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Muslim Leaders Dance With Jews for Hanukkah in Heartwarming Show of Unity

Over the weekend, a group of Bahraini officials invited a Jewish delegation for a hearty Hanukkah celebration. There was singing, dancing, hugging, and all kinds of camaraderie throughout the event, a joyful reminder that interfaith unity is not just possible, but also easy.  

This display of tolerance was also a contrast to the often tense and even hostile tone that marks Jewish and Muslim relations throughout the region.

Bahrain has a history of fostering a friendly environment for Jews. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa hosted Jews for a Hanukkah celebration last year. But this tendency toward reconciliation is not common everywhere.

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Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, denounced the celebration as tacitly endorsing the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, which is one of the most contentious political issues in the region. The UN called the occupation a “flagrant violation” of international law last week, and US Secretary of State John Kerry rebuked Israel for its continued settlement-building in Palestine.

But many others didn’t allow broader political struggles to contaminate what they saw as a refreshing change to entrenched antagonism.

“The positive energy that there was tonight needs to be spread around,” a Jewish man said during the event. “The symbol is that hopefully through this night we can bring infinite light to the world.”

And this is what some users on Youtube had to say:

“This so refreshing! As it ought to be. We are siblings.”

“This is so heart-warming. Peace and love from malaysia. <3”

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Throughout much of the 20th century, Jewish groups fled many of the world’s dominant Arab countries for fear of persecution. Today, Jewish communities are few and far between within the region and generally stay within homogenous enclaves.

This cultural separation has served to harden barriers between Jews and Muslims and is largely responsible for all of the combative diplomacy that occurs between Muslim-majority nations and Israel. It is also why the possibility of two-state solution between Palestine and Israel seems ever-more remote.

But as the people who gathered on Saturday showed, coming together for something as simple as a meal and singing can build a bridge toward a better future.