Galilee Diary #586, August 29, 2012
And the Lord spoke to Moses,
saying: Speak to the Israelite people saying: When any of you or of your
posterity who are defiled by a corpse or are on a long journey [on the
date of Passover, the 14th of the first month] would offer a Passover sacrifice to the Lord, they shall offer it in the second month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight.
When we met with the parents of the Galilee Circus kids to discuss
our planned trip to the US, I expressed concern as to how the Muslim
performers (half of the troupe) would cope with the daily fast of
Ramadan given the physical demands of performances and practices, in the
midst of a heat wave. Not to worry, the Muslim parents assured me, we
have a rule that if you are in a situation which makes fasting
impossible, you can make it up later on. In other words, just as the
Torah provides for "Second Passover," a make-up date if you couldn't
offer the sacrifice on time, so Islam allows for making up missed fast
days in their case, any time during the year before the next Ramadan.
In our area, "orthodox" Muslims are a minority, judging by the fraction
of women who wear the hijab (head covering). Yet fasting on
Ramadan is observed by the vast majority. In the circus group that
travelled, one of the girls wears the hijab (though her mother
does not), even when performing as an aerialist and contortionist in her
body-hugging circus costume. I think that all six of the Muslim kids
are planning to make up the fast days that they missed.
Philadelphia, our visit was organized by a broad coalition of
organizations, led by the Jewish Community Relations Council, Main Line
Reform Temple, and the Episcopal Diocese. We only encountered one
Muslim a young girl visiting from Saudi Arabia who was fascinated by
our performance, and expressed disappointment that, as a girl, she had
no such options back home.
In St. Louis we formed a joint performance troupe with our partners
at Circus Harmony. Joining our six Muslims and six Jews were five white
and five black kids, from the inner city and from the suburbs, some
Jewish, most Christian. Race, class, religion, and ethnicity were all
mixed up together, and forgotten in the demands and the joy of
working and performing together; the relaxed and confident trust and
cooperation among the clearly diverse troupe members were a source of
inspiration to audiences. Here, as in Philadelphia, our sponsors too
were diverse, with performances at Central Reform Congregation, a
Conservative synagogue, a YMCA camp, and various non-religious venues
(even Universoul Circus, a professional circus with a hip-hop style).
And I was invited to speak about the circus at an Orthodox synagogue on
Performing at a suburban mall, we encountered a group of vivacious and enthusiastic teenage girls in the audience, several in hijab
from the West Bank, visiting local relatives. They stayed after the
show to play Palestinian geography with the Arabs in our troupe. Later,
we were invited one day for the Iftar (break-fast) meal at a large,
impressive, suburban mosque, where we were graciously welcomed, and
given a tour and explanation before the evening service. One of our
Muslim performers (and his dad, a chaperone) joined in the service.
Interestingly, the service is primarily taken from the Koran, chanted in
Arabic. However, our Arab performers were disappointed that they
couldn't find people to talk to in Arabic, as the mosque community is
mainly Indian, Pakistani, and other non-Arab ethnic groups, for whom the
Arabic worship service is parallel to the Hebrew liturgy which so many
Jews recite uncomprehendingly. I keep kosher, so I spent the entire
three weeks eating salad and pizza and pasta and tuna; however, the
mosque leaders knew our group included Jews, and they ordered in several
kosher-catered meals just in case. So the only kosher meat I ate on
the circus tour was in a mosque. As it happened, the day was the Ninth
of Av so I broke my fast together with our Muslim hosts.