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Avraham: Chanukah, Ramadan and Xmas?!?

Did this title get you worked up? Upset, or curious? I'm glad you made the first step into a fun discussion. It's about geopolitics, Parasha, and personal stories that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

We just read Parashat Lech-Lecha in which Avram’s name was changed to Avraham. Linguistically speaking, as I read in a post this morning by Prof. Haggai Misgav:

“av-ram” is combined of the root with the suffix M, like the names Aviam, Bilaam, Amram, etc., the root “AVR” probably means “strong”, like “abir” (knight, hero) and “Shem-ever”, who also stars in the Parasha.

The switch from Avram to Avraham moved the emphasis from might and control to creativity and fertility, as well as the ability to contain and provide (raham in Arabic* means plenty, Avraham - father of plenty).

*Arabic is a Semitic language and is therefore a useful source in understanding ancient Semitic languages.

Avraham is the “father of many nations” and in fact, the largest conflicts in human history have occurred between the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As an Israeli citizen and a native of the Old City of Jerusalem, I understand this conflict from the streets of my childhood. And that takes us to the title of this newsletter.

I believe that understanding Avraham Avinu is key to making progress in the Middle East today. The “Abraham Accords” were named, wisely so, after what we share in common with our Arab-Muslim neighbors. The children of Avraham - Yitzchak and Yishma’el, must learn to get along.

Many Israelis are learning spoken Arabic in order to better understand the Middle East. I admit that one year of classes was not enough for me, and I need a lot more practice. But having street signs everywhere is good practice for reading, if not speaking.

I read a fascinating book called Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths (2005) by Bruce Feiler, in preparation for my tour “Avraham’s Journey: From the Ancient Near East to the Middle East”, which is now offered as a public tour in the Israel Museum (schedule and links below).

“In this timely, provocative, and uplifting journey, the bestselling author of Walking the Bible searches for the man at the heart of the world’s three monotheistic religions—and today’s deadliest conflicts.

“At a moment when the world is asking “can the religions get along?” one figure stands out as the shared ancestor of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. One man holds the key to our deepest fears—and our possible reconciliation. Abraham is that man.”

The opening chapter of the book describes Feiler's visit to Jerusalem on the eve of the 6th light of Chanukah - which on that year was also the last Friday of Ramadan, and also Xmas. He describes in great detail how each religion is preparing for their respective holidays, and the fears some of them have of what the other may do to them...and yet they all stem from the same religious faith of Avraham - the Father of Many Nations.

What he doesn’t tell you in the book is that the place he ate that Friday night’s Shabbat dinner was at my parents’ house, in the Old City. I was in high school at the time and I remember being told that our friend Prof. Avner Goren, an archaeologist, was bringing over a guest who is researching a book about Avraham Avinu. My mother later told me that Feiler never heard the story that every kindergarten child in Israel probably knows: Avraham and Sarah’s tent had four entrances in order to welcome guests from the four corners of the earth.

I would like to invite you to join me on Avraham’s Journey, where I share thoughts, ideas, and discussions with you about the physical and spiritual journey of our Founding Father, or Forefather, Avraham. It is a roughly two hour tour in the Israel Museum. I also offer it both virtually and in the Met Museum in New York.

Can’t join my tour in person? I am offering you this tour as a self-guided tour through an app called Dguide. You can download the app on iPhone or Andriod. Please use my sales page to purchase it linked HERE.

It is currently in Hebrew, and I hope to make this available in English soon (it’s a lot of work to film, record, edit, etc.). I’m posting that information below.

Unfortunately, I cannot guide this particular tour in the Met during my upcoming trip to New York (December 6-18) because the Ancient Near Eastern galleries are being renovated. There are other exciting options, and I’m listing everything below. Should you be interested in joining my public tours, arranging a private tour or speaking engagement while I'm in the US, please contact me directly.

Please see the schedule below, including all the public tours through Chanukah which are already posted on the schedule. I will discuss them in further newsletters.


Check out the latest homeschooling virtual tour series I'm beginning on Tuesday, November 15 at 11:00 IDT. Links below.

Shavua Tov!

Nachliel Selavan "The Museum Guy"


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