- Louis Venters
"Love, Peace, Faith": Christian Serving Muslims during Ramadan in Akko, Israel
This is the Israel/Palestine/Holy Land that I know!
Akko (or Acre) is an ancient city on the Bay of Haifa in what is today northern Israel. Its population is about two-thirds Jewish and one-third Arab, with Arabic-speaking Christians a small minority. The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is almost all Arab. How touching, in this context, that Michel Ayoub, a local singer who is Christian, has revived the old tradition of singing and drumming Muslims from their sleep early in the morning during their fasting month of Ramadan. The tradition had died out in the city until Ayoub revived it more than a decade ago. For Ayoub, it is a service to his neighbors that "adds to coexistence, love, peace, faith." See the video here.
Akko is special to me because it's the holiest city to the world's Baha'is and a place of pilgrimage. The Baha'i sacred sites there and in the neighboring city of Haifa were designated as a World Heritage Site (separate from but overlapping with the Old City's designation) in 2008.
That year was the last time my wife and I were privileged to be in Akko's Old City, eating lunch with a group of Baha'i pilgrims from around the world at an open-air, family-owned local restaurant. We got to talking with the staff, who were amazingly warm. One man, a son living in Italy who comes back every year to help during a city festival, was peeling piles of potatoes outside. When he found out who we were he exclaimed, "I love Baha'i people!"
I have no idea if he and his family were Muslim or Christian. And true to form in this very special place, it really didn't matter.