Speakers at Fountain Square on July 15, left to right Rabbi Allen Kensky (Emeritus at Beth Hillel in Wilmette), Tahera Ahmad (Associate Chaplain at Northwestern University), Rabbi Sam Feinsmith (Center for Jewish Mindfulness), Professor Sam Fleischacker (UIC) and Rabbi Andrea London (Beth Emet). Not pictured Shiva Armi (Bahai Community member). Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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In response to the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths gathered at Fountain Square on July 15 to offer prayers for peace and hope. Similar gatherings were planned in New York, Washington D.C., California, London, Philadelphia, around Israel and the Palestinian territories and in Kuwait.

Around the world on July 15, Jews and Muslims held a collective fast when their two calendars converged: The Jewish Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Temple was destroyed) and the middle of the Fast of the Month of Ramadan.

The worldwide event was inspired by Eliaz Cohen, an Israeli poet, who recently posted this on his Facebook page: “ … For both [Jewish and Muslim] traditions, this is a day dedicated to taking an accounting of the soul, to taking responsibility, for correcting and purifying, to turning in repentance. The plan is to direct two peoples on this day to a kind of summit, during which everyone is invited to take part, to fast in identification with the suffering, the violence, the pain of one’s self and the other, to ask how we will break the cycle of violence and to create a vision of hope.”

Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, who with University of Illinois-Chicago Professor Sam Fleischacker organized the event, said, “The purpose of this event is to express hope and peace, not to take political stances or cast aspersions on one side or the other.”

 “We are concerned to show empathy for each other’s pain and to share in a collective prayer for peace, and a better future for both peoples,” said Professor Fleischacker.