didn't have time, as I was always invited over.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  5. George

    This is surely a sign of the end times.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Speaking of end times, I forgot to go to the halal food store and pick up some more goat meat. Can't find it anywhere else. 🙁
      Now, I'll be tied up getting things secured for this hurricane and won't get the chance to get some.
      BTW, goat is GREAT in pasta sauce!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  6. Charles

    I wonder if the GOP will attack the Israeli Ambassador the same way they attacked Obama for having a Ramadan dinner? Maybe Bachmann will imply that he's secretly a muslim.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Two things come to mind. First, contributions to GOP campaigns, as well as Democratic campaigns...
      Second, why would an ISRAELI government official care about what any idiot from the GOP might foolishly say. Said official would merely make a call and a career would rapidly cease to exist.
      There are a LOT of Jews in this country. More than enough to end an idiot's career.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  7. Bribarian

    Coming to collect/steal their money i guess

    August 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • mike

      wow you are really smart. comments like these make me yearn for IQ tests for voting rights.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I second the motion, Mike! Motion seconded and carried.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  8. Keksi

    Check that food is not poisoned .

    August 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I personally volunteer to taste test it all. Hope that they have zatar on the bread too!
      Of course, they might not be much left for the guests, I REALLY, REALLY want to be thorough.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  9. Woanan the Barber

    This is a noble gesture.

    I am beginning to think that these people cursing Israel basically do not receive any benefit from them while they watch them thrive and flourish and the middle of the desert, and that the simple reason for such vitriolic hatred is that Israel has too much stuff, succeeds too much, and its people achieve too many great things. They are not saints, but they also are the only place in the Middle East that hosts a progressive civilization, unlike those that surround it who on a scale of saintliness of 1-10 rate perhaps a 3. Rather than actually attain greatness, some non-great people in the world insult, sneakily sabotage, and destroy instead. I know that for all their big-mouthedness, none of the pro-Hezbollah or pro-Hamas supporters in the USA actually would have the balls to move there, live there in those radical countries, and love it there. They would be screaming for mama in a month's time.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I dunno, Turkey isn't TOO bad. Lebanon is just stuck next to a country that WISHES they were Lebanon, hence is already miserable. Saudi is Saudi, ya know? Yemen and Oman are like the Arab version of hillbillies... Kuwait is stuck with Iran next door, doesn't want to get them mad. Qatar isn't bad at all, quite progressive for a TRUE Arab state.
      Indeed, the latter actually sponsored Christian churches and paid for their construction, has an alcohol state store system and actually was in the final stages of a natural gas deal with Israel when the rest of the GCC screwed it up.
      Dubai is Dubai, their own special universe...
      Bahrain would be alright, if it weren't for Iran stirring the pot, mostly because of a couple of US fleets docked there.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • BabaGanoush

      Listen, a dinner is a nice gesture no question and it's time for all to sit at one table and break bread instead of each other's will to live. But dinner is just that – you can't make such a general statement that Israelis are good and the people around them are bad. WIth a stroke of a pen Israel came to be in the middle of the arab world – so you can't blame those folks for revolting against the powers that be. Let's leave it there – we're not going to solve the Middle East's catch-22 situation tonight.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Bribarian

      It's always "the other person" when it comes to people not liking them isn't it

      August 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Bri, have you ever BEEN to the Middle East? At all?
      I was deployed for nearly 5 years there.
      In the Levant, there's TONS of finger pointing, a FEW agitators and troublemakers and that's it.
      If the MAJORITY of the Palestinians were to rise up, Israel would have some SERIOUS problems.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Big Man

      "while they watch them thrive and flourish and the middle of the desert" thanks to US govt funding, Palestinian cheap labor, and water taken illegally from Pal territory.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Woanan the Barber

      If you don't support everything the USA has to offer you, you can always ex-patriate.

      When you get to that nation that you ex-patriated to, you will find that your new home country was at least or more evil than the "Great White Satan" USA. The fact is that human history is treacherous in every place, such as Spain, China, Iran, England, France, Poland, Soviet Union, wherever. In most cases, which is never, an American that ex-patriates to Syria, Palestine, Iran, etc. will never report back that they are better, more benevolent, more tolerant, less racist, less bigoted, less masochistic, less violent places.

