In Israel, Jews are adopting Muslim mystical practices, such as the whirling dervish dance
"Yes, I am a Jew, and this practice comes from Islam. But that doesn't matter."

“It really opened my head that Islam is not all about violence and religious fanatics,” said Shaish, 31, of Tel Aviv, who attends the weekly whirling sessions.  “Now I have a positive feeling about the words ‘Allah’ and ‘Islam.’  That wasn’t why I came here, but it has just happened.”

There’s actually a long history of encounters between Judaism and Sufism, going back to the 13th century when Abraham Maimonides, son of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, sought out Sufism, then influential in North Africa, for ideas to infuse into a Judaism that he saw as overly intellectual. In recent years, Israeli academics have shown an increased interest in the history of Sufi-Jewish relations and in translating Sufi works into Hebrew.

“Translations of Rumi and others have definitely opened the door in terms of popular Israeli interest,” said Ya’qub Ibn Yusuf, a religiously observant Jew who also studies Sufi texts and engages in Islamic prayer, and owns the Olam Qatan spiritual book and music shop in Jerusalem.

Those that participate in the whirling say that it has resulted in spiritual growth that, as Jews, they can find in other rituals like eating kosher food or synagogue prayers.

“Nobody has to give up his identity as a Jew,” Lugassi said.  “But we are all commanded to love, and this practice helps make you whole and open and get connected to the God and the love inside of you.” - Sara Toth Stub