I’m Jewish, but the Ramadan fast deepens my connection to God

I’m Jewish, but the Ramadan fast deepens my connection to God
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By: Mya Jaradat

IslamNews – I’m Jewish, but the Ramadan fast deepens my connection to God
On the fourth day of Ramadan, late in the afternoon, I half-sit, half-lie in a hammock, my bare feet touching the hot concrete patio. Flattened by hunger and dehydration and exhaustion and the South Florida heat, I feel something well in my chest: indignation.

I’m Jewish and I’m suffering while fasting for Islam’s holy month while my husband, who is Muslim, is not. Anger flashes up my throat, my brow furrows as my face closes in on itself, jaw clenching.

In effort to calm down, I remind myself that anger is discouraged during Ramadan. I remind myself that it’s me who has chosen to fast, that I am doing this for the sake of our two children, so they can feel the rhythm of the Islamic calendar just like they do the Jewish one.

I want our children to feel how Ramadan breaks the cycle of day-to-day life, shifting our attention to more spiritual concerns, and feel also the excitement of Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, which wouldn’t feel celebratory without the contrast, without the month of fasting that comes before it.
The hot flame of anger subsides and is replaced by guilt as I realize that I have no right to be upset with my husband for something I decided to do. Then, in rapid succession, it’s replaced again by embarrassment. Why am I doing this? What would a real Muslim think of me, an impostor, who allows herself a cup of coffee in the morning and sips of water throughout the day while fasting? Finally, I feel shame. Does fasting for Ramadan make me a bad Jew?

The sounds of my children pitching toy cars down a ramp punctures the swirl of thoughts and emotions. It’s rare for them to play together without me. Moments ago, my 3-year-old son brought a stack of books to the hammock where I sat wilting; after piling the books in, he’d climbed onto my lap. My 5-year-old daughter followed, wriggling her long, lean body into the space next to me. Throat dry, tongue thick, voice hoarse, I read one book then another, trying to fake my usual energy and enthusiasm. Unconvinced, my son climbed down, gave me a hard look, and announced, “I don’t want to read anymore.” My daughter — equally unimpressed — moved on to something more exciting, too.

But now they return, asking if we can go to “the hypothesis tree” — a large banyan tree that sits in the back of the neighborhood, between a cul de sac and a canal. Last year, during the lockdown, we found refuge there by tying sticks of all different sizes to the shoots that hang down, string-like, from the banyan’s branches and by busying ourselves with predictions about which would swing the highest and which would swing the longest and which we’d tied tightly enough so that they would remain until we returned the next day. The name “hypothesis tree” stuck.

It’s hot today and, from my position in the hammock, I imagine the short trip to the cul de sac. I see myself racing to keep up with their bikes — my son’s with training wheels still, my daughter’s bike without — sprinting to get out in front of them before they roll into an intersection, failing and then yelling “red light” in a bid to get them to stop.

Feeling bad about how poorly my attempt to read went, wanting to redeem myself, I push my concerns aside and stand. I tuck my daughter’s blonde ringlets behind her ears and buckle her helmet; a click and my son’s Spiderman helmet is also fastened to his head.

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