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. Muneef

    Surah Al-Qadr
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, The Moon God
    Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. (1) Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is! (2) The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. (3) The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. (4) (The night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn. (5)And We allow them to running around their idol the black basalt stone and they are scream "Eureka"..i found it..i found it..and Lo! yet they don't understand what they had found. It was stupidity. Lo! Lo! Lo!

    August 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Muneef


      August 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  2. Akbar Muslim will Rule the World

    Political correctness is a form of western cultural suicide, as we are witness to in the UK, Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, etc. Muslims follow the Koran first and foremost and truly believe it is the word of God/Allah, which means there is NO interpretation. No compromise in any way, shape, or form...and they are taking away our rights and freedoms while acquiring relentless special treatment using our collective fear of being called 'racist' (Islam is a race all of a sudden? not a murderous nonpeaceful ideology?) Their evil intentions to conquer the world and impose Islamic law (Sharia) is clearly written in their 'holy' Koran...they are NOT here to assimilate, they are here to dominate. The West will crumble if we continue to allow mass immigration from muslim countries...look at the Geert Wilders trial for instance...who was on trial for speaking the truth about Islam. Free speech? NEVER possible in Islamic ideology. Am I 'racist'? No, I stand for equality for women, rights for gays, freedom to criticize, freedom to discuss, freedom to hold an independent opinion that muslims deem so offensive. Wake up, Islam is NOT compatible with democracy. Period.

    August 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Muneef

      The Base of Sharia are the "Ten Commandments" which were given by GOD to Prophet Moses... So you see Shria is old Jewish rather than being new Islamic thing...! It simply says who makes a crime should pay for it justly....!?!

      August 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Muneef

      Or are you here crying over the money they shared with you for being citizens? Or are you mad because they stupidly thought by obtaining the citizenship they will be taken as 100% equal as the White Americans or say Christians...

      Islam is not a race but rather of races....it was only Judaism that was taken as a race and were given a land as a race...!?
      We as Muslims are referred to as "Umaht Al-Islam" meaning the "Nation of Islam" so you see when you say Nation it means a combination of races under one rule...!!!

      August 26, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  3. Muneef

    MB Demands Gov't Reviews Foreign Policy Towards Israel Following Border Attacks.
    Following the aggressive Israeli attacks which left Egyptian soldiers at the border dead, the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement Sunday demanding that the Israeli Ambassador be expelled from Egypt and the Egyptian Ambassador in Tel Aviv summoned.

    August 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Reality

      Staying on the topic:

      Ramadan is part of the global and 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 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      It was within the topic...

      Let me ask "Did you know that Rats can eat the sole skin of your feet with out you feel"...? they say because they blow their breath to anesthetize the area then bite and keep on the same way with out you feeling a thing while asleep...
      For how long would that carry on with out any waking up to find out that they were half eaten...!!!

      August 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Muneef

      Adding more to your knowledge "Vampire Bats use the same means as Rats for sucking the Blood out off their victims...!

      August 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  4. Eli

    'Israel has a large and vibrant Muslim population...'

    Let me tell you about Israel's Muslim (Arab) population, Mr. Ambassador. They are denigrated as second class citizens, deprived of basic freedoms, unable to own land in many parts of their own homeland, have severe restrictions on many aspects of life, the government spends 1/10th on Educating an Arab or Muslim Israeli than it does on the Jewish Israeli student, according to its own findings. Muslim and Arab villages are cut off from water supplies, the list goes on. There is a huge discrepancy between the rights and favoritism afforded to Jewish citizens than to the rights afforded to non-Jewish citizens. That's why the international community has repeatedly called it an apartheid state.

    August 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Peikovian

      You omitted that Muslims throughout the region live in one-party monarchies or police states with less rights than Israeli Muslims. When there's an "Arab Republic" with a 20% Jewish population and an elected government, let the world know.

      August 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Let me tell you something, "Eli": LIES are not the best way to promote your point in this day and age when information is freely available. It is EXTEMELY DIFFICULT to argue with FACTS using lies and anyone doing it is guaranteed to lose. The FACT is that ALL Israeli citizens have the very same equal rights guaranteed by Israeli laws regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. The FACT is that most of the privately own lands in Israel belong to the Arabs despite them being a minority of Israelis. The FACT is that human beings die without water in less than two days and if the Arab villages were cut off water supply the people living there would be all dead... and if you believe in your own words you'll SHOW AT LEAST ONE EXAMPLE of Israeli law granting DIFFERENT rights to Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    The Ambassador is wasting his time!

