Middle East Peace through Fashion?

It may not be a conventional attempt to solve the problems in the Middle East, but the current craze in fashion may be the answer.

Having recently been given a large hand necklace from Michal Negrin, the Israeli designer, I found myself getting complemented by both Muslims and Jews, which consequently led me to question where the roots of the symbol actually came from. The Hamsa or Hand of Fatima, as it is more commonly known, is a symbol used in both the Jewish and Muslim traditions as a sign of protection from evil spirits and to promote luck. Many different forms can also be found hanging off the wrists and necks of celebrities such as Madonna, Zac Efron, Gwyneth Paltrow and David Beckham.

So where did this all begin? For the Islamic religion, the icon represents the hand of Fatima, who was the Prophet Muhammad’s only daughter. As the story goes, she was one day busy stirring a pot of food when her husband Ali came into the house with a new woman that he had just married (Islam allows men to marry up to four wives). Struck by grief and sorrow, Fatima let the wooden stirring spoon slip and with confusion continued stirring with her own hand, without noticing the pain. The hand of Fatima as such symbolizes her patience, faith and tolerance. It has also been suggested that the five fingers on the hand can be attributed to the five pillars of Islam.

The concept of the hand as a symbol found its way into the Sephardic Jewish culture by way of Islam when they both coexisted in North Africa. It is often referred to as ‘YAD HA’CHAMESH’ (the hand of five) or the Hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, who had faith and compassion throughout adversity. Similarly to Islam, the five fingers on the hand are said to represent the five books of the torah, as well as symbolizing the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, ‘HEH’, a representation of one of God’s holy names.

Whilst both of these theories are very alluring during my research for this article I came across information stating that archaeological digs in the Middle East have shown that the Hamsa in reality predates both religions, having been attributed to the goddess Tanit who was a Phoenician lunar goddess, worshiped as the patron god at Carthage, now modern day Tunisia. Tanit, like Miriam and Fatima, was associated with female attributes and with protecting from evil and misfortune.

With all this in mind could the Hamsa be the link in the puzzle that shows how these two religions have a common thread? Some activists for peace in the Middle East have already begun wearing the Hamsa as a sign for mutual agreement however I believe that the more people that are educated and wearing the symbol the more chance we have of finding a common ground and a peace deal.

Now I am by no means suggesting that decades of problems in the Middle East could suddenly come to an end, but by wearing these hands we are not only highlighting the similarities in the two faiths, but also the shared traditions of these two religions. Did Dannii Minogue with her oversized gold hand earrings unknowingly help to promote a mutual message of peace, protection and humanity between those living in constant turmoil and fear in Palestine and Israel?

Can we make this fashion statement the new symbol of peace, reminding people throughout the word that we are all linked and that humanity should over ride all?

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