      If you subscribe to nationalist politics or religion, you are a damn fool for perpetuating the dialectic that causes the very problem you wish to solve. Israel is not that evil in relation to its neighbor nations. That is like saying that Iran is a benevolent bastion of human rights with a good economy where all the people are happy. We must all face the facts. Radical Islam tyrannizes its people and causes much needless suffering to its adherents, zealots, and martyrs as the material outcomes of intense poverty, social degeneracy, and violence. This can be said of all radical extreme religions around the world. Moderate Muslims, sort of like a Moderate Baptists pose relatively little threat to America.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  10. Dave


    I do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. I would if I could, he was probably I nice guy. The thing is he is dead so it is not going to work out right now.

    A book is both too large and too small to explain God. If you don't understand that statement, try cracking open a science book. Now where the devil are my crazy pills?? (see how I worked devil in there, pretty good).

    August 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      That was devilishly cleaver of you. Errr, clever...
      God is EASILY explained in one small book. It hasn't been quite written yet though, it's be "Grand Unified Field Theory for Dummies". 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Dave

      I will pre-order on Amazon.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Dave, I suggest you STOP being lazy and START reading the letter He wrote to all of us (the Bible). No excuse, Jesus is the LIVING word.

      That should be easy enough to start you with reading His truth.

      Those who go astray from the word of God, are not in the truth, and are not saved; and their words are words of deceit, as Psalm 119:118 declares,

      You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood.

      God rejects all those who stray from His word. It does not matter what the subject matter is. There is no salvation for any who heed not holy writ, as Psalm 119:21 proclaims,

      You rebuke the proud, the cursed, who stray from Your commandments.

      Jesus is in another dimension and you will not see Him until you leave this world of the flesh.


      August 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      HeavenSent, can you recite that in the original Aramaic? Or perhaps, in the later Hebrew?
      There have been so many edited out sections, mistransliterations and outright changes, if it's all the same to you, I'll not trust that old testament and will take most of the new one with a grain of salt.
      Should we discuss a part discussing giants in the bible, which is written in Hebrew as nephilim, in Genesis? Do you know what nephilim WERE?

      August 25, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • GodIsn'tAnAuthor

      Heavensent, MAN wrote the bible. That is all.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      GodIsn'tAnAuthor, it's FAR more fun to argue with HISTORIC FACTS with this type than to just make a claim that they're certain to reject.
      It's also more respectful to the person, their faith and our laws.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Dave, I suggest you STOP being lazy and START reading the letter He wrote to all of us (the Bible).
      There you go lying again. The bible was not written by god or jesus. It was written by man...you are worshipping man and his writings.

      August 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  11. HB

    Hmmm...I think Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren should try the food first to make sure there is no funny business in the hummus, falafel and fatoush. We all know the legendary hummus trick...we will not fall for that one....never again

    August 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I'll happily taste test it all. But, you might not get any once I start. I want to be very, very thorough. 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  12. Abe Vegoda

    Good idea...

    August 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Dave

      I thought you were dead.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  13. Even

    Thinker23 obviously doesn't think....if the unilateral invasion of Palestine by Haganah, zion terrorists and the anti Semitic West who were eager to get rid of the 'jewish problem' in Europe in 1947 didn't happen and if the west would have listened to the protests of the native Palestinians themselves in the mid 1940's, then this wouldn't have happened.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Notice the 1940's bit? Nobody in the entire world really cares, it's been coming up on 70 years!
      The vast majority, as in 99%, were not alive back then. Israeli OR Palestinian.
      By now, one would think that they'd get the hint that nobody is going anywhere and just move on.
      Even the Native Americans didn't take THAT long!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Wzrd1 – And how many are still alive from 1400-2000-6000 years ago when all THIS b...s... started????

      August 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Art

      And if Mohammed hadn't invaded and stolen Mecca and Medina from the Jews, the Jews would have all of the oil. Perhaps the Saudis should give back what was stolen from the Jews back to the Jews.
      I wonder if the embassies of any Muslim countries would ever hold a Seder in their embassies or break the fast at Yom Kippur.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Art, you REALLY need to work on your geography and history. Mecca was ARABIAN, even THEN. Medina was mixed, a substantial Jewish community, but not the majority, indeed, it was a Christian kingdom.
      AGuest, I was alive back then. At least it FEELS that way in the morning... 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm |

    My personal view on this matter is that I think it is a bridge, which may bring good over evil. But, the scholars, Jewish and Islamic, may feel otherwise. This is a big world, and there is room for every religion and for every people. Every kind of animal live in the jungle, sharing the wide open spaces. But mankind must have walls and fences, and kill each other.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • huh?

