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‘Star and Crescent’ sheds light on ancient co-existence

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From the early 600s CE, Jews and Muslims have co-existed, at times peacefully and at other times contentiously. Historical perspective is important to understand what we have in common and what sets us apart. It helps us to minimise conflict and forge closer ties.
by STEVEN GRUZD | Apr 11, 2019

Through the ages, from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and Israel, to vibrant life in ancient Baghdad, medieval southern Spain, the mighty Ottoman Empire, and modern Paris, New York, and Johannesburg, these two communities have always had complex, fluid, and intricate relations. The religions share values such as charity, ethical conduct, and monotheism, and practices such as circumcision, dietary laws, and regular prayer.

But, what impact has the status of Jews as Dhimmi, or “people of the book” had on Jewish and Muslim communities? How has the formation of the state of Israel affected these societies? Why is positive communal interaction – such as the relations forged in Cape Town between the Open Mosque and the Progressive Synagogues, where they now visit each other’s houses of worship to celebrate key festivals together – the exception rather than the norm?

A 10-week course run by the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and developed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem helps us to explore this fascinating history. Titled “The Star and the Crescent: The Long Relationship between Judaism and Islam”, the course, held in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, emphasises participation, inclusivity, and multiple perspectives, through extensive text-based learning. It traverses this history from Abraham in biblical times right up to today, encouraging students to view contemporary Jewish-Muslim ties through a longer historical lens.

  • “Star and Crescent” will be held in Saxonwold on Mondays from 29 April to 27 May 2019, and then on Tuesdays from 4 June to 2 July 2019, from 19:00 to 20:30. It will be facilitated once again by Steven Gruzd, a political analyst and freelance journalist for the SA Jewish Report. Contact Ariella Milner on 082 804 6113 or [email protected] to enrol, and for subsidies, students’ and couples’ discounts.

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