Monday, September 30, 2013

Muslim Kurds visit Jerusalem festival

 Israelis do a traditional Kurdish dance (photo: Hemi Itz)

Kurdish Muslims were among the unlikely guests this year at the celebrations for Saharane, an annual Kurdish Jewish holiday, held in Jerusalem's Sacher Park. The Times of Israel reports:

Saharane is the annual Kurdish Jewish holiday, now celebrated during Sukkot, when the ancient community gathers to sing, dance, eat, and trade stories from the old country in their traditional Aramaic tongue.

Last Sunday, Israel’s Kurds marked Saharane in Israel’s capital. Over 13,000 Israeli Kurds attended this year, according to Yehuda Ben Yosef, leader of the community in Israel. Smaller Saharane events were also subsequently held in Yokneam, Mevasseret Zion, and Yardena.

Jews in Kurdistan historically marked the beginning of spring with the Saharane festival, while at the same time their Muslim neighbors celebrated the Newroz holiday. They would head to the river banks and host mass picnics, complete with traditional garb and music competitions.

When the community emigrated to Israel in the early 1950s, they continued to celebrate Saharane during the intermediate days of Passover. However, the relatively small community felt their holiday was in danger of being swallowed up by Mimouna, the post-Passover holiday of the much larger Moroccan community. Ben Yosef’s uncle, Aviv Shimoni, the leader of the community at the time, decided to move the celebration to Sukkot in 1975. Unfortunately, this disconnected Saharane from its roots as a celebration of the blossoming of nature after a cold winter.

As ties deepen between Kurds in Israel and those in the Kurdish heartland, more Muslim Kurds are making their way to Israel to visit their former neighbors.
Darwish, whose extended family is still in war-torn Syria, came to Israel from the Netherlands especially for the festival. She found Ben-Yosef online, and contacted him before her trip.

“Yehuda is a special person,” she said. “I don’t feel that I was a guest. I feel directly that I was home. This feeling is not easy to get from everywhere. Because I know he’s a Kurd, I’m a Kurd — I cannot explain it.”

It was Darwish’s second visit to Israel. She also came in July with three Kurdish friends living in Sweden, but seeing the Israeli community gather left a powerful impression on her.

“I was walking from the parking garage to the park, I heard the music and I said, ‘Wow, it is so beautiful to hear the Kurdish music,’” she recalled.
“The Kurdish people you know are in four lands, and you go to Israel, a country like Israel — a powerful country, a big country — and you see Kurdish people there, and they are powerful, it makes you very very happy. I thought I will go and see old people, but I saw young people dancing, singing, it was really great.”
Seeing an immigrant Kurdish community thrive was especially exciting for Darwish.

“Before I came to Israel, I thought, no, nobody helps us, no one gives us anything. But now that I was there, and I saw the people, I say why not, these people are Kurdish, and they are strong, and they get help from Israel. And I think that between Kurdistan and Israel the relation is very good."

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

Is "Newroz" the same thing as "Nowruz", i.e. Persian New Year? I know that some other peoples in the Levant/Near East celebrate it, such as Yazidis, Druze and I believe Zoroastrians and possibly Mandaeans. Keep up the good work, this is a very interesting site!

bataween said...

Yes it is. Thanks!