July 14, 2014 admin

Sacred space

Yesterday, amidst all the terrible events happening across Israel and Gaza, a small group of us, Muslims and Jews, met to share prayers and an Iftar meal for the close of a day of Ramadan. We were pleased to be together and share the worry of these harsh days. We were well aware that our gathering made no difference to where the rockets and bombs were falling, or to the anguish of those beneath them. Nevertheless, we formed a small island of human solidarity, one of many across the world, including in Israel itself, even at this very time. Who knows: maybe one day the contacts created between us may somehow change hearts, even save lives.
We were going round introducing ourselves and the turn came to Fiyaz, a long-standing friend and leader in the Muslim community. ‘I have something to offer you’, he said, and produced a small yellow scroll. ‘I was given it many years ago and it’s lain in a drawer since then, but today I remembered it and felt it was time that it returned to its true home in the Jewish community. I was told that it comes from North Africa, is three hundred years old and is written on parchment made from deerskin’. What Fiyaz then handed me proved to be single column from the Torah. How, when and why it came to be thus, a small isolated section of the sacred Scroll, will never be known. It was a portion from the Book of Exodus, a chapter from near the close, describing the making of the Mishkan, the sacred space for God to dwell among the people: ‘These are the instructions for God’s dwelling place, the Tabernacle of testimony, which God instructed by the mouth of Moses’.
For a few moments I was able to say nothing. The gift itself had just transformed the place where we were sitting into somewhere sacred. I believe we all experienced it, the presence of something greater, silencing our words and filling hearts. And it struck me that this is our challenge, to create sacred space, space where God’s voice, that sound of fine silence so frequently unheard, sounds within us more strongly than our fears, angers, prejudice, righteousness and our desire to pay back hurt for hurt.   
I realise that I’m writing in a privileged green corner, far from the bombs and explosions. Others more courageous have created such spaces and moments even within the circumference of where they might fall.
But I’m writing because I’m convinced that these moments when our hearts are touched by our common humanity and humbled by a presence deeper than ourselves have the power to change our lives whoever we are, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, or people of no religious engagement. They take us, for a while at least, to a place beyond hatred, to God’s sacred space.

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