    August 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Inspite of Israel (like India, America, Europe) pampering its Muslim minorities, the fact remains that the majority of Muslims worldwide hate Ameriac, Israel, Europe & India even as they make a beeline to these countries to SUCK-UP ALL WELFARE and MISUSE their religious freedoms!

      America's unpopularity is the highest in countries that we give liberal aid including Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Amit, the problem is we are not supporting the people of those countries, but the military dictatorships that run them and suppress the rights of the individuals in those same countries.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  6. Simon Cohen

    That is a naive gesture. Should we expect now Hamas dinner thrown to celebrate Pesah?

    August 26, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Thinker23

      Definitely not. A mad can feed a dog but don't expect a dog to feed a man.

      August 26, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  7. John


    August 26, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • .....

      This is SPAM, not worth watching this junk, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL.

      August 27, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  8. Pleased

    It is good to see the Israeli Embassy openly doing something that promotes dialogue, peace and understanding and that it is also getting reported on in the news so people know about it.

    There are many in Israel on both sides who just want peace and for the violence and violent rhetoric from BOTH sides to stop.

    I also think Israel is really worried about the change in governments and is reaching out in new ways in response to the events in 2011. This is good though. Reach out in new ways and embrace new ideas and methods rather than the same old-same old, which hasn't worked too well for you.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Thinker23

      Are you "pleased" with what the Arabs and Muslims in general are doing to "promote the dialogue, peace and to reach out in new ways and embrace new ideas and methods rather than the same old-same old"? Dialogue and peace is a dance for two, after all...

      August 26, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  9. Reality

    Ramadan is part of the global and 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 11:52 pm |
  10. HappyMeal

    It's a good thing, though. Feeding or treating any hungry Muslims after the day's fasting.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  11. HappyMeal

    Wow... Do the Jews have to go this far? They should rather spend money on distributing the Bibles to Muslims. Only Biblical knowledge makes humans understand fully who God is, who Jews are and what we are and halts the illogical hatred against the Jews.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Utterly Confused

      Why would you ever suggest that Jews distribute Bibles?

      Their own religion carries on with people converting to it regularly. Why would you ever think they would want to promote Christianity? The Bible is the Christian book, they have their own.. without the changes made by Christians to distribute if they wanted to.

      August 26, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Thinker23

      For starters, the Bible is the Judaism book. The Christians adopted the Jewish Bible as the Old Testament. This being said, however, Judaism DOES NOT distribute itself and DOES NOT encourage conversions because (unlike most other religions) Judaism recognizes and accepts many possible ways to reach the God. If a person follows the Ten Commandments he/she is accepted by God.

      August 26, 2011 at 5:26 am |
    • MidianRoad

      I take it, then, that you fully understand what God is: So is he The Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit? Is he One or three or none of those? You are more confused about anything related to God than those without a Religion at all. Have you even considered Why the Father might need to be the Holy Spirit or the Son ? Is it because there are things he cannot do as the Father ? If so then The Father is not a God, and similarly, the holy spirit and the Son are not Gods either and even you might agree that 3 Non-Gods don't make one complete God.
      Concentrate on your religion, or better still, Join a real religion instead.

      August 26, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • The Original

      @Midian, God is transcendent. Don't try to limit who God is by your small brain. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a revelation from the whole Bible. If you honestly read and study the whole Bible, even the Old Testament alone, you come to the same conclusion of the Christian doctrine of the God being the Trinity.

      August 27, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  12. Muneef

    Funny what I hear but interesting to listen to specially for Christians and Catholics;


    Benjamin Freedman declared in 1961 the truth about the Jewish of today.

    August 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Peikovian

      I'm sure "the Jewish of today" are not describing themselves in your propaganda.

      August 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Muneef

      Dear I have no propaganda to adopt, this was found on the net and I posted...after all it said it is not right that if a 55 million of Chinese Muslims can be given Arabian lands because they became Muslims...

      August 27, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  13. Keith

    I want to know one thing-who is twisting his arm behind his back? Obama? Hillary?

    August 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Muneef

      The recent attacks on Gaza during Holy Month...beside the call for separate states and the Arabian uprisal...no American official can twist the arm of Israel while with such powerful lobby's in America...they control American faith and destiny ....

      August 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Muneef: WHO or WHAT prevents the Muslims from creating an even more powerful lobby in America considering the almost unlimited amount of petrodollars in their disposal?

      August 26, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • Muneef


      Glad you asked... Actually as it seems they are not trusting each other or say divided between "Royals&Republicans" + "Rich&Poor" + "Capitalist&Socialist" + Other things... Never they reached into one word in their formed "Arabic Union Conference".... "They always agreed on one thing and that is to disagree with each other" all along... Sad and it is a fact...!

