In the middle of -30 C weather, exams and slippery driving conditions, a collage of faces joined together to light the eighth candle of Hanukkah.
On Dec. 8, Muslim and Jewish families came together to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights. Despite a starkly perceived divide, the night of food, coffee and conversation proved otherwise. Aqeel Wahab, a member of the Saskatoon Muslim community, describes the division as artificially intensified by the media; an imposed obstacle that does not need to exist.
“Conflict is sensational and good for ratings,” he explained, “but its portrayal is at the expense of the relationships that could fix the very problems they’re reporting about.”
While the world is exposed to the conflict in the Middle East, the media is missing the progress made behind closed doors. There may be an existing conflict, but this does not translate to a global barrier to friendship. Heather Fenyes, a member of the Saskatoon Jewish community describes this relationship as pre-existing, and simply being “reinforced.”
Over a plate of delectable humus (a middle eastern delicacy), the evening was spent discussing religious customs, sharing traditions and similarities. Fenyes believes that a fundamental component to any comprehensive solution is friendships.
“Friends can agree or disagree but mutual respect inherently includes greater tolerance and open-mindedness.”
According to Wahab, there is something unique about our city that more easily brings differences together.
“Saskatoon is the ideal place to cool off the hype and nurture kind of progress that people everywhere else in the world desperately need.”
While it may be small, the diversity of backgrounds creates a mix of perspectives and it is the dedication of some that strive to bring warmth to the cold temperatures.
Wahab described the candle lighting as, “the first few steps towards something with very bright potential.” Already planning future events, the two groups hope to include more members of both communities to further the growth of this new relationship. Fenyes believes the goal of this friendship will not be a political breakthrough but holds enormous potential.
“I’m not naÃ¯ve, I don’t believe we’ll solve peace in the Middle East, but we might do really great things in this extraordinary city,” said Fenyes during an interview on Global Saskatoon.