Novosibirsk-Kemerovo
Novosibirsk-Kemerovo iStock

A fascinating meeting took place this Sunday in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, located in south-west Russia, when Chabad emissary Rabbi Shneur Zalman Zekels, the city’s rabbi, found himself conversing with none other than the Mufti of Gaza.

“Once every few years, a gathering of Muslim leaders is held here in the city,” Rabbi Zekels told KikarHashabbat. “This year’s conference was held today and I was invited. This is not the first time I have attended – I was also invited the last time.

“When I arrived, I met with the Mufti of Novosibirsk and greeted him, as we are good friends. I noticed that the Chief Mufti of Russia was also present, along with another Mufti. This third Mufti began to speak to me in Hebrew and I discovered that he was the Mufti of Gaza.”

Asked what the two religious leaders talked about, Rabbi Zekels said, “The message I conveyed to him was that it was possible for peace to exist between Jews and Muslims, and that it could start right here, in Novosibirsk. They were delighted to hear that, and when we posed for photographs, they insisted that I stand right in the center.”

Rabbi Zekels added that the Muftis wanted to visit the local synagogue on Shabbat, but he turned down their request. “I explained that they would have to come another day, as Shabbat is our holy day.

“The Chief Mufti of Russia told me that he was a good friend of Rabbi Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia,” Rabbi Zekels added, “and that he also knew the President of the Association of Communities in Russia, Rabbi Alexander Barda, as well as my brother-in-law, Rabbi Yitzchak Gorlik from Kazan.

“The biggest surprise of all, however, was the Mufti of Gaza. I don’t really know how genuine his smiles were or whether he is personally involved in the violent incitement to murder Jews, but we talked about how peace between Jews could start from here.”