As Israel wages war, Jews and Muslims in Cape Town show a peaceful way

Interfaith sabbath, Hanukkah and Maghrib services hosted at Claremont Mosque

Claremont Main Road Mosque may seem an unlikely place to host a Hanukkah service, but this is exactly what happened on Friday evening.

For the eighth time, South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) held a “Shabbos against genocide in Palestine” service. This time it also coincided with the second night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Uniquely it was hosted at the Claremont Mosque.

Over 50 Jews, Muslims and Christians came together to hold this interfaith service.

The evening started at about 6:15pm outside the mosque with a Sabbath service that included songs, prayers and poems. A Hanukkah menorah candle with the word “ceasefire” on it was lit.

The menorah is a special candle holder used during Hanukkah. This festival lasts for eight days. Each night, additional candles are lit. Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean Revolt, which took place in Jerusalem against the Seleucid Empire around 2,200 years ago.

Speeches were made by Anthony Hodgson of SAJFP, Imam Rashied Omar of the Claremont Mosque, and Dean Michael Weeder of the Anglican Church.

At about 7:30pm the group went inside the mosque to host the Muslim Maghrib prayer.

Omar commended those who had gathered for the service. “It is unique in the world. Many things are going wrong in our country, but there are precious things like our interfaith movement that we can offer the world,” he said.

“I don’t think what you are experiencing here will happen easily anywhere else in the world … We should not take it for granted. We should cherish it. We should celebrate it,” Omar said.

Maulana Syed Aftab Haidar said that to have a Jewish service at a mosque was unique. “I don’t know anywhere else other than Cape Town where this is possible. It brings us together.”

Anglican theologian Michael Worsnip said, “If Jews, Christians and Muslims are not standing first for humanity before anything else … then their faith is useless. If we are not standing for humanity, what is the point?”

After the Sabbath and Hanukkah service, the Muslim sunset prayer Maghrib was held inside the mosque.

In a statement prior to the service, the SAJFP said: “We will not allow our Judaism and the memory of our ancestors to be weaponised for further and interlinked genocidal projects. Palestine’s freedom requires an end to Zionism. In turn, genuine safety for Jews is contingent on Palestine’s freedom and equal rights.”

“We aim for our Shabbos service to be a moment to form community and bonds in a time of deep fragmentation and division.”

The SAJFP said there would be another interfaith service in Bo-Kaap on Thursday, the eighth and final night of Hanukkah.