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. Steve

    Maybe invite a few Hamas officials

    August 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  2. Habib

    This site raveal all Islamic veil burqas > http://www.faithfreedom.org/

    August 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  3. dreucalypt

    This is a beautiful thing for Ambassador Oren to do.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  4. paulbark

    Americans who simplistically think all Muslims are terrorists should learn something from this. Israel knows the difference between the vast majority of Muslims, who are peaceful, vs. terrorists who claim to act out of faith.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  5. Kareem Minhas

    Soooooo cool ! I think in times like this we need more unification 🙂 I can sit here and rant about a million of things however any steps towards peace is welcomed

    August 25, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  6. outspoken123

    It is like Hitler is celebrating Hanuka !!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  7. GTFU

    If you scroll down on the front page and look at the section on World News, there's a headline about Israel bombing the Gaza Strip!

    August 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • MS

      Let it rain (down on gaza, that is).

      August 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • mhklein

      But that's the point. Sometimes Israel must attack Muslims, but only enemy Muslims that are attacking her. With peaceful Muslims, she only wants reconciliation.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  8. Edka

    Good step for diplomacy and mutual respect.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  9. Bo

    ===========I'm not sure, but I don't think Israel's problems are with Arabs and Muslims, it's with extreemist like Hamas. And their thing isn't so much about religion as it is about power and greed. Religion is just an excuse. There are many who say wars are fought over religion, but I think if you get to the real core, it is mostly about power and greed.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  10. God d*mn you, Oren

    Nothing says 'Happy Ramadan' like slaughtering Palestinians and then hosting an iftar.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  11. Sarah

    I hope they have a delicious peaceful meal. What a wonderful way to build a bridge and I hope it leads to more bridge building.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  12. mullah hajdar's conscience

    Mullah Hajdar:

    I don't think Eichman organizied Kosher lunches for Jews in his home. He was too busy making sure the trains ran on time.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  13. A free man

    Well isn't that a cute PR opp. Almost makes the world forget about Israel's dehumanizing and illegal/criminal mistreatment of the Palestinians. Almost... for like 1 second.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Kendo Morales

      The Israelis and Palestinians are criminal to each other, BOTH of them.

      Make the extremists of both sides marry each other, and consummate the marriages with one another.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • GaSurgeon

      And how about your cruel and dehumanizing treatment of the American Indian? or the lynching and enslavement of blacks? Who are you to speak?

      August 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • shrinkDave

      Thank goodness the USA doesn't have a serial reputation of dehumanizing purposefully or accidentally other nations. Don't throw rocks when you live in a glass house.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Bugmenot

      Your body may be free, but your 'mind' is forever imprisoned in abject ignorance.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Kendo Morales

      GaSurgeon: Nobody in here in all likelihood contributed to that stuff. The people who did that are dead.
      shrinkDave: The USA Government has that reputation. The people... well there are "ugly Americans' abroad, but other than that...

      August 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  14. albert J. Wilson

    I want thank amb. Oren for this thoughtful and courageous act of humility. I want to say shalo m

    August 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • mullah hajdar

      this is like adilf eichman organizing kosher lunch

      August 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Kendo Morales

      Not really, Mullah Hajar. After all the Palestinians are still alive, yes? the Palestinians have a separate state, yes?
      And it is reasonable to say that the Palestinians have some responsibility for their own situation.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  15. The POPE

    CNN couldn't find a better picture for this article when mentioning Ramadan ?

    August 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  16. Dave

    I hate to have to keep pointing out the obvious but God doesn't have hands as far as I know, so I don't think he wrote a letter. You believe in God because you fear death. It is perfectly natural, I just don't have the same problem.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  17. The POPE

    that's a good idea , i will Host Ramadan Dinner too , I love Arabic Food !

    August 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  18. Peikovian

    Next time the people of Gaza won't vote for a police state ruled by Hamas. So they'll never get another vote.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  19. raley

    Good Cop...Bad Cop....

    August 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  20. Rami

    Next time try and feed the people of GAZA.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Kendo Morales

      The people of Gaza need to turn to Gandhi tactics. Only then will they be fed.

      But I do believe that israel overreacts sometimes. Many Palestinian militants want to draw bigger Arab powers into the conflict, and hope that Israel strikes too broadly

      August 25, 2011 at 8:49 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.