The moon was full when we chose to end our Ramadan fast and so begin our trip across the world to Poland, where I am to receive an international award. The requirements of Ramadan -- though always a personal choice -- state that one may break the fast during travel.
We completed 14 days of the 30-day fast, eating breakfast before dawn and dinner after sundown with no food or water in between. The moon has become a personal lantern and it will now wane to but a sliver, then disappear entirely when the month of Ramadan draws to a close and Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holidays. This year, the moon brings the feast of Eid on September 11th.
Martin, my husband, thinks we eat better during Ramadan. We certainly put more care into planning and preparing our meals. Dinner on our last night of fasting featured our favorites: tilapia fish, lightly battered then pan fried with chili peppers and onions, brussels sprouts with parsley, green onions and walnut oil, and pan-fried potatoes straight from Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food" cookbook.
Our Ramadan is much quieter than most. For many, their evening meal, called Iftar, is a large meal with many guests that starts with prayer and continues through the night. Many mosques feed their whole congregation, along with visitors, serving meals where the community prays, men in their section and women in theirs. If the mosque has a community hall, the meals will be served there with families and friends eating together.
I joined in iftars at mosques during the year that I brought a Palestinian and an Israeli to speak about a kindergarten in the West Bank. We spoke in seven states at mosques, churches, synagogues and in private homes -- and we spoke to senior congressional staffers too -- in an ongoing effort to save a Palestinian kindergarten and its village from demolition. My Israeli colleague who is Jewish joined the Palestinian mayor of the village who is Muslim, in presenting their talk at the front of the men's section of the mosque. I, raised Catholic and now attending Quaker meetings, would usually speak, microphone in hand, from the women's section (though sometimes, I was invited to the men's section to join my colleagues).
This year, at our home, no grand parties or huge groups. It has been just the two of us and our simple meal bringing physical relief, restoring mental clarity after such a long summer day without sustenance. Thankfully, we've had only a few days of heat wave here in the San Francisco area. How hard it must be to do hold this fast in hotter climates. The Rachel Corrie Ramadan Soccer Tournament is underway in Rafah, Gaza, and they play before breaking fast because they don't yet have lights for their field. There in Gaza, they face a heat wave, massive power shortages, bad drinking water -- and are playing soccer anyway to bring their community together, to do their best for one another, and hold on to hope of better times.
As we start our trip to Poland and begin to eat normally again, food tastes so delicious and so precious. How fortunate we are to have enough food and clean water, to have good health and to feel the physical restoration that comes with lunch and a cup of tea.