      And now you think that you are a philosopher, mister? Really? Animals live in the jungle? Do they not prey on and maraud each other? No walls? Huh? Why? Have you not heard of or seen animals marking and protecting their territories ferociously? Oh, ya so cute and dumb!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Erm, there are no wide open spaces in the jungle. Deserts and savannah is wide open. Nothing personal.

      As for animals "ferociously marking", seen it plenty of times. They ALWAYS gave way to me. Either I'm a LOT stronger than wild animals or they only guard against their OWN SPECIES, genius.
      Predation is predation, predators eat what they need and get along with the rest until the next meal time.
      Unlike humans. Humans like the previous responder, who prefers to fight anonymously.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  15. Jer

    Oh my goodness... now if they asked any MUSLIM countries to do this, we all know what would happen!

    August 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Do you mean like Turkey? Or perhaps an Arab country, like Qatar?
      Wanna know what would happen in either? Nothing, other than a fine meal.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  16. Alex Gessong

    This is truly excellent! @jeffxzibit: they do hold Iftars in Israel. This is just the first time an Israeli Ambassador has hosted one in the US. Mutual respect and good will are the foundations on which a lasting peace between Palestinian Muslims and Jews will be built. This is a wonderful gesture. Long live Israel! Long live the future Palestinian state that will be Israel's neighbor!

    August 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      At one point while I was deployed to the Persian Gulf, "You don't mess with the Zohan" was on sale in local stores.
      Arabs were grabbing a copy like it wouldn't ever be in stock again.
      Then again, the way THEY order things, once something is out of stock, it might NOT ever be ordered again...
      An Iranian expat had looked at my video catalog and asked for a copy of Fiddler on the Roof.
      So much for how the media paints the entire region.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    This friendly gesture is most welcome from the Israeli ambassador.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Somehow, I think this iftar will be REAL close to an Eid meal. 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  18. *frank*

    Turkey bacon is a crime against both humanity and turkeys.

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

      couldn't be more frank!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Turkeys are food. Turkey bacon CAN be a crime or good. Most made in this country IS criminal in texture and taste.
      I've had some overseas though that was great.
      Beef bacon isn't bad, from time to time.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Rick From LA

      If turkey Bacon is a crime, then lock me up!!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Rick, some of those cheap brands SHOULD be a crime. High treason against FOOD!
      Some of the more expensive ones have sufficient quality to be palatable and even good.
      Just like turkey hams, you get the cheap, you feel like yaking. Get the more expensive ones, they're QUITE good.
      Even to a pork eating person like me.
      Oops, that's haram eating and drinking man like me. 😉

      August 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  19. jeffxzibit

    They are seeing a collapse coming in the near future and as a result now want to fix things right before it. They dont hold iftars in Israel though.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • AndyTheGameInventor

      Israel has over a million Muslims, so I'm sure there are a huge number of iftars.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  20. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    This is a positive gesture, although I wonder if Jewish Israeli politicians also celebrate Iftar dinners in Israel.

    August 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Lycidas

      You might be surprised. Israel isn't as bad off as the media makes it out to be. When I was there, it was a pretty tolerant place.

      August 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • AndyTheGameInventor

      There's a religious reality about Israel that's funny compared to the US. When I was growing up, most American Jews were conservative (which in Judaism means middle-of-the-road interms of observance – it doensn't habe the same meaning as politically conservative) while smaller numbers were Reform (much less religious) and Orthodox (much more religious).

      In Israel, it's the opposite. Most Israeli Jews are either wholly secular or very religious, with almost nothing in-between. My former sister-in-law moved to Israel as part of a job transfer and found she couldnb't make friends because as a Conservative Jew, she didn't fit in with either the secular or orthodox communities.

      But in answer to your question a few Israeli Jewish politicians do so (just Google "Knesset Iftar"). Of course there are Israeli Muslim politicians (14 in the Knesset currently) who would probably do so every night.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
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About this blog

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.