      August 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Muneef: If the Arabs do not "trust" each other WHY should any NON-Arab trust anything Arabs say or promise? WHY should Israel trust Palestinian promises to curb terrorism,for example, or recognize Israel?

      August 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Keith

      The news reports I saw (not cnn or fox-because they aren't covering it) showed how terrorists attacked a bus and cars along the Sinai border in the Negev. 8 Israelis killed, 30 injured. Israel is retaliating. The Palestinians initiated this and have continued to break cease-fires. They bring this upon themselves. The fakestinians don't want peace.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Keith

      Hillary has demanded that Israel apologize to Turkey for the Gaza Floatilla incident last year. Bibi said, "no thanks". Now I understand she is threatening to reconsider the veto this September of the fakestinians creating their own state. That's arm twisting if I ever saw it. If that happens, stick a fork in the United States cause we're done.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Muneef

      Good question that I have no answer for...

      August 27, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Keith

      The United States will "find itself unable to continue building opposition to a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood at the UN." Hillary Clinton.=strong arm tactics.

      August 28, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  14. Muneef

    This is a one move in the right direction but it would have been even greater if the Jewish worship houses had participated in extending such hands in such holy month..
    Actually there was a show on the BBC Arabic about the Jews of Tunisia and how they exchanged with Muslims such holy occasions...one of the Jew there said that they read the Quran and ricite it although they remain in their  Judaism belief...!! Such thing is wonderful and it is all that is needed really, and as he said The Book is a Holy Book over previous books, adding to it saying there is no comp-ul-sion in religion...!!! 

    August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • fdsmith905

      When an Arab or Muslim ambassador hosts the local Jewish community to a Rosh HaShannah or Pesach meal, done in accordance with Jewish dietary and religious laws, then I will start believing there is hope. Until then, it seems that some readers here expect Jews to show respect, but none needs to be reciprocated.....

      August 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Muneef

      Some body has to start trying otherwise we will wait for very long...we are told always in such cases of bringing people closer and together for sake of GOD peace gets the eternal benefit from GOD for his/her efforts...!

      August 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  15. Rabeenhood88

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't. In this case, Damned if you do is the better course! This is a good thing!

    August 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • elizabeth frey

      mozel tov...!!!!!!

      August 26, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  16. Bob

    Yeah, I always like to host a dinner to people who hate my guts...

    August 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  17. Dave


    What if i am deaf, dumb blind, iliterate. What If I lived a 100,000 years ago. What then??

    August 25, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  18. Big Man

    Isn't that special a pr moment. If Israel couldn't publicize this event, do you think they would have it? Nope. Such shallow people.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Michael Klein

      And what's wrong with PR?

      August 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Thinker23

      What makes you believe that the Jews WOULD NOT do it in case they could not publicize this even, O NOT SHALLOW ONE?

      August 26, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  19. soren kierkegaard

    These types of things at the local level are important for establishing connections because the only way peace will ever exist there is when you have a situation like that of Northern Ireland where both sides share 50/50 in a power sharing agreement. Two-seperate states is just not ever going to work. This UN creation of a Palestinian state – it seems, in theory to be the answer, but in reality just re-creates the very problems that caused this mess to begin with. When the UN initially created Israel they did so without establishing any territorial limits and they (along with the British especially) walked away and expected the situation to resolve itself. Here we are 60 years later....so what is creating a Palestinian state going to do other than exaccerbate the problems that already exist?

    50/50 like what happened in Norther Ireland. That's the only way this will ever be resolved.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Thinker23

      It's up to the Palestinian Arabs to decide the type of arrangement they want. It can be a sovereign state. It can be a confederation with another state or states willing to accept them. It can be complete unification with another state. In any case, however, the Palestinians WILL NOT be accepted into Israel.

      August 26, 2011 at 5:47 am |
    • Thinker23

      False assumptions usually lead to false conclusions. The UN DID NOT create Israel or any other state because the UN did not and does not have the power and authority to create states or establish state borders. The UN DID AND DOES have the authority to OFFER solutions to regional conflicts and this is exactly what the UN did in 1948 when it OFFERED to create two states in Palestine. The Jews accepted the offer and declared a state (yes, Israel was created by it's PEOPLE, not by the UN). The Arabs rejected the UN offer and started a war which they subsequently lost.

      August 26, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  20. Khan

    Kudos for the Israel Embassy...Great work.

    August 25, 2011 at 9:49 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.