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United stand

All the major Abrahamic faiths will be celebratin­g festivals of spring at the same time this year, symbolisin­g hope for the year ahead


This year, the Jewish holiday of Passover takes place from March 27-April 4, only one week before the advent of the monthlong Ramadan. The closeness of these two major Jewish and Muslim holidays, together with the Christian holiday of Easter – which takes place on Sunday, April 4, ensures that all the major Abrahamic faiths will be celebratin­g festivals of spring at the same time this year. This shared rejoicing in the rebirth of hope, the universal symbol of spring, is an auspicious coincidenc­e for all the children of Abraham after an extremely difficult 12 months in which Covid-19 brought death and suffering to a large number of people across the world. Today, with vaccines reaching ever-larger numbers of people around the world, we are experienci­ng the growing hope that the year 2021 will bring all of us much closer to defeating the global epidemic.

The similariti­es between Passover and Ramadan are striking. Both holidays involve prayer, reflection, and communal celebratio­n. In both, adherents of Judaism and Islam observe significan­t dietary


restrictio­ns. During the week of Passover, Jews refrain from eating bread – leavened grains – in line with their tradition. Fasting during Ramadan is more rigorous – Muslims avoid eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sundown every day during the holy month. However, both holidays are similar in the special attention given to the sharing of communal meals; with the Jews holding the Passover seder, an elaborate meal that unfolds over three or more hours while Muslims come together every evening during Ramadan to hold the iftar (breaking of the fast), a joyous communal meal.

Sadly, given that the coronaviru­s is still very much with us, both Ramadan and Passover will again be limited in scope this year. With large communal seders mostly banned abroad, only nuclear families will be able to gather. Online gatherings linking families across distances is an alternativ­e, but because Jewish law prohibits the use of electricit­y after sunset during holidays, some extended families will gather together via zoom before sundown. Similarly, in many Muslim communitie­s around the globe, Ramadan iftars will be largely limited to individual­s, couples and nuclear families. However, zoom webinars will be extensivel­y used to connect extended families, so that they can celebrate and give charity together.

Despite these limitation­s, hope is very much with us this holiday season, no better symbolised than by the UAE spacecraft named Hope, which successful­ly entered Mars orbit on February 9 and will continue to orbit the red planet for two years. This is a brilliant scientific achievemen­t for the UAE and the entire Muslim world.

During the past year, stubborn hope that the future could be better than the past produced a great miracle – the establishm­ent of diplomatic ties between the UAE and Israel. Let that same sense of hope, buttressed by a pooling of the scientific and technologi­cal resources of the UAE, Israel, and other states, lead to the eliminatio­n of Covid-19 throughout the Middle East and around the world. If together we will it, it is truly no dream.

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